Windows Phone 7 – Should we care?

Microsoft release Windows Phone 7 (WP7) a couple of weeks ago with a lot of fanfare. I personally haven’t delved that much into it. I had once written that I didn’t think that WP7 will save Microsoft’s mobile strategy but much of what I wrote in that article is no longer true. I’ll start off by saying that I’ve always been a big fan of Windows Mobile. In my opinion, it was a far more flexible platform whose largest drawback was that it wasn’t exactly user friendly and the users punish Microsoft greatly for it by abandoning them when Apple came up with the iPhone. There are so many “innovations” that were released recently that have long been on Windows Mobile phones. Front facing camera was available on the HTC Tytn II in 2007. Skype for Windows Mobile has been available for Windows Mobile 2003 and because there were no constraints given by the provider, it’s been working over mobile networks since then. Evernote for Windows Mobile supports drawing while that feature is not supported by any other mobile platform. All in all, the strength of Windows Mobile was also it’s weakness. It is essentially a desktop platform ported over to a mobile platform with minimal changes.

So did Microsoft learn from it’s lesson over the past few years? I’ve never played with any Windows Phone 7 devices yet but from what I’ve read recently, it looks like they’ve had. For the sake of this entry, let’s assume that they have. The question is will it be enough for it to be a differentiator. Only time will really tell. However, I do have a few observations.

The general population is OS agnostic 

Outside of a small percentage of us that qualify as fanboys of sorts, very few people actually are even aware of the relevance that the OS has on a device. Most people are looking for a device that works to solve only a handful of requirements that they have. For some it’s an integrated PIM with a phone, for others it’s the integration of a music player and a phone, and for others it’s having productivity tools. As long as people can do what they need to do without many major changes to the way they do things, the OS for the most part doesn’t matter.To reinforce that idea, the Android platform has recently overtaken the iPhone in terms of popularity among new buyers.

I think what most people care about (if they care at all) is the availability of solutions which are represented in apps. While there are still more apps in the Apple App Store than there are in the Android Marketplace, the reality is that all of the major apps are being released to the Android Marketplace as well. From what I’ve read, development seems to be more straightforward than it’s traditionally been with WIndows Mobile in the past.

Microsoft is familiar with coming from behind

The one thing that Microsoft is familiar with is coming from behind. They came behind in the browser wars and they came behind in the PDA wars. While it’s true that they used their ability to influence some of these outcomes through their dominance of the desktop OS, they still shouldn’t be counted out. 

Learning from past mistakes

The one thing that seems to be true is that they seem to be learning from their mistakes. For one, they have created more hype about Windows Phone 7 which in the past has been relegated to manufacturers to tout it as part of a product release. They’ve made developing apps significantly simpler which should attract a larger development base and lastly, they are attempting to be more involved on how Windows Phone is implemented by the manufacturers (and hopefully providers). 

The end results should be more choice for the consumers. I am curious to see what the uptake of Windows Phone 7 would be like. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I’ll desperately try to switch to Windows Phone 7 anytime soon. For me personally, I’m yet to see how it’ll be better than Android.