Well, it is almost upon us…the release of Windows Phone 7. My colleague Diego reported the other day that Redmond execs are now openly stating that there will be an October rollout in Europe, a November rollout in the US. Rumors are coming in that Microsoft Australia is planning their release events for late August and there are hints that other Asian markets may be doing the same. So we are down to it then…in sixty days or less we will know how the boldest and most desperate gambit in Microsoft’s history plays out. Sixty days of night until the dawn.
To get a perspective on how monumental this is for Microsoft look back at the all that has happened since the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 which was so universally reviled. In the face of the iPhone challenge, early Android rumblings and demands by WinMo users for something innovative, Redmond delivered more of what was already looking mighty dusty in WinMo 6.1…and their market faded away into the night.
At that point, after a few fits and starts, Microsoft did what no one thought they would do…they began to kill their Mobile division to start again. They literally went back to square one…but was there any point?
I cannot recall an example of another company that so utterly took apart a major division on the fly to rebuild it the way that Microsoft has gutted their Mobile Products department, up to and including strangling the last project conceived by the old guard, that being the Kin phones.
Microsoft has spent the last year with no major new mobile releases, no new phones (except the slaughtered Kins), no nothing…dead in the water, marking time, all towards preparing Windows Phone 7 to be the cradle of all their mobile hopes.
So what do they have? From what we can tell, quite a bit…certainly more than many expected. Windows Phone 7 features an innovative GUI based on the Zune HD, a new way of organizing mobile applications into “hubs” and several excellent new Cloud based features allowing you to perform such tasks as storing files and syncing via the Cloud by leveraging Microsoft’s Windows Live tools. Windows Phone 7 is designed to need your PC less yet be even more of an extension of your Windows computing experience by interfacing with things like Windows Live and XBox Live. In addition, most major vendors have brand new hardware all ready for the new OS, allowing it to be rolled out on most all carriers in all markets simultaneously with the same experience on each device (more or less).
Microsoft has made a conscious shift away from their traditional Business users with Windows Phone 7 but there are still powerful attractions in the OS for the Enterprise. Windows Phone 7 will have the same killer app that Windows Mobile always had…seamless integration with Microsoft Exchange Server, which is the core of almost all Enterprise email networks. iOS still has security issues dealing with Exchange and Android needs a third party app to access your Outlook mail. Windows Phone 7, by all reports, still logs into Exchange Server easily and intuitively.
There are many things about Windows Phone 7 that sound hopeful, even impressive…however, it seems clear already that Windows Phone 7 will not be defined by what it has, but by what it has not.
Early reviewers have already set the tune, and the tech sites and columnists will be pounding on these notes until they are all the mainstream hears about Windows Phone 7…and they are all Redmond’s own fault.
- No cut and paste
- No Multitasking
- Limited Word Document Creation
- Not Enough Applications
- Too Little, Too Late
Of course, the same pundits and columnists that were willing to excuse the first three iPhones for their lack of cut and paste and multitasking will view these two lacks as the mortal sins of Windows Phone 7. Microsoft should have anticipated that and made certain that the two elements they long said they had that iPhone did not, they still had now that Apple had caught up.
The fact that Word Mobile on Windows Phone 7 is a shadow of third party apps like DocsToGo or Softmaker Office is simply inconceivable. No fonts? Only four colors? No excuse for this whatsoever.
As for not enough applications being available, this is the standard Apple first line of assault against any competitor these days but ever since they heard it about the Zune HD Microsoft should have been focused on creating apps towards this day. Set up a bounty, pay every Windows coder $500 for a WP7 app, of any kind, anything…just to get the numbers up. If, as I fear, Windows Phone releases with a dozen apps in the Marketplace and a promise of more to come, it will be Kin-city.
Too little too late? Again, Microsoft KNEW their competitors would say this, again and again, as loudly as possible. They had to make sure this OS was like butter. Perfect, flawless…every single loose end tied up, every last loophole closed. Instead, Redmond is already talking about what a great first release this is going to be. First Release?? If this does not impress even Microsoft’s critics, and knock the digital socks off their supporters they will not GET a second release…or if they do, it will be as another also ran.
Microsoft has a shot to make this happen, sixty more days of night…they know what they have to do, they know what the media will say about them in advance, they know how their competitors will rally their fanbois and attempt to set the tale in the market.
They have staked the vast majority of Microsoft’s future in the Mobile space, and therefore a good part of computing over all, on Windows Phone 7…and now it comes down to sixty more days of night.
It is all up to Microsoft now, to either become the missing third part of the troika all analysts say will control Mobile for the rest of the decade…or to begin to fade away.
In sixty days…we’ll know.