Motorola exec says Microsoft won't end Windows Mobile support

Differs with analysts who say Microsoft-Nokia pact could mean the end of Windows Mobile

A Motorola executive today disputed the belief of some analysts that last month's Microsoft Corp.-Nokia Corp. agreement to jointly put Microsoft Office applications on Nokia handsets could mean that support for Windows Mobile could end within a couple of years.

Jerry McNerney, vice president of mobility computing product management at Motorola, said he doesn't believe Microsoft has any plans to stop developing the Windows Mobile OS for his group's rugged handhelds, including the new MC9500 , which runs Windows Mobile 6.1.

"That's not true," he said. "We're committed [to] Microsoft going forward."

In an interview at the launch event for the MC9500 in New York, McNerney said his opinion is based on the substance of his constant conversations with Microsoft executives. In fact he said he has asked Microsoft officials specifically about how the Nokia pact will affect the future of Windows Mobile.

After the Microsoft-Nokia agreement was announced, several analysts theorized that Windows Mobile might not last beyond version 7, which is now slated to ship next year.

In today's interview, McNerney said Windows Mobile has a rich developer community, especially for applications used by enterprise and industrial customers. He said perhaps the Nokia partnership could prompt Microsoft to back off pushing Windows mobile for smartphones, but not for rugged handheld computers.

The comments by McNerney are interesting, since Windows Mobile has come under criticism by Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha, who heads up the company's division, and last week announced the new Motorola Cliq smartphone which runs the open source Android OS.

Jha and Motorola are still hoping to spin off the consumer unit , which produces smartphones, if market conditions improve.

McNerney's expectation that Microsoft will continue supporting Windows Mobile for a long time was seconded by FedEx executives attending today's MC9500 launch event.

Matthew Berardi, managing director of field technology at FedEx Ground, and Ken Pasley, the company's IT director for wireless technologies, both said they have been using Windows Mobile-based devices for many years because of the software's wide use in industrial settings. In fact, they said it has become a de facto standard for industrial uses.

"It has served us well," said Pasley, who did note that if Microsoft did stop supporting Windows Mobile, FedEx would adapt, just as it has to updates of operating systems in the past.

Berardi said that after hearing from analysts that Windows Mobile might be discontinued, he received assurances from Microsoft and Motorola that it will continue, at least for industrial devices. Pasley said FedEx is in regular communication with Microsoft and Motorola.

Joseph Robinson, vice president of marketing and sales at Motorola integrator Salamander Technologies, said that the death of Windows Mobile "would be shocking" because of its wide use in rugged devices. Salamander provides software to support rugged devices mainly for uses in public safety, and has 3,000 customers using Windows Mobile-based rugged devices.

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