We're currently at a multi-purpose Microsoft event right now -- an event touring the company's holiday lineup, as well as today's launch of Windows phone devices (AKA, Windows Mobile 6.5). We had a chance to sit down with Robbie Bach, President of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, and ask him some questions about where the big M is headed with its recent lineup. Here are a few of our takeaways.
We asked about convergence (or lack thereof) across Microsoft products. Zune, Xbox, and Microsoft phone products don't really play nice at this point. Robbie was hesitant to tackle the actual question, sticking mostly to the party line, though he did admit that their plans stretch further down the road than this -- a theme thus far. It sounds a lot like Microsoft isn't where it wants to be. In a later question, he asks us to "look where [Microsoft] is in two or three years." That's a long time to wait guys.
An HTC HD2 is doing the rounds at the show (though it's in someone's pocket) -- when we asked why the company hasn't highlighted the device (which is pretty darn slick, by the way), Robbie seemed to glaze over the presence of the device. The line was "we want to work with all our partners." Why they wouldn't call out what is a groundbreaking device for Windows Mobile is somewhat perplexing.
Michael Gartenberg, one of our contributors, asks about if the company is "still committed to pen computing" -- Robbie says yes, and that there's a lot of "research" going on right now. "The pen has been around for a long time," he says. "There's work that has to be done."
Robbie says, "Microsoft is as proactive as it is reactive." On the Zune HD "Where we broke through is in software."
Gartenberg asks about "devices that fall between a PC and a phone." Robbie chuckles pretty hard at that one. "Here's my favorite survey of the year... which will you buy, a Microsoft tablet or Apple tablet?" "Do I believe there are other devices out there that people want to use, like a Kindle-like device... yes."
Peter Rojas asks about the company's acquisition of Danger. Robbie: "There were clear reasons for us to acquire Danger -- I think in time that will pan out. It wasn't another OS, it was services... the Sidekick isn't our brand, it's T-Mobile's brand."
We ask Robbie about Pink and if a Microsoft phone is in the company's future: "I don't see that." Robbie was pretty vehement that making a piece of hardware for the mobile space isn't really in the company's plans. "Apple demonstrated that the end to end experience worked, so we did that with the Zune." He says he doesn't think it makes sense for the scale of the mobile market. On the experience with current Windows Mobile devices: "We're part of the way there with Windows Mobile 6.5."
Andrew Yoon from Joystiq asks: "When can we stop calling it Natal?" Robbie laughs: "When we tell you to call it something else. I'll tell you this -- when we announce what we're calling it, you guys will report it, and people will get it."
A question about Google's business model being similar to Microsoft's -- Robbie laughs and makes a face: "I'm confused about you calling it a 'business model'... I'm not sure what they're doing exactly." Ouch. "If you use a Google phone, that's fine, but what do you do about your music experience? What do you do about your photo experience? Then it starts to feel like another version of Linux."