Microsoft gives away Windows Mobile licensing rights

WinPhone_v_webJust when I thought Windows phones had already one too many layers between the end-user and Microsoft, they’ve just decided to add in one more for good measure.

Announced today, Microsoft has signed on a third-party, Bsquare, to be the first and currently exclusive distributor for Windows Mobile licenses worldwide.

Until just recently, Microsoft has had full control of Windows Mobile licensing to OEMs like HTC who would purchase them to ship with their mobile phones. Instead, it appears Microsoft has relinquished this right entirely to Bsquare, who will on top of just selling licenses, also provide reference designs, communication stacks, technical support, training, testing and the like to OEMs. Apparently 30 existing Windows Mobile partners have already made the switch as their contracts with Microsoft ended.

Whilst I won’t pretend to have a crystal clear idea of the implications of this, I do see two sides of the coin covered slightly in mud.

On one hand, delegating the responsibility to what could be potentially many license distributors might fuel competition in the ecosystem to develop higher quality devices as testing and certification improves. This would also allow Microsoft to focus solely on the task of developing the operating system and not spend as much time supporting the relationship with each OEM.

On the other hand, adding a third-party between device OEMs and Microsoft might result in even longer delays in the process a new OS is developed and is available on devices as the updates won’t trickle down just one layer but two. In fact, this probably explains why Microsoft has been clamping down on modified ROMs lately – built with newer leaked builds of Windows Mobile – as they no longer hold that right to distribute the code.

I just have a feeling this isn’t going to end well.

12 insightful thoughts

  1. My guess that this will be for WM 6.5. It would be weird that it included WM7 since it goes against the model they want go with “Chassis”. At least i hope that is the case…

  2. what puzzles me about this decision is the fact that every single successful smart phone on the market can partly “blame” the success on their tight integration between hardware and OS (eg. iPhone, Blackberry etc.)

    How putting another layer in-between the development team and the device manufacturers will improve this is beyond me. Perhaps Microsoft has done this because they are about to launch their own smartphone design.

  3. dude, there’s no d in bsquare! all your links are right, but man that used to bother me when i worked for them.

    they’ve had some good vision for CE in the past, but never were able to execute. all i can say is msft has no vision nor execution either.

  4. They could be trying to put a layer between themselves and the OEMs, so that they can sell actual Microsoft devices. This way, they can do this without terrifying the OEMs.

  5. Thats quite an interesting move by Microsoft. I agree it could be taken various ways as well but we definitely do not want or need another layer of red tape with WM.

    I find the other licenses offered by Bsquare are also interesting with various brands available.

    BTW, Microsoft was not clamping down on the ‘cooked’ ROMs etc… that was all a hoax.

  6. @Glen: The takedowns are not a hoax. I’ve got some Microsoft spokespeople to confirm them.

  7. Windows Mobile is currently in a very bad position.
    1 – It is completely obsolete UX wise (the kernel is not so bad)
    2 – The “hype” factor is almost non-existent
    3 – It is being sqeezed from all sides by Apple and Android now. Palm is only trying to survive.
    4 – Phone makers are moving away
    5 – Nothing hot is being shown

    This announce with Bsquare could be good news if they intend to let go the traditional WM6.x market on a separate way. It would all make some sens if Microsoft finally understood that they cannot win anything on the phone market if they don’t control radically change the way they operate.

    Could it be that WM7 is going to ride on its own track? I hope so. Otherwise, there’s only one more choice for them: get out of the phone business because they will fail miserably. And considering the trend for the next years, that would be a major mistake.

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