Microsoft Windows Mobile Strategy: Windows Phone 7, Xbox 360, Natal Hybrid
Microsoft is betting it will stand out among its mobile competitors with the newly-introduced Windows Phone 7 Series by combining the best of several strong offerings into a single package, a company executive said.
Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 Series, which made its debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in February, is much more than just an updated Windows Mobile, the exec said.
Windows Mobile Software Combines Best of Microsoft
Instead, it captures the best parts of Microsoft's Bing search technology, the Zune HD media player, the Xbox multi-user gaming experience, and Microsoft Office, Mindy Mount, CFO for Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, told a group of analysts at the Jefferies & Company Annual Global Technology Conference Monday.
"It's actually quite game changing ... it proclaimed that Microsoft is playing to win," Mount said. In order to play seriously, the company felt it had to overcome, what Mount called "a sea of sameness" in competitors' products.
However, she didn't pull away from criticizing Microsoft's own recent past.
"A few years ago we did have a few products come onto the market that weren't wowing users," Mount added. Her passing reference to Windows Vista's ill-fated advertising slogan -- "Show us your wow" -- was likely not lost on the analysts.
To counter the sameness she decried, Mount pointed to the Windows Phone 7 Series' "live tiles" -- touch sensitive hot spots on the phone's screen that show the user what's going on in the background, such as changes in Web pages or a video of a favorite song.
"They're not just icons or applications, they're actually living things," she said.
Additionally, Windows Phone 7 Series features "the first and only Xbox experience on a phone."
Although she didn't mention it, half-way across the globe in Dubai, another Microsoft executive on Saturday demoed a game running on Windows 7, a Windows Phone 7 Series mobile device, and an Xbox, along with the ability for the user to switch between devices without losing the gaming session, according to a report by gadget site Gizmodo.
How better to demonstrate the relationships that Microsoft envisions in its "three screens and a cloud" computing model of the future?
The phone's Office experience goes beyond just the basic applications as well, including access to Microsoft SharePoint and OneNote.
However, Mount did not discuss trade-offs that the company had to make in order to create Windows Phone 7 Series -- such as not being able to make applications written for Windows Mobile 6.x compatible with the new operating system.
She did address Microsoft's tight hardware and software specs for the new phones. "We're writing more of the software in the phone and let OEMs differentiate on top of that," she said. Microsoft has learned the lesson the hard way that not controlling the interface as tightly leads to fragmentation in the platform.
"Once a platform fragments, it makes it very hard for developers," she said.
Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live service are expanding their charter beyond simply a gaming console. "The Xbox is becoming a much more general entertainment device," she said, citing a recent deal to stream movies to Xbox via Netflix, as well as links with social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
In addition, Mount touted the upcoming release of Microsoft's "controllerless" game controller -- currently codenamed Project Natal -- in time for the 2010 holiday sales season. Natal is a camera-based add-on for Xbox 360 that reads the user's movements and turns the user into the game controller.