What makes him powerful: With all the attention and hype lavished on upstart mobile operating systems like Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, it's easy to forget just how dominant Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS remains. After all, the software giant recently revealed the number of Windows Mobile licenses grew by 81 percent in the past year alone, and there are now more than 18,000 WinMo apps in all. Yet there exists little if any excitement around Microsoft's mobile efforts, which poses a unique and complex challenge for the firm's mobile communications division senior vice president Andrew Lees: In its fight with iPhone and Android, Windows Mobile is both David and Goliath, an underdog undermined by its own lumbering mass and scale, complete with a patchwork multitude of devices and applications viewed as passé by the affluent, tastemaking subscribers that operators covet the most.
The task facing Lees--who has overseen development, marketing and sales of Microsoft mobile software and services since the February resignation of predecessor Pieter Knook, who took over mobile web initiatives for telecoms group Vodafone--is transforming the fragmented Windows Mobile ecosystem into a more cohesive platform with a clearly definable identity in the marketplace. Central to Microsoft's evolution is the rumored launch of Skymarket, a centralized virtual marketplace enabling consumers to find, purchase and download applications and content optimized for Windows Mobile-based devices--there's never been a universal destination for users seeking WinMo apps, and the success of Apple's App Store has proven the concept an essential element of any flourishing mobile software platform.
No less important to Microsoft's mobile aspirations is the release of the long-rumored Windows Mobile 7...but here's where it gets tricky. While Microsoft has never officially confirmed a timetable for Windows Mobile 7, which is expected to include features like advanced gesture recognition and speech-input services, reports indicate the company has privately informed some partners the revamped OS won't be available until at least the second half of 2009, effectively pushing the commercial launch of WinMo 7 devices into 2010. With Microsoft's share of the smartphone market continuing to erode with each passing quarter, a new and much-improved Windows Mobile is critical, and time is of the essence--Windows Mobile still casts a massive shadow over the wireless software landscape, but surely Lees recognizes that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.