Last Sunday, former Tom’s Hardware correspondent Theo Valich, now editor-in-chief of Bright Side of News, referred to sources from at least five smartphone manufacturers plus Microsoft itself as telling him that Windows Mobile 7 would not be made generally available until 2011 — what those manufacturers would perceive as a delay. This despite indications from CEO Steve Ballmer last Wednesday at CES that an announcement of a forthcoming product would come at Mobile World Congress next month, and a preview of coming attractions given to Betanews’ Tim Conneally by Windows Mobile Senior Product Manager Greg Sullivan at CES the following Friday.
Given multiple opportunities to clarify Valich’s report, and to deny that any delay was in the works, Microsoft spokespersons would not provide Betanews with information that shed any light on the timeframe, or that would refute the information from vendors cited in that report. The company appears to be taking the position that, since it has never set a firm timetable on WM7’s release, whatever date it announces, however far in the future that might be, is not a delay.
“We’re excited about the current generation of Windows phones and the experiences they bring to life today,” one spokesperson told us yesterday. “We have steadily delivered on our commitment to ship additional features and services through a regular stream of exciting new devices. We are not talking about future generations of Windows phones at this time.”
Though Sullivan told Betanews at CES to expect an improved value proposition from the company with regard to Windows Mobile, he actually did not give us anything remotely resembling a timetable. And during a financial analysts’ meeting last Thursday, the only concept of time that Entertainment & Devices division president Robbie Bach would offer analysts came with this sentence: “Whether you’re talking about Windows Mobile, whether you’re talking about Xbox, whether you talk about our mice and keyboard business, or Zune, or whatever, I think we do a very good job at keeping the teams small and bringing things to market quickly and effectively.”
“Quickly” could mean anything. But Microsoft’s promise last week to say more about Windows Mobile at MWC next month, coupled with a refusal to promise to say anything definitive about the timetable, suggests that next month’s announcement could center around a new set of mobile services whose public development process could begin right away — similar to how Windows Azure was rolled out — but without a firm completion date until much further into the development cycle. Customers may know what it is next month, and they may even be able to use pieces of it as time goes on.
But the concept may have ceased to be Windows Mobile 7 as we have come to understand it, and may take on new definition as the Windows Phone service — something that may be at least presentable in February, but whose components may not be totally operational until 2011, as manufacturers suggested to Valich.