Mobile Computing: A Window into the Future?

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

Microsoft plunged into the mobile handheld computing market this year with the debut of its Windows Mobile operating system on the Palm Treo 700w, but will mobile workers to jump in, too?

Microsoft plunged into the mobile handheld computing market this year with the debut of its Windows Mobile operating system on the Palm Treo 700w, but it's not clear yet whether the move has encouraged many mobile workers to jump in, too.

Seemingly, Microsoft's timing couldn't have been better: The longtime leader in the mobile handheld computing market, Research in Motion, was knee-deep in a protracted patent-infringement suit brought by NTP, a small holding company that accused the BlackBerry manufacturer of stealing its technology.

In light of Microsoft's efforts, will RIM users defect? Not immediately, says one analyst.

"We certainly believe there are a lot of companies that are going to try out the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform in 2006," Kevin Burden, research manager for mobile devices with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said late last week. "They should have a very healthy growth rate. But in no way do we believe that RIM is any sort of trouble in the short term."

RIM settled the suit on March 3 by agreeing to pay $612.5 million, fending off a threat to shut down the popular service. Later that day, chairman and co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the company hadn't seen any customer defections.

But several RIM customers told Baseline that concerns over the possibility that RIM's service might be cut off prompted them to look at alternatives.

Mike Sutten, chief technology officer with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, says he tried out Palm Treos and iPaqs from Hewlett Packard. After an evaluation, he says employees favored the BlackBerry for its mail and messaging speed, as well as its ease of use and durability.

John Sroka, chief information officer with Philadelphia law firm Duane Morris, says Microsoft's platform may be better suited than RIM's for rolling out advanced applications, but the BlackBerry's "push" e-mail technology is enough to keep him on board--for now.

According to IDC's Burden, Microsoft won't see a huge exodus of BlackBerry users until 2008 at the earliest. He believes some information-technology executives will hesitate to migrate to Microsoft until they can evaluate the platform long-term. Others, he says, might balk until they believe their BlackBerry Enterprise Servers will depreciate.

Another key could be whether executives plan to support multiple platforms, instead of sticking with one vendor for wireless technology.

Representatives for Microsoft could not be immediately reached.

Check out the May issue of Baseline for more on mobile handheld computing.

This article was originally published on 2006-04-17
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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