Windows Phone 7 era begins, really

Windows Phone 7 is finally here, and Microsoft faces the task of regaining relevance and capturing smartphone market share

As of today, the first of the Windows Phone 7 smartphones are available from T-Mobile and AT&T. The launch of Windows Phone 7 is the result of a complete reboot of Microsoft's mobile OS and kicks off its attempt to regain relevance in the very competitive mobile arena.

It won't be easy. While Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform has sat stagnant for the past couple of years, its market share has slipped substantially. Meanwhile, Apple has climbed steadily and Android exploded onto the scene. The trio of BlackBerry, iOS, and Android have the lion's share of smartphone market share in the United States, and it will not be easy for Microsoft to claw its way back into the fray.

Microsoft has two things in its favour. First, the Windows Phone 7 platform is actually unique and innovative. In many ways, it is difficult to identify significant differences in the form and functionality of the competing mobile platforms. Basically, Apple paved the way with the iPhone, and everyone else scrambled to emulate iOS.

As Microsoft attempts to illustrate with its "Really?" marketing campaign, Windows Phone 7 takes a different approach to organizing and managing information. While the real-world implications of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 interface can be debated, the implication of the commercials is that Windows Phone 7 will enable users to work more efficiently with the smartphone, and let them get back to life -- or work as the case may be.

The second thing Microsoft has going for it is its dominant presence as a provider of server and PC operating systems, server software, and office productivity. RIM's BlackBerry is the established standard for mobile business communications, while Apple and Google have had to fight vigorously to gain a foothold in the business world.

Windows Phone 7 may be too little, too late, but the native integration of Microsoft Office tools, Microsoft Exchange and Outlook for messaging, and the availability of Microsoft unified communications tools make it an ideal smartphone (and perhaps tablet) platform for many businesses.

The launch of Windows Phone 7 is lacking some key features which could hinder its initial success. Like earlier versions of the iPhone, Windows Phone 7 lacks copy and paste functionality, and multitasking. Also like the iPhone, though, those features will eventually be added.

Now that Windows Phone 7 has hit the streets, the proof will be in the proverbial pudding. Can Microsoft establish Windows Phone 7 as a viable rival for iPhone and Android, and regain a place of relevance as a business smartphone platform, or will it suffer the same fate as the doomed Kin?

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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