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INTERVIEW: Andrew Lees - Microsoft Senior Vice President Mobile Communications Business
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 10.07.08 - 14:27:57 CET under 01 - General News - Viewed 13897x
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Yesterday, during his (really) short visit in Europe, I had the chance to meet Andy Lees, Microsoft's Senior Vice President, Mobile Communications Business who took over this role from Pieter Knook, who left Microsoft earlier this year.
Andy is responsible for Microsoft' Windows Mobile software and Live mobile services which includes guiding Microsoft's global mobile communications strategy for business and consumer customers. In that role, Lees oversees the development, marketing and sales of Microsoft software and services for mobile devices worldwide.

the::unwired: Andy, thanks for your time, it's a pleasure to meet you.
Andy Lees: Welcome, it's a pleasure to meet you.

tuw: How do you like Windows Mobile as a smartphone?
AL: Very good to me. I use (smiles) this device here (which was one of the latest Windows Mobile Standard smartphones). I'm a business user but I'm also a consumer which I think is a fault to say you are a business user or a consumer. You want to listen to music, and get your E-Mail, and I want to get my Hotmail and my business mail and play music and my device lets me do this and I even got many rights managed E-Mails and at least I can read it where any other device fails, be it a RIM (Research in Motion aka BlackBerry) or an iPhone.

tuw: If you could start from the scratch with Windows Mobile as a smartphone, what would the three things you would change?
AL: One thing I like about Windows Mobile is that many of the devices are designed for either one handed operation or two handed operation. That is very very useful.
In terms of the software, I would obviously look into the latest graphics technology to improve usability. We've done some of that in Windows Mobile 6.1 but you will see more of this going forward.
The third thing is I would really focus on how the device interacts with everything else that I do. We do a pretty good job with Exchange, we do a pretty good job with Windows Live; there are other things, other experiences in my life that I like to appear on the phone. Photos have to be better, Music I think we can enhance, games, I think we can enhance other things and I think the hardware is just enabling.
So I would do that.

tuw: I expect you cannot talk today about whatever the next development is but it's clear that you guys will continue on Windows Mobile. What can customers possibly expect – and in this case I mean both customer categories: the carriers and the end-users?
AL: Well, the OEM is also a customer (smiles). One thing we can announce is that we are producing Internet Explorer 6 on Windows Mobile 6 and that's coming up and we will make it available to ODMs later this year so they can put this into devices. And I think it's really cool, it's a full PC browser on a mobile device. There are websites you go to and let's say even popular once like Facebook, where there are a lot of applications that don't work on any mobile browser today and you will be able to use them on that. We will support FlashLite and also we've announced that in the future, after the initial IE6 release, we will support Silverlight. In terms of mobile Internet, we will have the richest solution as soon as we provide that.
For OEMs, of course there's still a lots of innovation in hardware. From graphics to touch devices, to different keyboards, to accelerometers and different wireless technologies, radios and stuff like that. So we continue to enable and work closely with them so they can bring that to market.

tuw: And what's about multitouch, since this is currently a big hype? Is this something interesting for you guys?
AL: Well, the multitouch has its advantages and disadvantages. Today, there are two screen technologies: one called resistive, one called capacitive. On capacitive, it basically uses characteristics of the skin on the screen and that's the technology which allows you to put two or more fingers on the device and to do gestures, multitouch gestures. The problem with it is that it is not very accurate. So if you want to do pen input, it doesn't work – it has to be a finger. So if you are a female and you have long nails and you tap on the screen it doesn't work, you can't use a glove and so – there are pluses and minuses about using one technology versus the other. So most OEMs today choosing resistive because a lot of customers design applications where you have to do signatures and stuff like that, where you can't do that for an example on an iPhone.
So we will look at both and going forward and we will see what people want to do

tuw: The next development of Windows Mobile, will it concentrate more on the consumer market? Today it's pretty much a corporate utility.
AL: I would say, previous to Windows Mobile 6.1 it was very corporate; I think with Windows Mobile 6.1 we already break into more consumer scenarios. Things like Hotmail access, instant messenger access, support for things like Spaces (Windows Live Spaces) is very good on the device, the new panel sliding and panel UIs are much more friendly for inexperienced users to get and start using a smartphone. So I think we made strikes. And I don't think we're choosing business or consumer, I think we're choosing business and consumer. So there's more innovation we can do with access to business information, business resources – build on, for example, on Mobile Device Manager Software we made recently available to companies but also consumer scenarios like games and other things we do.

