What the heck is going on with Windows Mobile!

For those of you that don’t know, we used to be a rugged mobile re-seller, way before the days of Android and we still have the odd customer we support who still runs older devices with Windows Mobile on them. We saw the Android wave coming and were involved in many porting projects with manufacturers years ago. We were early adopters of Android, which is now over 90% of the mobile device market.

Despite this, Windows still has a place, albeit a much smaller one at the table and I wanted to share a layman’s view on just what Microsoft still brings to the table when it comes to their mobile Operating Systems.

Windows Mobile is dead, long live…..Windows Mobile

Whaaaat!? I hear you say. This is so confusing. Well, welcome to Microsoft’s long history of naming and renaming their mobile OS products and confusing the hell out of everyone! It can be boiled down to this though.

Windows Mobile was the long line of Enterprise OS’s that we all knew and say on rugged devices for many years. WM5.0, 6.0, 6.1 and then 6.5. Near the end of the life of this OS, there was a rename to Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 and that’s where the OS lay to rest. Yes it’s still found on many brand new devices but the support has gone, it hasn’t been developed for over a decade now and you need to move away from it!

In the meantime, Microsoft launched their consumer mobile OS, originally called Windows Phone which powered their own Lumia series as well as a handful of partner devices from the likes of HTC for example. This OS then got renamed, rather confusingly to “Windows Mobile 10” about 18 months ago, but was officially closed down by Microsoft this year. This OS never really got going, only ever taking 3% of the total market share.

How things change hey!

What about enterprise rugged devices now?

In the meantime, Microsoft also released a new range of enterprise mobile OS’s designed to replace their CE, Windows Mobile and pure embedded platforms. However, this was short lived and this year we saw an overhaul of this too. Remember most of these OIS’s are concerned with gadgets, IoT or bespoke OS’s running things like set-top boxes, etc.

So today for rugged devices the OS you need to look for is “Windows 10 IoT Enterprise Edition”. All rather confusing!

How do I buy a W10 IoT OS?

Its already embedded into the device, just like Android. However, the range of suppliers and thus devices that run it are far lower as Microsoft has given up huge market share to Android in the enterprise arena. There’s a limited amount of devices out there and we actually do have W10 IoT versions of some of our devices. However, Android is so mature and so good these days that we have to ask the question of why you would go for a W10 IoT based device.

Will W10 IoT run my Windows Mobile 6.5 apps?

No, W10 IoT will only run Universal Windows apps. This was Microsoft’s attempt at getting developers to write one app that would run on all their platforms, from Xbox to mobile devices. It has regretfully not caught on so you have to beg the question of what the future holds here.

Is W10 IoT a risk to my business

I’ll stick my neck out and say I think it is.¬† Let’s just look at the obvious facts here.

Microsoft’s own history and success have been very poor when it comes to their mobile OS strategy. They’ve updated at will, dropped at will and really have been a ship without a rudder.

They have done nothing but lose market share in all walks of mobile device arena’s and continue to do so.

The OS is adopted only by a few key partners. One of the leading partners has completely disengaged from the UK in the past 2 years and has not released anything but Android devices in that time. There are key partners missing any kind of W10 IoT devices too.

W10 itself has gotten way behind Android. The old arguments of security and end to end integration are very weak and Android is way happier in the cloud anyway so there is no real technical reason to use W10 IoT.

Price of W10 OS’s is still a factor.

Bill Gates himself said that a platform’s success is dependant on the developers you have working for it.¬† Alas Bill, the days of Microsoft’s dominance on mobile have long gone and there’s no sign that developers are flooding to the mobile OS anytime soon! Developers all want to write Android or IOS apps, so this is where the bulk of skills are.

Is the above what you would want to be investing your businesses future into? Sure Microsoft’s backends are still king, Azure is growing but mobile…I don’t think so anymore.

What about Tablets?

Tablets are where Microsoft has made some ground and this is largely due to the success of their “Surface” line. However, these devices use full Windows 10 OS’s and these are completely different to the W10 IOS OS. We sell W10 versions of all our tablets here, but these are used in a completely different scenario to smaller rugged mobile devices.

Hopefully that’s helped a few people. As always comments are open, let me know what you think!

Posted by "Durable" Dave

My background is web/mobile software, mobile hardware, where I worked with some of the earliest PDA's on the market from HP and Microsoft and data capture where i've sold all of the main brands of rugged kit you'll find!

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