Microsoft admits it was “caught napping” by the iPhone

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Remember way back in 2007 when Steve Ballmer famously yanked on his oligarch’s suspenders, chomped down on his cigar and told USA Today: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance?” Ballmer then went on to muse that Apple would only ever succeed in getting two or three percent market share, while Windows Mobile would own sixty to seventy percent of the market.

No. Wait. Stop chortling and high fiving each other for a second, I’m trying to make a point here: those are the words of a man who firmly believes his predictions. History has shown otherwise: Microsoft obviously got caught sleeping at the wheel when the iPhone came on the scene and utterly destroyed Windows Mobile’s place in the smartphone arena. Two years later, and Microsoft still hasn’t released a version of Windows Mobile that is even competitive with iPhone OS 1.0, let alone 3.0. But at least Microsoft is no longer feeling complacent about it: speaking to attendees of the Connect! tech summit in London, Microsoft UK’s Phil Moore made a frank appraisal of Windows Mobile when compared to the iPhone.

“We’re still playing catch-up. When Apple came on to the scene a couple of years ago, it threw away the rulebook and reinvented it. We unfortunately don’t have that luxury. It’s true, Apple caught us all napping. It launched something that was very iconic, new and unseen with a very good user interface,” said Moore.

That’s certainly true: Windows Mobile’s current share of the smartphone market is a miniscule 7.9 percent to Apple’s 17.1. Microsoft knows that unless Windows Mobile 7 is an absolute game changer, it’s lost. So there must be a lot of internal pressure to rush it out the door, right?

Unfortunately, no: Moore admits that Windows Mobile 7 has been pushed back until the end of 2010. In other words, Microsoft’s response to the iPhone OS is coming out almost three years too late. No wonder Microsoft’s all but lost the consumer market: they seem to be getting better at admitting their past mistakes, but they are no where nearer to actually delivering.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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