It is plausible that rumors about Microsoft being close to announcing its answer to the iPhone are true. Microsoft must maintain parity with Apple, and its acquisition of Sidekick creator Danger Inc. has given it the industrial design known-how to get the job done.
UK-based technology news journal The Inquirer broke the news that Microsoft will supposedly be unveiling the device at the 3GSM conference in February. The Inquirer also reported that Nvidia has been tapped to supply its graphics chip set.
I won’t speak to the veracity of the report, but it does contain very specific information, and that itself is compelling. There is always the potential for a red herring, but there is a solid chance that Redmond has something up its sleeve. It has matched the Apple iPod line up product by product, and has attempted to differentiate itself on price and features.
Microsoft’s lack of an iPhone alternative is a glaring omission, and the company needs a smart phone if it is to remain a viable alternative to Apple. The iPhone is popular among consumers and is gaining a foothold in the enterprise.
CEO Steve Ballmer would argue that the Windows Mobile platform has the potential to gain a preponderance of market share, but thus far it has not, and it lags far behind Symbian. Microsoft has relied on its partners to develop compelling devices, but few — if any — stand out.
It needs to step up the user experience of its Windows Mobile platform. Meaning, it needs to ship Windows Mobile 6.5 and work diligently to get 7.0 out the door.
A source at Microsoft tells me that a new wave of Windows Live services will launch next week. Perhaps those services will provide a glimpse into what its Internet-enabled smart phone could offer.
With all of its stars aligned and by tapping the know-how of Danger Inc, the creators of the famed Sidekick, Microsoft could produce an interesting product. Microsoft did put a heavy hitter (Roz Ho, former head of its Mac business unit) behind its efforts to absorb Danger into its Entertainment and Devices division.
The question is when would it ship? And who knows what Apple and others will have out by then. Microsoft can’t always be playing catchup if it wants to succeed in the phone biz.