REBRANDING: Microsoft to phase out Pocket PC and Smartphone brands
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 10.01.05 - 10:39:34 CET under 01 - General News - Viewed 8218x Not Tagged
IDG News Service reported last week from Microsoft plans to phase out the Pocket PC and Smartphone brands in favor of an overarching Windows Mobile brand, a company representative confirmed Thursday.
In the past 18 months, Microsoft has already been pushing the Windows Mobile brand more than the individual Pocket PC and Smartphone names. Over the next year or two, the product category names will be completely phased out as the technologies merge, said Scott Horn, a senior director in Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Devices group in an interview at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
"We are emphasizing Windows Mobile as device categories are coming together," he said. He added that 90% of the code for Smartphone and Pocket PC is the same.
Microsoft introduced Pocket PC as a brand in 2000 when it entered the PDA market. Smartphone came around in 2002 when the first phone running Microsoft software was introduced in Europe.
Without the Smartphone and Pocket PC names, there is no longer a distinction between Windows Mobile phone-centric devices and data-centric devices, which could confuse consumers. "We will have to be more explicit in communicating device capabilities," Horn said.
The Pocket PC name in particular has become a common brand and is used broadly. HP uses the Pocket PC name for its iPAQ devices. Microsoft is working with device makers on the naming changes, Horn said.
In the future, retailers will sell Windows Mobile devices, instead of Smartphones and Pocket PCs. Most of the devices will offer phone capabilities, according to Horn, and buyers will select based on a list of device capabilities and their needs.
In my humble opinion it's not such a clever move at all since I like the "Windows Mobile Pocket PC" and "Windows Mobile Smartphone" terms because they describe best what users can expect from which device. Even if both device groups run the same core, no end-user cares about it but cares more about functionalities and form factors e.g. data centric vs. voice centric (aka key-input vs. stylus input) and phone sized shape vs. PDA sized shape.
I think you are missing one thing. I worked for a year at Microsoft, and I imaging that description came simply from the fact that each product is simply a child of a big team at MS. A team is a group of testers (i was actually a software test engineer for International team), developpers, team leaders, and project managers.
If you think that a team of 4 people for example is required to test Smartphone with a certain test scripts, or test manuals, then you could imagine a parallel team of 4 people for testing as well to run almost the same steps (with slight variation of course), and carry out the result. Imagine that you need equal group of people in both teams. So now if hypothetically design teams are merged, then one test team can do the job, so is the team leader, and project manager, and hence less people resources. This is why Scott said that 90% of the code is almost similar.
And finally from end user point of view, i think it helps to understand there is one platform to run the mobile world. At least from now on you will have the same set of applications that could run on one platform over both "smartphones" and "pocket pc".
Now in my humble opinion, MS decision to rebrand those teams is delayed, it should have been planned appropriately from phase 1, however back in 2000, MS was longing for the success of a new born team when they started the PocketPC project, but with smartphone, they were banking on their currently established effort in this area.
Posted by jayson on 13.01.05 - 10:12:35
I agree more with Arne. With just one brand, a person not familiar with the distinction might stereotype Windows Mobile into just a PDA-type device or a Phone-type device.
And with this move, it seems that most if not all Pocket PC's in the future will have Phone Capabilities. I do not like this as I am still more for the separate PDA and separate phone configuration (for some practical reasons).
Posted by Piero Timpano on 13.01.05 - 13:40:32
 As an avid user of a MDAII, and someone that sells them, I have to agree that grouping all devices under one "brand" is a good idea. Customers are looking for a device with capabilities to take Email with them, documents, and contacts. Using the "Windows Mobile" describes perfectly what the device is. A version of windows to take with you. Regardless if there is a phone built in, or the windows is built into the phone, The customers SEE the difference. They have a fixed platform, they choose the "case design". Come on, think about it.. Windows XP home, Proffesional & Media centre edition are all Windows XP. Everyone knows what windows XP is. Imagine they had 3 different names, or one name in a black midi tower, and another name in a miniATX case. It would drive you crazy, but because its a mobile device we are supposed to be OK with??
Posted by zatsmee76 on 13.01.05 - 23:42:21
 Thanks piero, that's one nice example about XP. of course there are slight differences between home, pro, and media center, but come on, it's just the same. If you look today at XPSP2 for instance, it has great wireless lan support, great bluetooth support, and so many other native support, while it lacks features of media center for example. Question is why all that? come on put it all in one box.
Back to PocketPC world, I disagree with jayson and arne: today more and more PDA users are looking for full integration and support for mobile world and vice versa (and probably great camera support too). The orinigal idea behind PDA + mobile was simply, to carry one device instead of two. Does that mean compromising in features? if Microsoft can guarantee (however I think they won't for commercial reasons) that they can add all features of both platform into one, then its great, isnt it?
Posted by jayson on 14.01.05 - 01:32:38
From my experience of using a single PDA/Mobile device. Separate devices still perform better because all the power and capabilities are concentrated into one device making use more stable and efficient. Can you honestly tell me that the XDA II is the perfect PDA/Mobile deivce?
Now here's the question, what if the consequence of Microsoft's move is that the PPC will not exist anymore... just "smartphones"... I don't like the idea. All our investments in software for the PPC will not work anymore. So what's the point of buying a PPC based device and apps now when you know that next year, the OS will be changed? Someone please clarify what Microsoft realy intends to do (I just hope they will retain both platforms but work under one brand).
Posted by Piero Timpano on 16.01.05 - 11:13:12
 I have to admit, I didnt even think of that possibility! I hope Microsoft will keep the "ppc" platform. And Jayson.. The MDAII is not perfect, but the MDAII is well on the way, at least for my needs. The main difference Is and will be size. Either a smaller device that looks more like a phone, or a larger device that looks like a PDA, but hopefully both will have the same features.