Microsoft steps up Windows Mobile consumer push

Published: 24 January, 2008
Microsoft Corp. is working to boost the appeal of Windows Mobile among consumers by appointing a new head of marketing and by supporting a new application for viewing Web content.

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it has hired Todd Peters, formerly an executive at Staples Inc., to be corporate vice president of marketing for its mobile communications business. Peters will be responsible for positioning Windows Mobile to appeal more to a consumer audience. He fills a position left vacant by Suzan DelBene, who recently left the company.

Microsoft also said it will help market and distribute Zumobi, a software program that makes it easier for Windows Mobile users to access Web sites and widgets, or small applications that provide up-to-date information from the Web.

Zumobi said in a statement Tuesday that Microsoft will distribute the software with Windows Mobile, although Microsoft characterized it as more of a marketing deal and said it would make Zumobi available for download from its Web sites.

Either way, the software, which had been available in beta since December from Zumobi's Web site, should now be easier for customers to get hold of. Zumobi did not respond to questions about the agreement.

The announcements reflect a recent push at Microsoft to attract more consumers. "We are definitely moving into making Windows Mobile come alive for the consumer," said Scott Rockfeld, group product manager of Microsoft's Windows Mobile group. Rockfeld and other Windows Mobile executives have been emphasizing that the operating system is designed to be attractive to users in their personal lives as well as their work lives.

For now, the most compelling value is for corporate customers who want mobile access to their data and documents, and Microsoft will need to reach more consumers to maintain growth in the future, said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

"They need to continue to evolve the value proposition and range of applications that are more centered around consumers, even though their primary focus is -- and will remain in the near future -- on the enterprise," he said.

The appointment of Peters and support for Zumobi appear to support this gradual buildup of support for consumer applications, he said.