Microsoft is gearing up to unveil its new Windows Phone 7 operating system and a compatible range of devices. Ovum principal analyst Tony Cripps explains why its crucial that the software giant can take on the likes of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android in the rapidly growing smartphone market.
There’s a huge amount resting on the launch of Windows Phone 7 for Microsoft, its device and operator partners, and for the ecosystem market in general. As such, the commercial launch of Windows Phone 7 devices by OEMs and carriers looks set to mark the most important watershed in the smartphone market since the launch of Apple’s first iPhone.
If Windows Phone 7 devices sell in large numbers, Microsoft will rightfully be able to congratulate itself for starting with a clean sheet of paper in its efforts to return to the smartphone top table – a strategy launched by CEO Steve Ballmer in early 2009.
If it fails to claw back market share lost to iPhone and Android, then Windows Phone 7 may well mark the point at which Microsoft turns its back on smartphones forever: targeting its mobile resources at creating compelling services and attracting advertising may prove a better option than beginning again with another mobile operating system, in that instance.
On the face of it, though, Windows Phone 7 looks to have positioned Microsoft on the edge of a smartphone renaissance. Its all-important user experience looks to have brought some genuinely new thinking to a smartphone market in which all operating systems feel somewhat similar in use. That’s not the case here and Microsoft should be thanked for taking a different road, especially given that its new operating system seems both intuitive and responsive in the limited time we’ve had to try it.
That said, Microsoft has clearly also borrowed a lot from Apple’s smartphone toolbox by tying the device and its user experience to some tempting content and application proposition, especially the long-awaited tie up with its impressive Xbox Live service. This should mark out Windows Phone 7 devices as favourites for committed gamers, although there’s also plenty here for media hungry and web savvy users. If Microsoft does fail to make the headway we’d expect with Windows Phone 7, it may decide that its not worth the time, expense and uncertainty of heading back to the drawing board again.
By Tony Cripps