September 09, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Released to Manufacturing

A little over a week ago, Windows Phone 7 (WP7) was released to manufacturing. This smartphone OS marks a brave but necessary change for Microsoft in the mobile device market. On smartphones, the Windows Mobile platform (WM) has been steadily losing share to iOS and Android. Microsoft risks being sidelined.

Much has been written about how it is too late to catch up. How MSFT have missed the boat and Android is the winner. They also get beaten up for “abandoning” the WM and Win CE user and developer base with a totally new platform. That is, on the one hand they are told their share is so small it’s gone. And on the other hand they are criticized for giving up that ineffective base. How can it be both?

Well, people forget how wide open the smartphone market is, as almost all devices out there are still just phones. So, it's not impossible for a new player to garner a significant portion of the market going forward without needing to steal today's users from iPhone and Android.

I'm not saying it's easy. That new player has to be well funded (check). They have to be able to pull together a great launch (check-minus), build developer mindshare (check) and have great, sexy hardware (uh-oh). It's that last part that could be the hardest for WP7.

Even Apple has been slightly bruised by a handset issue. And Android is doing great with some hot new handsets like the Galaxy S. Until a really special handset comes out, it could be a drag against growing enough of a user base to avoid being written off--unfairly or not. MSFT is using Xbox Live, holiday time and other angles to boot strap the launch numbers. I'm just not sure the software is enough--no matter how revolutionary.

It's troublesome that everyone--Apple fan or not; techie or not--seemed to know that Apple was releasing a smartphone before the iPhone launched. However, no one I know outside of 'the business' seems to be talking about WP7. Maybe in the Xbox world they are .... Or maybe they have some secret handset up their sleeves. I can only hope!

As for the enterprise market, if WP7 gets airborne among consumers, MSFT will have time to win that crowd. I don't think it works the other way around. Well, clearly it does not. Or everyone would be using Windows Mobile today. And we wouldn't know an iPhone from our iButt!

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