Ubiquitous worldwide due to the presence of its Windows operating system in 90 per cent of the world's computers, Microsoft seeks to expand its omnipresence in the world of mobile phones with the Mobile version of Windows.
The company, the largest software entity in the world, expects tremendous demand for its product in the next two years as demand for smartphones rises rapidly .It says that it expects to sell 20 million units in its 2007-2008 fiscal year ending this June, and expects to grow at least 50 per cent annually over the next two years. It sold over 11 million units of its Windows Mobile software in its 2006-2007 fiscal year ended June.
Explaining its optimism in its most recent quarterly report, Microsoft said that Windows Mobile sales were growing as a result of increased market demand for phone-enabled devices and Windows Embedded operating systems.
The Windows Mobile software is a compact operating system combined with a suite of basic applications for mobile devices based on the Microsoft Win32 API. Devices that run Windows Mobile include pocket PCs, smartphones, portable media centres, and on-board computers for certain automobiles.
Windows Mobile licensees include four of the top five mobile phone manufacturers. However, it has been facing fierce competition from the Apple iPhone recently, however, and licensees such as High Tech Computer (HTC) have developed their own finger-friendly facades for Windows Mobile to help it compete. Other notable competitors are Symbian, Palm OS and Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the Blackberry.
Symbian operating system (OS) is the leading OS in the 'smart mobile device' market. Statistics published February 2007 showed that Symbian OS had a 67-per cent share of the 'smart mobile device' market, with Microsoft having 13 per cent through Windows CE and Windows Mobile and RIM having 10 per cent.
On 24 June 1998, Symbian Ltd. was formed as a partnership between Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Psion, to exploit the convergence between personal digital assistants and mobile phones.
Symbian is currently owned by Nokia (47.9 per cent), Ericsson (15.6 per cent), Sony Ericsson (13.1 per cent), Panasonic (10.5 per cent), Siemens AG (8.4 per cent) and Samsung (4.5 per cent). Although BenQ acquired the mobile phone subsidiary of Siemens AG, the Siemens AG stake in Symbian did not pass to BenQ.
Windows Mobile is designed to be somewhat similar to desktop versions of Windows, in features and aesthetics. Additionally, third-party software development is available for Windows Mobile. Originally appearing as the Pocket PC 2000 operating system, Windows Mobile has been updated several times, with the current version being Windows Mobile 6, and a new release scheduled for 2010.
Microsoft has recently taken several steps to make Windows Mobile more popular and acceptable to a wider spectrum of users. The company earlier this year unveiled the latest version of Internet Explorer Mobile and pledged that the software would bring "desktop grade" Web browsing to mobile devices.
With added support for industry standards like Adobe Flash, the updated version of Explorer Mobile lets users view full-screen Web pages and multimedia on their smartphones just as they would on a PC, Microsoft claims.
It also supports Microsoft's nascent Silverlight Web display technology. Microsoft said the new version of Internet Explorer Mobile would be available to mobile phone makers in the third quarter and to consumers in the fourth quarter.
Microsoft also recently said it would support Adobe Flash Lite on Windows Mobile in an acknowledgement to the fact that many mobile application developers are still lukewarm over Silverlight.