Microsoft's mobile shakeup: Will it unleash Windows Phone?

The new mobile platform has been well received by Microsoft developers

A shakeup in Microsoft's gaming and devices business finally splits two groups that should never have been together, and could unleash the company's mobile device efforts. Whether CEO Steve Ballmer's decision is timely or too late remains to be seen.

Microsoft's highest paid senior exec to retire

Ballmer announced Tuesday via a company e-mail that Robbie Balch is retiring. As chief of the company's Entertainment and Devices division, Balch has overseen both Microsoft's Xbox gaming console business and its smartphone and mobile business for the better part of a decade. The group reaped $1.67 billion in sales for the first calendar quarter, about 11% of the company's total revenue for that period, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Balch won't be replaced. Instead the two executives who head both units will report directly to Ballmer.

For Andrew Lees, chief of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business (MCB), that clears the decks for him to take whatever steps he wants with respect to the radically redesigned Windows Phone operating system, the most visible of the company's mobile offerings. (On the gaming side, Don Mattrick, who leads the interactive entertainment business, will have a similar opportunity.)

Lees grew Microsoft's server products into a multi-billion-dollar revenue river. In early 2008, Ballmer shifted him to MCB to turn around a failing operation. Microsoft was being outclassed, out-developed and out-marketed by longtime rivals such as Research in Motion, and even worse, by brand-new mobile platforms, first Apple's widely successful iPhone and then Google's Android mobile OS. Its aging Windows Mobile platform was, and is, shrinking in market share.

Taking the helm, Lees recruited a host of new marketing talent from Microsoft's consumer businesses (such as the Zune music player and Windows Media Center). He enticed new engineering talent into the group from elsewhere in the company, including nearly 20% of Microsoft's elite "distinguished engineers." He also drew from outside. One of the outsiders is Albert Shum, a key designers behind the radical revision of the mobile platforms user interface. Shum previously had spent 12 years at Nike in design. (See "From sneakers to smartphones: The man behind Microsoft's Windows Phone design".)

The new mobile platform has been well received by Microsoft developers, many of whom already possess the experience with Microsoft development tools to begin grappling with Windows Phone applications. It compares very well to the iPhone OS, according to some developers, such as blogger and author Kevin Hoffman, who has experience with both mobile platforms.

Microsoft worked closely with phone manufacturers and carriers to craft a hardware specification for phones running the new operating system, to ensure that users will get the performance and display needed for a consistently high-quality experience.

The first of these new handsets with Windows Phone 7 is due out perhaps as early as September 2010.

At CES this year, Microsoft's mobile chief, Robbie Bach, echoed those ideas, telling a group of financial analysts, "I am certainly confident that we are going to see [Windows Mobile 7] as something that is differentiated and sets the bar forward, not in an evolutionary way from where we are today, but something that looks, feels and acts and performs completely different."

Follow John Cox on

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-Malware section.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobile phonesMicrosoftwindows phone 7smartphonesWindows Phone 7 Series

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Cox

Network World
Show Comments


Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >


Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >


HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >


Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?