I have always been a huge fan of Windows Mobile and at the heart of it, Windows Phone 7 really is Windows Mobile in spirit; it is a platform that is meant for consumer small devices. Microsoft’s strategy has always been targeted at the business community and hence they have always seen their main competitor as RIM. Apple came out of left field and proved that there was a market for non-professionals and both Microsoft and RIM were both left stunned. Google has snuck into the market in the past two years and has quickly gained around 3.5% share of the mobile market.
In my opinion, Windows Mobile has always been a superior OS technically in comparison to the iPhone. I cannot think of any feature outside of specific gestures that are not available on Windows Mobile. The core of its strength is that it is a true OS with less limitations than the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone, most problems are solveable by a developer. Don’t like the native home screens, there are a number of alternatives including SPB Mobile Shell. Don’t like the native keyboard, there are alternatives to that like Swype and TouchPal. Don’t like the browser, there are a ton of solid replacements like Opera and Skyfire. Launching a new OS that is technically better is a moot point as Windows Mobile today is a technically better product than the iPhone.
While Microsoft never had the hearts and minds of the user community, the biggest loss they are facing now is the that of the development community. Proof in that is in the lack of new applications. Every new web service builds apps for the iPhone followed by the Android. Rarely for Windows Mobile. Even with web APIs widely available, there are very few third party apps built for Windows Mobile. Back then, for a developer, there were no real choices and no real competition outside of Windows Mobile. Today, it is cheaper, cooler and more profitable to develop for the iPhone and the Android platforms.
Microsoft has to find a way back to the developer community’s hearts by giving away Visual Studio for free and even as far as giving away devices for free. They could even bundle Visual Studio with a mobile device for cheap. But they have to bring back their developer community before they do a push to their user community. Once you have a handful of high profile apps, then they have to do an Apple-like push for their platform. Their battle ahead to compete in this space is not technical; it’s a marketing war.