Microsoft to sack management in wake of tablet PC, mobile failures

Windows Mobile struggling against iPhone, Android competition

Microsoft is not satisfied with its progress in the market for mobile phones and other consumer devices, and is on the verge of a management shakeup that will include the departure of chief technology officer J Allard, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. 

Microsoft recently canceled its Courier tablet project, and is facing increased competition from Apple and Google, which have struck gold with mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, and Android phones. 

“Major organizational changes” in Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division could therefore occur as early as this week, the Journal reported. Chief technology officer J Allard is likely to leave, as has been reported by ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley

The Entertainment & Devices division includes the Xbox 360 video game system, which has suffered various technical problems that have frustrated gamers who expect their consoles to work properly, as well as the Windows Mobile team.

It is on the mobile front where Microsoft may be most worried. Microsoft’s long-term preeminence in the IT world is based in large part on the success of Windows. But while Microsoft controls the desktop, it has not achieved anywhere near the same success with Windows Mobile. 

Mobile phones and tablet devices are starting to rival desktops and laptops as Web surfing devices, so Microsoft needs a viable mobile operating system to remain in charge of the personal computing world. But BlackBerries are the most commonly used business smartphones, and the iPhone and Android are conquering the consumer market.

“During the first quarter, new shipments of handsets based on Microsoft's mobile software fell to 6.8% of the worldwide market from 10.2% during the same period the prior year,” the Journal reported, citing research from the analyst firm Gartner. “Google's Android operating system jumped to 9.6% from 1.6% during those same periods, while Apple's iPhone rose to 15.4% from 10.5%."

Microsoft is on the verge of overhauling its mobile operating system with Windows Phone 7. It’s unclear how the expected management shakeup will affect development of this software, which Network World reporter John Cox describes as a “radically revamped mobile OS,” in a new article that provides the latest details about the project. 

The iPhone and Android certainly have greater market momentum than Windows Mobile, and with the BlackBerry’s dominance of the corporate world it’s not clear if a simple management shakeup will be sufficient for Microsoft to make a comeback in this increasingly vital market. 

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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