My Take on Windows Phone 7 Series
Today Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 Series, the complete overhaul (replacement) of the dying Windows Mobile platform.
It will be out at the end of 2010, and will attempt to take on Apple, RIM, Android and Palm.
Let me get this out of the way first: this is the best thing that Microsoft could have done to stay relevant in this space. Clearly Windows Mobile wasn’t going to be competitive, and this new product shows promise. Although they are advertising it as something new and better than the iPhone, what they have essentially done is to duplicate the iPhone, and it’s what they have copied that will be their only chance at being competitive.
Do I think it will be a huge winner, an iPhone and Android “killer”? Not a chance. It likely won’t be a flop, with Microsoft putting it’s weight behind it, but I very much doubt it will put a big dent in Apple’s dominance in the space.
Microsoft is extremely late to this party. It’s 2010. The iPhone was released in 2007, and apps came to it in 2008. If the Microsoft phone was here NOW, this would be a different story, but it’s at least 7-9 months away. If there is one thing Apple has shown it doesn’t do is rest on it’s laurels: iPhone OS 3.0 brought some major improvements to the platform, as will iPhone OS 4.0 which will likely appear this summer. So by the time Microsoft’s platform launches, Apple will have over 200,000 apps on the App Store, and around 100 million devices (iPhones and iPod touches) sold.
Where Microsoft didn’t copy the iPhone and chose to go it’s own way was with the home screen (“Start” screen). It runs these little boxes that can be fed from data services, and they are used to launch a more full-featured app. As I predicted in my Widgets post, Apple is VERY likely to do something like this themselves.
So when Christmas rolls around, where will be the Microsoft advantage? Nerds and power-users will likely choose Android for it’s flexibility and multi-tasking. Business users will still be using their trusty Blackberries. And iPhone owners will likely stick with the iPhone, since it has the highest customer satisfaction rating out of any phone. So that leaves new users, who have a choice to go with the raved about iPhone, or this new “Windows Phone thing”. My guess is that in general, the Windows name doesn’t instill a tremendous amount of trust, but perhaps I am wrong. Even though the most recent Zune HD was a critical darling, it hasn’t put a dent in iPod market share.
Without having played with one (nor have I used a Zune HD), the interface does look beautiful, if a bit cluttered. I wonder how usable it will be. From the videos I watched today, it seems somewhat cumbersome to navigate the home screen, and even one of the Microsoft presenters had a hard time finding his contacts (rather than having a standard icon for contacts, it had been changed to a picture of one of his contacts).
Oh, and the name is horrible. “Windows Phone 7 Series” is a mouthful, as is it’s official domain: http://www.windowsphone7series.com. Can’t someone at Microsoft realize that branding is important? Call it the Zune phone. Call it the Windows phone. But don’t roll out a whole new product, and stick the number 7 on it like that means something to us.