Microsoft has always taken a different approach than other manufacturers when it comes to mobile platforms. Both Blackberry and Apple produce the hardware and operating system for their mobile devices and third parties are invited to the party to make accessories and apps. Microsoft, as we know, has not entered the mobile hardware market yet and has always remained as a software developer only. When Android came out it appeared as though Google was going to be just like MS and be a software developer and make money on licenses of proprietary software (not the OS itself but apps within the OS) and of course getting the benefit of all of those people using Goog software (and the data that Google gets from them). The Nexus One marked the first time that Goog appeared to alter this paradigm. PocketNow is now reporting that going forward Google expects to live in both worlds. They are going to sell the Android operating system and sell the devices that it runs on as well. So they will be directly competing with their customers and of course, they get a bit of an insiders edge because of that. This is a pretty big kick in the groin for all of the hardware manufacturers out there that jumped on the Google bandwagon when they thought they found a white knight giving out free software.
What does this all mean? For any manufacturers out there looking for an OS by an independent company there’s only one to look to – Windows mobile. And it seems like MS is going to embrace this. Quoting from Mary-Jo Foley’s article at ZDNet: [Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie] Bach said to expect Microsoft to step up its “go to market approach” so that it will be “more engaged” with its mobile OEMs. He didn’t get more specific than that, but my take was he was talking about Microsoft tightening its development and marketing connection with its mobile-phone-maker partners. To further this, it looks like MS is stepping up it’s software game and it appears as though in a short month from now we’ll get a taste of WM7, a new version of MyPhone (that gives you more control over your phone over the net), further Live services and Mesh Development, and as we’ve heard Zune and Xbox360 integration.
So this sets up the next few years of mobility. Apple gives us a new iPhone per year, Blackberry continues its path of incremental updates to its own OS and devices (which seem to be filling a business niche and haven’t quite hit the entertainment market yet), Android devices will continue to come from multiple manufacturers until other companies get sick of being at the mercy of a competitor and MS may finally be able to fill the niche that they were always supposed to. With a tighter relationship with manufacturers and better software they can separate themselves from the rest of the market and, just like the PC market, manufacturers can push the hardware limits as far as possible and let MS push the OS platform so that customers can get their price point and style of device that they want.