My Guess: Windows Mobile 7 Will be Available Sooner Than Expected & WinMo 6.6 Will Become a Low-end Option

Last week I wondered if…

Steve Ballmer Skipping Mobile World Congress Because of Windows Mobile 6.6?

After all an incremental upgrade (6.6) of an earlier incremental upgrade (6.5) seemed like a useless or, even worse, a desperate gesture. After all, earlier rumors had Windows 7 arriving in late 2010 or maybe even in 2011. Either date would be a case of too-little-too-late as Apple presumably preps their 4th generation iPhone for a summer 2010 release while Google keeps pushing Android forward bit by bit. And, we shouldn’t forget RIM’s BlackBerry and Nokia’s Maemo either.

So, what is the deal with the recent speculation that Microsoft will announce Windows 7 at the Mobile World Congress next month?

MobileCrunch: Everything you need to know about Windows Mobile 7

All Things Digital: Microsoft to Launch Zune Phone in Two Months?

Here are my three interpretations of this latest set of rumors:

1. They are collectively wrong
2. They are collectively correct in that an announcement will be made but actual phones running Windows 7 will not appear until late 2010 or early 2011 as earlier speculated
3. Both the Windows Mobile 6.6 and 7.0 update rumors are correct. The 6.x phones will become the low-end models to compete with feature phones while 7.x phones be available sooner than expected and will go head-to-head with the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia Maemo.

The speculation that Windows Mobile 7 will NOT be backward compatible with 6.x makes sense to me. Windows Mobile 6 is essentially like comparing MS-DOS to a modern graphical operating system. It simply can’t compete with its baggage of legacy support issues. A clean break from all earlier versions of Windows Mobile may upset current users and developers. However, this user base is so small compared to the potential future customer base, that this doesn’t matter (And, I say this a person who has used this platform since Windows CE 1.0).