Without the typical fanfare of years past, the Mobile World Congress took place last week in Barcelona, Spain and for once Apple and Android did not dominate the news. Instead, it was Microsoft and Nokia, two well known companies that have lost their way and momentum in the critically important smartphone wars.
Let’s start with Microsoft, already under siege from cloud computing, they are also in imminent danger of becoming irrelevant in the mobile space and have seen their smartphone share slip from 13.1% to 10.7%. Concurrently, Apple has surged to a 25% U.S. share and Android has surged to above 5%. Yes, this was an important venue and announcement for Microsoft as they unveiled their new Windows 7 operating system. Let’s start with the good news – Microsoft threw out everything they had done in the past and started from scratch. A hard thing to do, but it showed the kind of intrepidness and humility they had historically lacked and was sorely needed. The overall design starts with tiles instead of just offering a plethora of apps; they have variety hubs that are organized in themes like “people hubs” and “game hubs.” The former will organize your pictures and email from friends and the latter will organize your games and connect to Xbox live. The other element that was really smart is that they have finally recognized that Zune is a much more valuable asset as part of their smartphone software vs. a standalone unit. So yes, I am giving Microsoft a big thumbs up on Windows 7 and I believe they have finally gotten it right. The question everybody is pondering is if it’s too late? More good news for Microsoft, most mobile pundits believe the smartphone market is still sorting itself out and they still have a chance to be a player. The software will be on a surfeit of phones including HP, Dell and HTC, and the software should roll out around holiday 2010.
The other big news was made by Nokia, still the world leader in phones, but which has slipped badly over the past 24 months amid steadily negative PR. Nokia and Intel teamed up to announce “MeeGo.” The goal of MeeGo is to create an entity that will go beyond smartphones and expand to cars, home phones and computers. Intel also has a lot riding on this new partnership as, although they dominate PCs along with Microsoft (sometimes referred to as Wintel), they have not made a dent in smartphones. Both companies hope this new entity will attract the developer community.
So there you have it – for once Apple and Google’s Android (or RIM) did not suck up all the oxygen from a mobile event. No this time it was two well known companies fighting for survival in the growing and all important smartphone wars.