Windows Phone 7: Great software, awful name

whats new in windows phone 7 series best featuresNext week, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 products officially launch, and we’ll know whether they have another Zune or another Xbox on their hands. Microsoft’s luck with consumer products range from the first Zune, which was a well-funded failure, to the Xbox, which was surprisingly successful, and we could toss in Windows Vista and Windows 7 as additional bad-to-good examples. I’ve looked at Windows Phone 7 now at length, and I think it could be a player, if it can just get over its name. Let’s explore that.


windows phone 7 great software awful name brown zuneI was very excited about Microsoft’s first Zune, until I saw it. Microsoft had done a lot of things that made music more social that limited the related cost, and made it easier to discover, which Apple had not. The retailers hated Apple because the firm was not only too controlling, but had opened stores that competed with them and got favorable treatment with regard to inventory. Microsoft had a rich accessory line, and for once, a marketing budget.

However, when I saw the device, I was dumbfounded, because it looked like a square turd to me (it was even brown). I asked, hoping to be right, whether it was a hardware mule, and the cool-looking product was still under development. I was horrified to find out they actually planned to try to sell the brown turd, and was told that brown was the new black (how wrong they were).

I must have appeared to be in shock, because the Microsoft executive laughed and said, “You know, we are Microsoft, and it does take us three times to get something right.” His departure from Microsoft was not voluntary as you can imagine.

Current-generation Zunes are vastly more attractive, but they are no real competition for Apple, and likely just are a hedge for Apple against successful monopoly problems.


Xbox was more of a different beast, driven by people who loved gaming. It came to market more loaded, with vastly better marketing. While initially the design was more driven by cost considerations than beauty, that wasn’t unusual for that market. And Apple wasn’t in it.

Here, the offering was much more complete, and the new Xbox is arguably the best-looking gaming system on the planet. Granted, it helped a lot that Sony horribly messed up the PS3 by massively overshooting cost limits and darned near putting itself under. At one point the PS3 was both overpriced, and selling at an estimated $600+ loss per system.

Still, Microsoft got the online side of its product fixed more quickly, and as Sony made its products less attractive to conserve cost, Microsoft made its more attractive, creating a disparity that seems to be favoring Xbox sales now over both PlayStation and Nintendo. While we could argue whether Microsoft is now the leader in this market, there is no doubt the company is a serious player, and that is what it needs to be in the smartphone segment.

Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7Coming into the launch, Microsoft has a number of potential advantages. It has a rumored marketing launch budget that exceeds Apple’s, its user interface is more graphics rich and new than either the iPhone’s or Android’s native interface and it is more consistent across different hardware than Android. The phones will be on more carriers than just AT&T, and they will come in a variety of designs, not just one. However, they need to provide one more thing – and that is status. However, they only need to provide more than the Android platform provided initially, not the iPhone, and that may be doable.

Google does virtually no marketing or real demand generation for its products and relies entirely on the carriers or device manufactures for that, and these folks often have little in the way of budget. Google is under increasing pressure to bring costs in line with revenues, making it very difficult for it to fund a marketing campaign at Microsoft’s or Apple’s level.

Finally, when it comes to product placement in TV and movies , Microsoft has risen to challenge Apple’s efforts in this area. It is hard to find a show on TV that doesn’t have the Windows logo on most, if not all of the PC hardware on screen. This would have an even bigger impact with smartphones and does with iPhones common in media today.

Could it come down to name?

I actually think Microsoft could surprise Google, and maybe even scare Apple this time, except for one nagging doubt. The name “Windows Phone 7” just doesn’t feel cool to me. I can see people say with pride they own an iPhone, or even an Android phone, but, “Hey, check out my Windows Phone 7 phone!” just sounds lame.

I’ve tried “WP7 phone,” which is better, but I haven’t seen the platform positioned that way. And while you could drop back to the phone name itself, “Check out my HTC Kraken,” it is Microsoft that has the marketing budget, not HTC. As a result, strangely enough, I think the success of this phone will be directly related to whether Microsoft can get around the name of its platform, and make the devices sound cool so buyers can tell others, with pride, about their purchase.

So going back to the Xbox, which wasn’t called “Windows XP Embedded with Gaming,” Microsoft’s success will be directly related to how people talk about the Windows Phone 7 products they buy, and how little they say the words “Windows Phone 7.” Let’s just say I don’t envy the person who owns Windows Phone 7 marketing. We’ll revisit this next week after the launch.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for February 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for February 2019.
Product Review

The Oaxis Timepiece is minimalist in style, maximalist in frustration.

The Oaxis Timepiece wants to be a traditional watch, a fitness tracker, and a basic smartwatch all-in-one. That’s a tall order, despite it sounding quite simple, so can the sub-$180 wearable manage to pull it off?

Windows 7 is still immensely popular. Is it really better than Windows 10?

With the end of support of Windows 7 approaching, have you been holding off on upgrading to Windows 10? In this guide, we give look at some of the biggest differences between the most popular operating systems.

Love music? For audiophiles, the LG G8 ThinQ may be the best phone ever made

LG is expected to release a successor to the LG G7 ThinQ, possibly called the LG G8 ThinQ, this year and rumors about it are already spreading. Here's everything we know about it so far.

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Product Review

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an affordable phone that’s crippled by its camera

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is HMD Global’s first smartphone to be sold by a U.S. carrier in-store. It’s only available on Cricket Wireless right now, which underlines its focus on affordability. Should you buy a phone this affordable?

Love Playmoji pack adds animated Valentine’s stickers to your Pixel photos

Valentine's Day is here, and to celebrate, Google has added the "Love Playmoji" pack to the Playground feature on its Google Pixel camera. The new feature will add cute AR-driven extras to your Pixel photos.

Xiaomi Mi 9 will be one of the first phones with monster Snapdragon 855 chip

Xiaomi's next major smartphone release will be the Mi 9, and the company hasn't held back in giving us a good look at the phone, revealing the design, the camera, and a stunning color.

Galaxy Watch Active isn't official yet, but you can see it in Samsung's own app

Samsung may be about to resurrect its Sport line of smartwatches under a new name: The Galaxy Watch Sport Active. Leaks and rumors are building our picture of the device at the moment.

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.