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Microsoft's mobile trouble: can it buy its way out?

Microsoft's mobile trouble: can it buy its way out?

Microsoft's lack of momentum in the smartphone space plus the growing popularity of netbooks spells long term trouble for Redmond. Does it need to take a cue from Oracle and acquire to conquer?

Microsoft recently announced that Oct. 22 is the ship date for its coveted Windows 7 OS. But last week as the tech world buzzed loudly about the unveiling of Apple's new iPhone 3G S and Palm Pre smartphone, it was easy to forget about the next version of Windows.

As more consumers and business users utilize their phones just as they would a PC for e-mail, Web surfing, instant messaging, purchases, and photo and music storage, the risk grows that Microsoft will become a non-player in the red-hot mobile space, say industry analysts. The company's Windows Mobile OS has struggled to make headway in the United States against heavy hitters including the iPhone, the BlackBerry and Google's Android OS.

Microsoft still dominates key markets such as browsers, client operating systems, PC/netbooks and desktop applications, but as consumer and enterprise technology evolves, Microsoft faces not only mobile trouble but also new challenges in markets such as search, Web applications and enterprise software.

MS Vulnerable on All Fronts

In search, Microsoft's market share has been stuck at less than 10 percent for years. New "decision engine" Bing is already growing Microsoft's search share, but the fact remains that Google is a force in search with 64 percent market share, according to comScore's latest search rankings.

Even in the office application space, where Microsoft Office is the clear leader, the company is losing consumers to cheap or free alternatives such as Google Docs, OpenOffice or IBM's Lotus Symphony. How soon will it be before these consumers start requesting these products at work? For its part, Microsoft has promised a Web-based version of Office in 2010.

Microsoft also faces a possible push into the enterprise by Apple with its new iPhone 3GS and the upcoming OS Snow Leopard that will support Exchange for the first time. Another concern is more prevalent use of Google Apps at businesses where workers can now access Gmail through an Outlook client.

But ultimately its the mobile market that stands out as the biggest danger zone for Microsoft, say industry analysts.

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Tags MicrosoftApplePalm PreiPhone 3G S

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