6 changes Microsoft must make to matter again in mobile

Microsoft must enact six key changes if it wants Windows to have a meaningful presence in mobile in the coming years

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5. Fix Internet Explorer
Microsoft also needs to fix Internet Explorer. There are now at least seven versions of IE in use, and they all work slightly differently in handling HTML rendering, which causes many sites to work improperly. Web developers can't keep up, and it's clear that most have stopped trying to. Instead, they're focused on Chrome and Safari, as those cover Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android. Both browsers are also much more careful and consistent in their compliance (iOS 7's WebKit bugs notwithstanding). Firefox is next on developers' priority lists, as it's a dependable browser on Windows that follows Chrome and Safari closely in compatibility and consistency.

The IE problem is bigger than just mobile, but it is a critical flaw that makes Windows mobile devices work poorly for accessing the Web -- a major use for many people.

6. Fix Windows Phone itself
Perhaps the hardest part is fixing Windows Phone. Solving the first five issues will help, but I believe there's something wrong with Windows Phone that goes beyond those. One flaw is that nice tile interface -- it works well when you don't have much on the device, but quickly becomes a tiresome method that requires way too much scrolling if you have lots of apps, contacts, and so on. Microsoft should not create a competing method for when there's a lot of content to go through, but it should find a way to make navigation faster within it. Maybe by adopting the Metro Search charm method for quick access?

Beyond that, Windows Phones don't seem able to run "real" apps, just lightweight applets. It's not clear if that's true, or simply that no one has bothered to develop "real" apps for a platform no one uses.

The same question posed itself with Android apps a few years ago. The early Android versions were as lightweight as Windows Phone seems to be, and developers simply could not do in Android what they could in iOS. But over the years, Android has evolved to become a much stronger platform, and there are now sophisticated, capable apps for it that match what you see in iOS. There's also the reality that most Android apps make less money than iOS apps, and developers have reduced their investments commensurately.

If Windows Phone is too lightweight to run real apps, Microsoft needs to fix that pronto -- especially because people expect much richer apps on a tablet, which should also run Windows Phone. if Windows Phone is capable now of running rich apps, Microsoft needs to do what Apple did in iOS and create several such rich apps to set those expectations among both users and developers.

And Microsoft has only a year or maybe two to do all this.

This article, "6 changes Microsoft must make to matter again in mobile ," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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