Does Microsoft Stand a Chance in Wireless Email? (MSFT, RIMM)

Includes: BBRY, MSFT
by: Evelyn Rubin

The Facts:

Microsoft is pushing aggressively into mobile mail. At 3GSM, Microsoft named four carriers (Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile, and Cingular Wireless) and four Windows Mobile-based smart phones that will support its Direct Push Technology. Steve Ballmer told Reuters that he expects Microsoft powered mobile phones to cost under $100 within one to two years:

We will get smartphones at consumer style prices...I think it will take a year or two before we get to $100 type offerings (of Windows Mobile devices). I may be wrong, but not by much...The situation today is that a very small percentage of the market is smartphones. Our relevant share is not our share of the overall market, but of the smartphone market. And the smartphone will be a very large share of the total market...We're going to do everything that is needed to invest in this market and expand in this market.

The Opinion:

The Register:

Once a year, whether it needs it or not (but oh boy, it does...) Microsoft shows up at 3GSM with the latest release of its explanation of why its mobile business is not totalled. No, not at all totalled, honest. It's nice (no, actually, really nice), because it's weirdly refreshing to find there is a part of the world, or the industry, where you can wonder in a curiously detached way what the point of Microsoft is....

Leveraging the existing customer base and insinuating itself more deeply into the operators' service provisioning is not however going to be enough. Not all companies think it's a good idea to try to deliver the complete at-work experience to its employees while they're on the move (given that you generally don't have a desk, coffee mug etc in your pocket along with your mobile phone, it's at least arguable that the notion's a tad flawed), and it's even possible that in only hitting the confirmed addicts Microsoft could find itself trying to squeeze more money out of a total cake that's actually getting smaller.

Mike Maier on GigaOm:

When Microsoft made clear its mobile ambitions a two and a half years ago, conventional wisdom said the PC-juggernaut would fail miserably...Instead, the exact opposite has happened. After spending years lining up hardware partners like HTC and Palm, working around handset vendors to sign deals directly with carriers such as Cingular, and coming up with a respectable version of Windows Mobile (like usual, the third rev was a charm) Microsoft is poised for a banner year.

Todd Kort, Gartner (From ComputerWorld):

Ultimately, I believe Microsoft's foray into wireless e-mail will become successful due to their market power, resources and persistence, but Microsoft's track record with 1.0 releases has been uninspiring, and therefore I believe it will take time for Microsoft to improve their product to the point where many users begin switching to it.

Jack Gold, J. Gold Associates (From ComputerWorld):

Gold said Microsoft and its partners are undoubtedly trying to take advantage of RIM's legal woes with this week's news. But Gold noted that Microsoft faces its own patent infringement lawsuit from Visto Corp. over Direct Push. The case, filed in December in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, involves three Visto patents...

Gold also worries that the MSFP upgrade could be cumbersome and won't be available for several months. And once it is available, it will reduce the number of devices that users can choose from, Gold said. 'If you want your execs to use whatever device du jour they fancy, Microsoft can't handle that,' he said.