Microsoft Renames Mobile Communications Business Unit

Microsoft this week renamed its Mobile Communications Business (MCB) unit, calling it the "Windows Phone Division."

The switch got noted by veteran Microsoft observer and contributor Mary-Jo Foley on Thursday. She discovered that the Microsoft bio of Andy Lees now describes him as president of the Windows Phone Division, instead of bearing its previous description of him as president of MCB.

The functions of the Windows Phone Division remain the same as the MCB; only the name has changed, a Microsoft spokesperson told Foley. However, the name change still brings up a few questions. For instance, Microsoft's main division for mobile technologies has been its Entertainment and Devices Division, which is one of five divisions in the company. MCB was organized under the Entertainment and Devices Division, so it's not clear if the Windows Phone Division remains so. A spokesperson for Microsoft said today by e-mail that the company had nothing to share at this time.

It hasn't been too long since Microsoft reorganized its mobile efforts under the Enterprise and Devices Division into an MCB unit and a Windows Embedded Business unit. MCB was tasked to oversee Windows Phone and consumer markets mostly, while the Windows Embedded Business unit focused on commercial and industrial handheld devices.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the then-newly formed Windows Embedded Business unit back in June of last year, promising a clear migration path for enterprises, although he omitted specifics about migrating from Windows Mobile 6.5-based devices. It appears that an upgrade path to Microsoft's current Windows Phone 7 mobile OS is too difficult for most Windows Mobile 6.x devices. Ballmer stepped into the mobile limelight last year after two long-time Entertainment and Devices Division executives (J Allard and Robbie Bach) stepped down from their positions. The company subsequently shed its short-lived Kin consumer mobile phones in July 2010. In October, Microsoft rolled out Windows Phone 7, with mobile phone carriers shipping those new phones starting in November.

Microsoft recently confirmed that Windows Mobile 6.5.3 will be the company's last Windows Mobile OS release and that it plans to end support for all Windows Mobile 6.x OSes on Jan. 8, 2013.

Microsoft has been scrambling on the consumer mobile front, even though its Windows Embedded Business unit dominates the commercial handheld markets. Still, after the company inked a consumer mobile deal with Nokia in February, analyst firms such as Gartner began predicting that the Windows Phone 7 OS will reach the No. 2 position by 2015.

Windows Phone 7 users are anticipating a second free update that's expected to arrive in the fall, code-named "Mango," that will bring improvements such as Windows Live SkyDrive integration (allowing up to 25 GB of storage), Twitter integration and the Internet Explorer 9 browser. Microsoft now uses the term, "IE9 Mobile," to describe that version of the IE 9 browser for Windows Phone 7.

As Microsoft did when it rolled out the IE 9 browser for Windows Vista- and Windows 7-based PCs, a "Test Drive" page for developers has been created, but this time centering on IE 9 Mobile for Windows Phone 7. A new test page for IE 9 Mobile, called "Mobile Test Drive," was announced on Thursday. It provides a number of test cases to demonstrate IE 9 Mobile's performance using HTML 5 and hardware-accelerated graphics.

Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Internet Explorer, has said previously that IE 9 for Windows Phone 7 will use the same engine as the PC version of the browser.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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