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Windows Mobile Smartphones Arrive as Rumors of Pink's Demise Circle

If anything Microsoft does deserves the description "underwhelming," it has to be Windows Mobile. Lagging in market share, innovation and general relevance behind several other competitors (not just the iPhone), Windows Mobile is the ne'er-do-well relative of the Windows operating system, the gin-soaked brother-in-law who sleeps on the couch when he gets kicked out of his apartment and just needs a place to crash for a few days, man.

Windows Mobile is, for now, a money drain on Microsoft, a product so forlorn that even Steve Ballmer can't manage to be upbeat about it. So, this week's appearance of some smartphones based on WinMo 6.5, despite Microsoft's officially sunny take on the whole thing, didn't exactly cause a massive, iPhone-style stir. In fact, it mainly seemed to draw attention to how far behind Windows is on the small screen.

But, as always, Microsoft has something cooking. The long-rumored project "Pink" appears to be Microsoft's attempt to get into mobile hardware and doesn't seem to have anything to do with Windows Mobile at all (probably not a bad thing). Exactly what Pink is, we're not sure. And, apparently, as Mary Jo Foley tells us in the link just above, Microsoft won't talk about it at all or even acknowledge the codename.

As usual, however, there have already been leaks of what Pink phones might look like -- if they're ever going to look like anything. And now (get this), there's word coming from stealth sources in Seattle that Pink might be dying, if, of course, it even exists. Or maybe it'll never be born. Or something. As best we can tell, there's massive confusion at Microsoft around Pink, WinMo 7 and the whole mobile strategy at Microsoft in general.

And so Windows Mobile remains the Roger Clinton or Billy Carter of operating systems, except without the ironic charm of the aforementioned brothers or former presidents. What WinMo remains, really, is an embarrassment for a company that worries immensely about its image and -- a few dorky ad campaigns aside -- does a pretty good job of preserving it. Worse, WinMo is a money loser in Redmond and, we're guessing, not exactly a pot of gold for partners.

If this slothful houseguest of the Microsoft family is going to get himself cleaned up and make himself useful, he's going to need some help from the family in Redmond. But Microsoft seems to be executing at about Vista level with WinMo, which means that the drunken brother-in-law will probably go on embarrassing his relatives and crashing on couches for a while to come.

What could Microsoft do to make Windows Mobile better? What should Microsoft's mobile strategy be? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 10/07/2009 at 1:22 PM


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