A lot of folks are excited about Windows Phone 7 Series, but when the iPhone was first announced it was a brick that actually didn’t work. Apple was able to get it working well enough for the initial launch, but it changed a lot over the following two versions, and Apple has been hinting that it will change dramatically again later this year. In similar fashion, this new platform from Microsoft clearly has many saying that Microsoft has changed the game – and my friend Nick Mokey questioning whether it arrives too late to save Microsoft. Beyond actual hardware devices, which we still have yet to see much of in-depth, let’s talk about the other things that will still need to be done before this product comes to market towards the end of the year.
You knew I was going to start with this, but the pictures of the demo phones look like black iPhone or Android devices, and aren’t very distinctive. That’s a big problem, as if this platform is going to have to sell well against an improved 4th generation iPhone or 3rd generation Android phone, it is going to have to stand out and be unique. Perhaps the most distinctive phone in the market today is actually not running either Apple or Google software, but Symbian, and it is the “Separate Keitai” phone from Fujitsu. This may be the most advanced/wonderful phone currently in the market, and if one of Microsoft’s partners could match it then we might have a horse race.
Another distinctive phone is the Dell Mini 5, which initially runs Android. This platform has many of the advantages of a true blend of the iPhone and iPad, and something like it could cause folks to look at the combination of hardware and software as something new and different. Dell is backing this new Windows platform as well.
Initially, Windows Phone 7 Series doesn’t support Flash as a platform, and clearly Microsoft has an alternative (Apple will use HTML5, but Adobe is rumored to be sabotaging that) with Silverlight. But unlike Apple, Microsoft has indicated they fully intend to support Flash in the future and supporting phones should be updateable. This wouldn’t be a differentiation against Android, which will also support Flash, but it should stand out in sharp contrast to Apple, and Flash is still the web standard for multimedia on webpages (just evidently not at launch, even though much of the hardware like NVIDIA’s Tegra platform is already supporting it).
Gaming and Applications
While Windows Phone 7 Series devices will support both aforementioned features, compelling applications will likely not start showing up until closer to the launch, and this is when the Xbox connection will be more evident. Initially, featured devices will likely pull heavily from the Zune HD, but will be always connected (unlike the HD’s Wi-Fi only connection), suggesting a much richer game set, and since the technology in the phones will be a year newer than that in the Zune, the performance headroom should be greater as well.
Given that Windows Phone 7 Series handsets will be multitasking devices (as opposed to the iPhone, which has multitasking turned off for everything but phone features), apps may be what really define supporting hardware. However, most won’t show up until after the phone ships because developers like to develop for platforms that are already in the market.