Can Microsoft get back into the mobile race?

There is no doubt at all that Microsoft is still very much tier one in most areas - such as cloud and desktop computing, but even its ex-boss Steve Ballmer recognises that it was slow to move into mobile. The Windows mobile operating system was third to iOS and Android but that makes it an “also-ran”, given the success of the former two operating systems. Speaking to students at Oxford University, Ballmer concedes, “we didn’t put hardware and software together quick enough. Ballmer also acknowledged that Apple has “had a good run recently.”

So is Microsoft’s position in mobile set to change with the acquisition of Nokia’s handset business? Combining email, cloud computing, powerful mapping software and Nokia’s handset legacy could finally be an answer to Android and iOS, or at least the start of one. Perhaps its best chance is to capitalise on Nokia’s mapping company, HERE, a company that I have blogged about previously.

HERE, aims to bring Mapping and location to any operating system, including, of course, those that reside in vehicles. HERE is already powering 4 out of 5 in-car navigation systems, and its customers include BMW, Garmin, Toyota, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Oracle, SAP and Mozilla Firefox.  HERE also claims to be “the largest and most highly trained team of mapmakers on the planet - with 6,000 people in more than 56 countries.”

If one views the online and computing world as a series of clouds, with Google controlling the search cloud, companies like Amazon at the forefront of the mobile retail cloud and Facebook and the like dominating social media, then HERE is staking its claim to be the location cloud. Mobility and accurate location data go hand in hand, as mobile advertising and mobile ecommerce capitalise on the individuals’ geographical position to target them effectively. So HERE will doubtless be important, even in other mobile operating systems. Meanwhile, Windows Mobile is seeing some growth, albeit from a small base. Perhaps Android’s near 80% market share is not unassailable- but it is going to take some time…