updated 10:05 am EDT, Thu September 17, 2009
i-mate likely closed
Windows Mobile may have been dealt a blow through a quiet shutdown of i-mate, an investigation has found. The company is said to have abruptly closed its offices one week ago and cut off communication with the media and resellers other than unverified statements that the company has stopped running. Its website is still active, but the company reportedly didn't launch a promised updated phone line in August and hasn't done more this year than release the ruggedized 810F.
The closure was partly expected from i-mate as it had increasingly struggled to get a footprint in the market in recent years. It had introduced few new models and rarely landed deals with carriers, hurting access to its devices; it had taken to establish one-on-one deals with stores rather than using distributors in a bid to get better exposure.
An end to i-mate is a symbolic wound for Microsoft's mobile platform. The Dubai-based company was originally begun in 2001 as a spinoff of HTC and was one of the earliest adoptees of Windows Mobile (initially Pocket PC), serving as a promoter. HTC's decision to start selling under its own name in 2006 was one of the largest challenges to i-mate, but the use of Windows Mobile by Motorola, Samsung and other much larger companies overshadowed i-mate in sheer numbers. All three of those companies have since moved some or even most of their smartphone lines to Android in an effort to compete with more modern touchscreen rival platforms like the iPhone.