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February 16, 2009

Microsoft unveils Windows Mobile 6.5 phones and app store

Posted by David Hunter at 2:47 PM ET.

As expected, Microsoft and its partners today unveiled the first Windows Mobile 6.5 phones as well as the Windows Marketplace for Mobile applications store (formerly codenamed Skymarket):

Today at Mobile World Congress 2009, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer along with key mobile partners, HTC, LG and Orange, unveiled new Windows phones featuring new user-friendly software and services. The next generation of Windows phones will be based on Windows Mobile 6.5 and feature a new user interface and a richer browsing experience. In addition, Windows phones will feature two new services: My Phone, to sync text messages, photos, video, contacts and more to the Web; and Windows Marketplace for Mobile, a new marketplace that will provide direct-to-phone mobile applications and can be accessed from both the phone and the Web.

The phones include the LG-GM7300 which currently runs 6.1, but will add a Windows Mobile 6.5 version and the new HTC’s Touch Diamond 2 and Touch Pro 2 which will be upgradeable to 6.5. So when will Windows Mobile 6.5 actually appear on a phone? All Microsoft will say is that "the new Windows phones are expected to be available in the second half of 2009."

Filed under Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile 6.5

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February 13, 2009

Microsoft plays with retail stores for PR value

Posted by David Hunter at 5:30 PM ET.

When I first saw the announcement that Microsoft had hired Wal-Mart veteran David Porter to open a chain of Microsoft retail stores, I was fairly perplexed because Microsoft hardly needs better retail distribution and so many of their cash cow products are sold via partners (e.g. HP, Dell) that have their own separate retail relationships. It could, of course, have been simple Apple envy, but that would be a very silly way to run a business since Apple’s stores were born out of a precipitous decline in Apple computer retail availability and profited from Apple’s proprietary offerings of combined software and hardware which Microsoft only matches in a few areas like the Zune.

I shouldn’t have worried, since Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division head Robbie Bach apparently knows that lesson very well and reveals that the purpose of the Microsoft retail stores is not moving product:

“And I don’t think — I saw some of the commentary that this was designed to be the same as Apple or whatever. You should think about it, I think, quite differently.

“Apple’s approach was about distribution. People forget that when they entered their stores [in 2001], this was quite a while ago, they didn’t have distribution for Macintoshes, so they created their own distribution.

“We have plenty of distribution. These stores for us are about building our connection to customers, about building our brand presence and about reaching out and understanding what works and what improves the selling experience.

“So Apple you would think of as a volume distribution play. You should think of ours as much more of a brand and customer relationship investment more than anything else.”

I guess we won’t have to worry about tracking “same store sales” for the Microsoft retail stores since they are only for public relations value and that is largely intangible. Still, I wonder if this is really the best investment of Microsoft marketing dollars and perhaps a more subtle form of Apple envy.

Filed under Apple, Coopetition, David Porter, Executives, General Business, Microsoft, Public Relations, Retail Sales, Retail Stores

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February 10, 2009

Microsoft unveils integration plans for Fast Search and Transfer

Posted by David Hunter at 7:24 PM ET.

Microsoft’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Fast Search & Transfer has been a bit bumpy, but today Microsoft unveiled the first integration of FAST technology into their products:

FAST Search for SharePoint, a new search server that will add the high-end search capabilities of FAST ESP into Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, will be available as a part of the next release of the Microsoft Office system. For customers who are interested in the product, Microsoft also announced ESP for SharePoint, a special offering that allows customers to purchase high-end search capabilities today, with a defined licensing path to FAST Search for SharePoint when it becomes available.

The next release of Microsoft Office (for now called Office 14) won’t be available until year end at the earliest or as the latest buzz would have it, 2010.

FAST Search for Internet Business will extend FAST ESP and will provide a flexible platform for building engaging, search-driven Web site experiences. The product will be available in beta in the second half of this year and will feature new capabilities for content integration and interaction management, helping enable more complete and interactive search experiences.

Microsoft is billing this as a detailed roadmap for the integration of the FAST ESP offering for enterprise search into their product line, but it seems more reminiscent of duct tape and baling wire. FAST had a very nice business as an add-on on top of Microsoft products like SharePoint before the acquisition so the puzzle is what is taking so long.

Filed under Acquisitions, Microsoft, Office, SharePoint Server

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Mozilla joins EU case against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

Posted by David Hunter at 6:36 PM ET.

Dawn Kawamoto at CNET reports that a source says that Mozilla has moved to formally join the European Union case against Internet Explorer that was revealed in January.

Mozilla has been granted a seat at the table in the European Commission’s antitrust case against Microsoft, an EC source said Tuesday.

Mozilla requested and was granted "third-party status," which entitles the organization behind the popular Firefox browser to receive access to confidential documents in the case and the ability to voice objections, the source said.

Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker voices the corporate discontent even if she is a trifle fuzzy on what should be done about it:

Last month the European Commission stated its preliminary conclusion that “Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”

In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the statement above is correct. Not the single smallest iota of doubt. I’ve been involved in building and shipping web browsers continuously since before Microsoft started developing IE, and the damage Microsoft has done to competition, innovation, and the pace of the web development itself is both glaring and ongoing. There are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be. But questions regarding an appropriate remedy do not change the essential fact. Microsoft’s business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet.

Swell (and I am no fan of Internet Explorer or the Web sites whose functionality is reduced for visitors using any other browser), but that is all water under the bridge at this point. The important question is what can or should be done about it now. The obvious answer seems to be that if the European Commission’s premise is accepted, then Microsoft should be required to ship other browsers with each copy of Windows, but I wonder if Baker’s coyness about remedies is actually part of an attempt to reopen the overall antitrust case against Windows.

Filed under Antitrust, Coopetition, General Business, Governmental Relations, Internet Explorer, Legal, Microsoft, Mozilla Foundation

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