The Windows Phone 7 Launch: Our Take

Microsoft has finally launched its all-in bid to revive its flagging mobile business. We’ve gotten our hands on the HD7 Pro, the Dell Venue (known previously as the Lightning), and the rest of the US launch lineup. It’s arguable that they’ve spread their brand too thinly with such a long list of offerings, but it may also be a sign of health for the platform that so many manufacturers have gotten behind it.

Sure, we’ve been covering handsets, apps, and other aspects of Windows Phone 7 for half a year now, but the official launch warrants further collective judgment. Here are our thoughts, in convenient capsule form.

John Biggs: I’ve been up and down on the platform the whole day. In the beginning it was too “me too” to work properly but once I saw the HTC HD 7, I was in love. This is probably the phone that will define the space and make the biggest impression. I agree with Nicholas – they should have put all their strength behind one phone. I know why they spread the launch out over ten devices – each manufacturer wanted to get their licks in – but expect it to be a frustrating experience for many. I think WinPho 7 hides a lot of its complexity under a deep veneer. They will sell plenty of phones and they’ll make plenty of money. I just don’t know if I’ll climb aboard this train.

Matt Burns: I’m sick of my Droid X, I don’t want an iPhone, I miss my BlackBerry and yet I still find Windows Phone 7 appealing. I want one solely because I believe that the phone’s capabilities are not dependent on 3rd apps. However, even if I want one, that doesn’t mean I’m going to get one. I, like so many others, are locked into a long-term contract and when it finally expires in 2012, there will probably be something else on the market that I want more. The old adage of it’s never too late to launch a good product might not apply here. Hopefully Microsoft is committed to the platform, because Windows Phone 7 is in for an epic up-hill battle.

Nicholas Deleon: I use my Zune HD every day. Give me a phone (preferably on Verizon Wireless, but only because I think VZW has the best coverage in my area) that works as well as that and I’d be more than happy. I don’t know how often I’d use things like Xbox Live or Zune Marketplace integration, but I appreciate that they’re there. But my overall opinion of Windows Phone 7 is: how different would the mobile landscape have been if Microsoft had launched it (or something like it) two years ago, before Android really hit it big? I don’t want to say that Microsoft “missed the boat” or anything, but it’s pretty clear that Redmond will be playing catch-up for a little while.

Scott Merrill: I don’t have strong thoughts, because it’s not a platform I expect to embrace ever. As a Linux user, I’m much more interested in Android. I wouldn’t expect a WinPho7 device to sync in any way with my Linux machines. I also don’t have an XBox or a Windows Live account, so integration with those services is a non-starter at best, and a threat of a different sort of lock-in at worst. I don’t have any faith in Microsoft working for what consumers really want, nor of them being open players in the burgeoning world of mobile.

Devin Coldewey: Like so many other Microsoft products, the true value really only comes out when you put all of their pieces together. The Live ecosystem is hugely interconnected and self-supporting, but the fact is most of us don’t live there, and I doubt that Windows Phone 7 will be the capstone that causes the whole thing to fit together in consumers’ minds. I expect it will be a well-loved OS but won’t garner enough support to make an impact — rather like webOS, and with a similar safety net. My other fear is that in a year, Windows Phone 7 will be exactly the same as it is today, unlike iOS and Android, which undergo serious revisions regularly. Only time will tell.

There you have it. As usual, a few months on the market might make all the difference to our opinions and prognoses, and we’ll keep you updated with the latest sales stats, bug reports, and reviews. The launch is (naturally) just the beginning, though let’s hope it’s not the beginning of the end.

Either way, we’ll find out soon whether WP7 will catch on with consumers looking for a genuinely new mobile experience or wilt and die, under-supported and under-appreciated.