It’s been a long time coming and it’s finally here: Microsoft has released their eagerly awaited Windows Phone 7, a distinct break from everything that came before and a complete overhaul of Microsoft’s aged OS.
Windows Phone 7 uses an entirely new UI based around “hubs,” points of activity on the screen. Some hubs bring up email, others bring up photos and games. You can download TV from UVerse right onto your phone and you have connectivity to your Windows Live and Xbox Live accounts. Generally, the launch is quite exciting. Fans of WinMo will not recognize this new version but I expect they’ll be enthused when they start using it.
The “message” Microsoft is offering here is “personalization.” They expect you to be in and out of your phone as quickly as possible.
But does anyone care? The space Windows Mobile once had in the market seems to be already occupied. To understand WinMo, we have to look at the history of feature phones vs. smartphones. Beginning in about 2000, Microsoft convinced a number of programmers that the same programs they were writing for Windows could run almost as well on a phone. This didn’t quite pan out, but it did embed a number of WinMo phones into many IT ecosystems. However, as the value proposition of smartphones changed from “app drivers” to email providers, WinMo became a bit unloved. Blackberry ruled corporate IT and the nerds took to WinMo or, barring that, something like Qt on a Linux Kernel.
Then along came iPhone followed closely by the Android OS. When WinMo was in her prime, users were separated into two camps: feature phone users and smartphone users. Feature phones were primitive running odd Java decks and the like while smartphone users could run apps and do all sorts of PIM functions. iPhone blurred the line between feature phones and smartphones and Android shattered it.
If you’re in IT you’re probably torn right now. WinPho 7 is quite compelling but your customers are probably all iPhone or Blackberry all the time, with an increasing number using Android phones. To think this new OS will supplant those phone types is folly.
This is not to say WinPho 7 is a failure. It looks great. I’d love to use it and if I had to I’d prefer it over any Blackberry. However, with the multiple Android phones available to me and the iPhone looming over everything, I’d be loath to make the switch.
Windows Phone 7 is a great product but it feels like a plateau for Microsoft. That’s fine. A plateau for Microsoft is a great product for any other business. I’d just hate to be the IT guy trying to drag Blackberries, Droids, and iPhones out of their colleagues’ clammy hands.