tuw: The last question before you have to leave. Services, you are also responsible for Windows Live Mobile services. If you compare the current status of Windows Live Mobile services to Apple MobileMe, Nokia OVI or Google Apps, what do you think? Are you on pair?
AL: We are successfully on that. We have 430 million users that use Windows Live services, 430 million! We have more than 350 million Hotmail users, we have more than 350 million instant messenger service users and we have more than 150 million users of Live Spaces so – these are big numbers. So what we're doing is, if you are using a mobile device and you use these services then your mobile device is just gone light-up these services. As well we are doing extra services that are specific to mobile devices.
Compare that to, you said, MobileMe. MobileMe is a rename of .Mac. They have 1.2 million users, even if this service is going for years and they are charging US$ 99 for a service that we ad-fund and which is free. Do you think it's gone be successful? It's not so far.
Actually the same stats or almost the same truth for OVI. OVI hasn't had much attraction; this is now the third run on it under the second name.
So everybody has the potential to add some level of services but people realize that to make them really work, to make them actually part of someone's life, they can't be just about mobile or just about web or just about PC, it's how all these things work together and we bring that to the pie like nobody else.

tuw: So your clear vision is, if you would call Windows Live Services a Web 2.0 service as well, that Web 2.0 is going mobile now? Freeing the Web 2.0 from the PC?
AL: It is but I think the danger with calling it Web 2.0 is that I think, people just expect to get access to web resources through a browser; and this is read/write through a browser and that's what Web 2.0 is.
This is actually something more profound then that. It's about saying "yes how do I do that"? But how do I do that in a way that is really relevant to the fact that I have a 2 or 3" screen or 4" screen or whatever it is and that I'm mobile and my location often matter, depending on what service I'm trying to use. For example if you're instant messaging somebody, why do you say "where are you, I wane find you"? The system can give me maps and directions because this is a real scenario. Our vision here is to build on the assets we have to make them mobile-specific and light them up.

tuw: Thanks for your time!

In addition to the interview above, I had the chance to talk with Andy off-the-records and I can tell you that he's very passionate about Windows Mobile and Windows Live Mobile services. While he mentioned some of the upcoming Windows Mobile and Windows Live developments, I cannot unveil anything here due to my NDAs with Microsoft. Nevertheless, I can tell you Microsoft is on the right track, what the interview above should reflect as well and therefore, doesn't matter which platform you prefer, I wouldn't bet all my money on the iPhone or the Google phone only, better keep some money in the pocket for Windows Mobile as well.

Cheers ~ Arne


 

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Comments
Posted by xzam on 10.07.08 - 22:40:44

Your statement in the last break let´s me hope :-) So I´m looking forward to the end of the year or early 2009 respectively. Concerning Windows Live Services: In my opinion a big disadvantage of it is that it doesn´t offer exchange-services as far as I know. Would be great if Microsoft could integrate it for free in a light way like mail2web.com does it. If the user wants more like direct PC-Outlook-Access they could request a fee of about 2,- € or something like this. I think if they make good advertisement for their product and it offers all the things like file storage, calendar, mailing, chatting etc. and makes it easy for you to stay up to date on each of your devices the user won´t have a problem to pay for such a comfort.

Greets
xzam

Posted by FlowerPower on 11.07.08 - 17:32:23

Good interview Arne, sounds promising. If Only I could believe in Microsoft. Have a look at today's iPhone coverage. Does Microsoft think Windows Mobile 7 will only get half of that?

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