Why isn't Windows Mobile dead?

Seriously, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), I'm asking. For as much as I love the elan with which the WinMo developer team communicates with coders at their blog -- and the obvious passion they have for the platform -- I don't see a reasonable endgame for WinMo.

Maybe that's unfair. CNET's Ina Fried says Mr. Softy is re-engineering Windows Mobile with version 7, which is expected to be ready by summer and available before year's end.

WinMo 7 is an important milestone, Fried writes, in that it could break from Microsoft tradition and dump a fair amount of old code, killing compatibility with older software programs in an effort to create a lighter, more modern OS. Doing so could create a more serious challenger to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone OS, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, and Palm's (NASDAQ:PALM) webOS.

Is it too late?
Handset partners such as Samsung and Taiwan's HTC might also appreciate the change. HTC, in particular, has become a high-profile Android partner even as it continues to ship WinMo handsets.

Nokia (NYSE:NOK), meanwhile, wants the mobile edition of Office for its handsets, but is otherwise uncommitted when it comes to Windows Mobile, it prefers to forge ahead with its own Symbian platform. And this is one of Mr. Softy most strategic partners.

Market share is part of the problem. Developers are flocking to Android and the iPhone OS, because these are the platforms creating consumptive data. In December, iPhone OS and Android handsets accounted for 70% of smartphone data traffic, AdMob reports. WinMo phones accounted for just 2%.

Windows Mobile 7 might help move the needle some, but not enough to make the OS a serious competitor in a crowded market where speed, Web-connectedness, and application availability are more prized than underlying system functionality. That's one of the reasons Mr. Softy should make the tough call to kill WinMo.

The other is to devote resources to what works, which means investing in Office Mobile. Other than Google's mobile apps, it's the most credible standard for on-the-go business and productivity software. That's why Nokia adopted the suite.

WinMo probably has to die, but it doesn't have to die in vain. Have a different view? Use the comments box below to make your voice heard.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy usually gets mobbed when it makes its monthly visit to Wall Street.