WSJ Says Microsoft is, Indeed, Working on a Phone

By  |  Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm

The rumors about this have been flying for months: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Microsoft is in talks with Verizon to launch an iPhone rival next year. (Here’s a link to a story at Silicon Alley Insider; the Journal’s piece is behind a paywall.)  The project is code-named “Pink,” and Microsoft would handle the software and services, with the manufacturing being done by someone else.

Silicon Alley Insider’s Dan Frommer says there’s a good chance that a Microsoft phone would flop, because Microsoft is late to the game and its prior mobile products have been uninspiring. This may be a contrarian view, but I don’t think timing is in a issue–we’re still very, very early in the smartphone revolution, and a knockout product with lots of money and resources behind it could still be a big deal. (Remember, the iPhone looked like a late entrant when it was announced in 2007.) The bigger question is whether Microsoft can come up with anything truly exciting–and, actually, whether it can come up with anything that feels like it’s part of the future of phones rather than its past.

I keep harping on the idea that smartphones are the new PC, and that they’ll eventually replace PCs as we know them. So far, that’s an out-there notion–when I raise it, folks usually nod their heads in agreement and then say “Yes, but…” I’m fixated on it because I believe it with all my heart. I think that most of the major companies of the PC era, from Microsoft to HP to Dell to Adobe to Intuit, are going to have to figure out how to make themselves part of this world, or they’ll get left behind–just as all the minicomputer companies that once lined Route 128 in the Boston area once did. (I grew up in Boston in an era when Digital, Wang, Data General, Prime, and Apollo were titans–bought a computer from any of them lately?)

It was Microsoft software running on commodity hardware, as much or more than anything else, that did in the minicomputer back in the 1980s. I can’t imagine that any rational person outside or inside of Microsoft truly believes that Windows Mobile 6.5 is a platform for a robust Microsoft presence on smartphones over the next five to ten years–and no matter what happens, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Microsoft and dozens of other companies respond to this sea change.

 
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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Ronald Garner Says:

    Without a major benefit to covert users, Microsoft won’t get a busy signal, but may get lots of static.

    Apple has allways won over users with its open architecture and “we” attitude; the iPhone allows users to create applications and embraces the user defined attitude. This is not a strength of Microsoft.

    In an age where communication is about user experience, Apple seems better positioned to win by addaptation even if Microsoft final gets a phone right.

  2. Robert Glantz Says:

    If Wang had only purchased Multimate when that new-fangled contraption called a PC first rolled into town, ours would surely be a better world today. Sigh.

  3. Jeff Says:

    If Microsoft and Verizon make a deal before Apple and Verizon make a deal, I will leave Verizon for AT&T.

  4. Stewart Says:

    I think the iPhone was introduced in 2007… :-)

  5. Tom B Says:

    1) Has MSFT ever competently delivered a solid development environment? Nope.
    2) Have they ever delivered a truly modern OS? Remember, Windows never made it to UNIX, and Win Mobile isn’t even a close subset of Windows. So, fail on this point,too.
    3) Can MSFT deliver any kind of online service, like an “app store”. No way.
    4) Was commodity hardware a good idea– you get a bunch of dopes like Michael Dell making cr*ppy junk you have to support with your OS. Fail again.

    No worries.

  6. Sal Romano Says:

    Fantastic,
    I wish I didn’t have to wait until 2010 to see the result.
    I’ll just stick with my HTC Touch Pro till then.

  7. JDoors Says:

    I’m sorry but my FIRST thought was of a bunch of overheating, “red-ring-of-death” phones resulting in recalls, warranty woes, and lawsuits. Good luck with that MS.

    On the other hand, if Windows 7 is any indication, MS has improved on many levels since Vista & the 360 were introduced.

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