samsung focus 1 300x250 What Windows Phone 7 has to do in 2011 to surviveWindows Phone 7 has dramatically reversed Microsoft’s mobile fortunes. It has, in effect, saved Redmond from complete mobile obscurity.

So far, it has been a success. But with Microsoft using its checkbook to buy momentum for the platform, and it still being so new that it retains its ‘new car smell,’ we wonder if the phones can keep pushing forward as they have so far in the coming new year.

After collecting all of our thoughts, we have complied a list of two milestones, and two general points that outline what we feel are the benchmarks that Windows Phone 7 has to meet in 2011 if it wants to be treated as a serious platform, on par in terms of respect with Android and iOS. Let’s get started.

15 Million Handsets Sold

This is a simple 10x multiple off the phones that Microsoft last reported sold. Why 10x? Microsoft sold 1.5 million phones in the first 6 weeks of the platform’s life, but that included a rush from fanboys. We anticipate a slight slowdown of sales in January, but expect Microsoft to keep moving around a million phones a month.

With moderate growth, that puts 15 million handsets sold within reach. Also, 15 million handsets would create a comfortable pool for developers to sell to, a crucial aspect. In short, Microsoft needs to keep pushing promotions on WP7 handsets to keep sales strong.

50,000 Apps

Again, we are going 10x from current numbers. There are 5,000 applications in the WP7 application marketplace right now. As developer momentum has been somewhat steady thus far, even with slow initial sales numbers, Microsoft needs to ensure that new developers are brought on board to keep the platform growing.

If there are less than 50,000 applications in the market by the end of 2011, it will show a general softness in developer interest which will imply low or merely moderate app purchases, which in turn hints at low handset sales. As we have long known, developer interest is a sign of health. 50,000 or bust.

More Carriers/Countries

Microsoft did an excellent job getting WP7 slots and spots around the world on various carriers in many countries, but it needs to push even harder. Want proof? When WP7 hit Thailand it flew off the shelves and quickly sold out. Result for Microsoft? More handsets in the market, more apps downloaded, and so forth. Microsoft should try to add more than one country every month in 2011.

Of course, the addition of  Verizon to the WP7 carrier lineup will be a big boon and boost, but there need to be more like it in the pipeline.

Killer New Hardware

WP7 handsets are good, if a bit boring. There is not killer phone that everyone wants to have, regardless of its OS, that runs WP7. Sure, Microsoft is a software company and should be happy that their work has been well received, but WP7 needs something more: an explosive phone.

If WP7 had a handset built for it that was so over the top that it wowed the world, it would become a halo product for the rest of the WP7 line, making the entire platform more appealing to consumers.

That is our list. Microsoft has had a very strong start, but that is not enough. It needs to push harder now more than ever to keep strong in the post-holiday season, when sales might begin to lag.