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
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
Andy, thanks for your time, it's a pleasure to meet you.
Andy Lees: Welcome, it's a pleasure to meet you.
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
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
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
Cheers ~ Arne