Microsoft plays down Windows Mobile

It isn’t the first time that Microsoft has missed the boat – it was also a late starter in the Internet game – but the company has all but dropped the ball with its Windows Mobile operating system.

Already the software giant has pushed back the release of Windows Mobile 7, opting last year to push out a trumped-up version of version 6 called Windows Mobile 6.5. In the interim Google’s Android has snapped up a healthy portion of the smartphone market along with Apple’s iPhone.

Microsoft appears to be deliberately playing down the release of Windows Mobile 7, so much so that rumours have been circling the web to the effect that WinMo7 will be delayed until 2011. The rumours are largely speculation at this point but most would agree that waiting that long could be a fatal mistake for Microsoft.

There is, however, the possibility that the company will release a phone with version 7 at this month’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). During its recent financial results presentation the company hinted that more about Windows Mobile 7 would be known at MWC in Barcelona.

In the meantime the software giant appears to be concentrating on a number of other areas, specifically Azure, Office 2010 and Project Natal.

Project Natal

One of Microsoft’s big focus areas this year will be Project Natal, its new gaming technology that it hopes will replicate the success of Nintendo’s Wii. Slated to be available in November this year, the motion-control system allows users to play games using their body.

The technology is similar to Nintendo’s Wii console but will be used without a physical controller. Project Natal relies on cameras, sensors and microphones to translate movements into game actions. Microsoft has said that when it is released Project Natal will be compatible with existing Xbox 360 consoles.

Azure

Also high on Microsoft’s agenda this year is Azure, its cloud computing service. The company officially opened Azure for business on February 1 this year, three years after it began development on it.

Azure is an online application platform run from the company’s data centres. The operating system is called Windows Azure and is a runtime for applications and provides tools for managing these remote applications. From February 1 users in 21 countries will be able to buy services on Microsoft’s Azure. South Africa is not one of the 21 countries.

Office 2010

The third pillar of Microsoft’s focus in the coming year will be on its Office 2010 release. Microsoft has said that it would be releasing Office 2010 in the middle of this year. Microsoft is hoping that the new release will spark a new wave of enthusiasm for its Office tools.

Over the past couple of years a growing number of competitors have been challenging Office, albeit in a small way. The main focus for Office 2010 for Microsoft is to ensure that its popular office suite will be available to users no matter where they are; on their phone, through the web or on their desktop.

These three products are going to prove vital to Microsoft in the coming years as it faces its toughest competition ever. The missing ingredient is a challenger in the mobile space but Microsoft’s exact plans for mobile will only really become clear after the Mobile World Congress later this month.

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Microsoft plays down Windows Mobile