Will two Windows Mobiles get consumers interested?

A recent Digitimes report told us what we already sort of knew, but phrased it in such a way that the tech media did a huge double take.

It said that Microsoft will launch Windows Mobile 6.5 in October, and then Windows Mobile 7 in the fourth quarter of next year...pretty much a verbatim repeat of what Steve Ballmer said about the platform last March. However, the report goes on to say that Microsoft will be running what it calls
"a dual-platform strategy to allow Microsoft to compete with the Android-based platform using Windows Mobile 6.5 and also compete with iPhones leveraging Windows Mobile 7."

Microsoft didn't really confirm or deny that it will be selling multiple mobile operating systems at the same time. "We have said we will deliver new Windows phones this fall and we remain on track to do that. We have nothing new to say about future versions," a representative said.

But it really doesn't need to explain, this would rather nicely clarify why Microsoft will be making a push with "Windows Phone", a brand that will come to represent all Windows Mobile devices simultaneously.

But this is Microsoft, not exactly the masters of memorable branding.

"I think it would be a major mistake for Microsoft to run with two parallel mobile operating systems," Jack Gold, President of analysis and consulting firm J. Gold Associates told Betanews this afternoon. "They have done this in the past and it only confused the market and made it harder for them to sell their vision."

Indeed, if this is Microsoft's strategy, it will not only need to have a decent OS to counter each of the dominant brands, but also some way to differentiate one "Windows Phone" from another. Furthermore, the strategy speaks only to the consumer segment, and not the enterprise segment where Windows Mobile has its strongest following.

But then, that could be the idea.

"If Microsoft does not do something to generate consumer interest and move beyond their primarily enterprise constituency, they can not hope to achieve the market share they want," Gold continued. "Consumer-chosen devices are becoming prevalent in enterprises of all sizes, and end users are much more often getting to pick their own devices (within certain constraints.)"

"This bodes well for 'sexy' devices like iPhone, Pre and Android, and badly for Windows Mobile, at least until Windows Mobile 7 features catch up. But that is a year away, and Microsoft could lose a lot of market share in the next year."

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