Microsoft just described some of the changes in their next release of Windows Mobile 7 which they are calling Mango. If you have been following along with me then you know I haven’t been kind to Microsoft. If this was a horse race, the gates opened and the Microsoft horse just stood there. However, Microsoft is a strong horse. Once you get Microsoft’s attention, they can be a tough competitor. Just ask Netscape. This shows with the introduction of Mango.
At one time Microsoft had a large share of the smartphone world. With Windows Mobile 6 they had a powerful if flawed basic platform. However, it was conceptually trying to be the desktop version of Windows crammed into a phone and it could be a real pain to use. The browser was next to worthless. Then Apple introduced the iPhone and changed the landscape. While late, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 7 in an attempt to become relevant again. It takes a bit of a different approach and isn’t as “me too” as one might expect of a product coming from Microsoft. However, there were major limitations. Heck, even cut and paste wasn’t supported. That was fixed in a patch release but yesterday Microsoft showed more than patches. They showed that Microsoft can actually have some vision. I’m not going to go over all that was presented. Microsoft is claiming over 500 changes. I suggest you read here and here. What I want to comment on is a theme that I see in Mango and perhaps the long term direction of Windows Mobile. That theme is integration. This means integration of social networking and integration of search. More importantly, the underpinnings are there to enable deeper integration as developers take advantage of the new hooks in Windows Mobile. Here are a couple of relevant comments direct from Microsoft:
Threads. Switch between text, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.
Hands-free messaging. Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting.
App Connect. By connecting apps to search results and deepening their integration with Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures, “Mango” allows apps to be surfaced when and where they make sense.
Improved Live Tiles. Get real-time information from apps without having to open them. Live Tiles can be more dynamic and hold more information.
I suspect we’ll see more voice to text and text to voice in upcoming releases of Android and iOS. The ability of search to interact with other apps and the merging of threads form Facebook, text, and Messenger hint at something bigger. Microsoft is breaking down app isolation. This is a very interesting trend they are pushing. I have been thinking of transparency of data and use but this is different. It means doing what you want when you want and thinking less about which app you are using and more about what you want to do. It compliments what I have been discussing and, in hindsight, seems obvious. It made me think about how isolated apps are in iOS and how nice it would be if they weren’t.
I still see Microsoft in a weak position. They are a distant third in the phone OS war and don’t have an entry in the tablet area. As far as the TV set, Windows Media Player seems stagnant and still focused on the PC. Still, Mango adds excitement to Windows Mobile. We’ll have to wait and see if Google and Apple offer compelling moves in the app integration area. This “Post PC Era” battle is going to be interesting and a lot of fun to watch.