The sleeping giant is back. With yesterday’s announcement of the new Windows Phone 7 I believe we are seeing the rise of Phone 7 as the iPhone killer. Forget Android, this is the one you need to pay attention to.
Why? Scale, style and apps are the key reasons. Not to mention one of the longest computing heritages and a suite of services that range from business to entertainment, browsing and searching.
The Windows Phone 7 hooks this all together in a way that puts the market on its head. Instead of emulating what others have done, Microsoft has taken a radical approach to the phone. I give you 7 reasons why I believe this is the one.
From the get go, this just looks better. The tile function of the screen replaces the icon displays seen on the iPhone and the Android with living breathing tiles. Just picking up the phone you can see what is going on in your world without opening any app.
I know we can have push notifications on the iPhone and alerts on the Android but they both require some element of effort. The push notifications don’t always hang around on your iPhone and on the Nexus I have to slide the thing down and then read through the various bits.
This delivery of information is just one example of how Microsoft are looking to fully innovate with this phone, not just deliver a version of what the market is used to.
2. Hub Strategy
The Hub strategy is core for Windows Phone 7 and it makes a lot of sense. So, I will have a music hub in the shape of the Zune app. But this app is not restricted to content I have uploaded to, or bought in Zune, but all the music content on my ‘phone. On my iPhone I have many music apps, each with different content. I have to remember where my music is before I can play it. With the 7 I can access my music in the various apps, or I can have a centralised hub of music.
Take the hub strategy across to other content, like business documents and Office becomes the business hub. This strategy gives me the best of both worlds, I can use my preferred app or I can find it in the main hub. Smart.
3. Sexy Apps, Lots of Apps
It’s all about the apps. We saw some great app demonstrations yesterday from some of the biggest names in Apps. Seesmic, Foursquare, Shazam, the Associated Press – all bringing apps to the 7. So, we don’t need to worry about not having the big names you are used to. It looks like they are already lining up to come on board.
Quality Apps – the demonstrations we saw yesterday (longer post here) all looked awesome with plenty of depth, functionality and interaction. These apps were developed in 3 weeks running the new Silverlight platform announced yesterday. With around six months before the 7 will be released there is plenty of time to further develop great apps.
Try before you buy – forget this lite/pro app business. You get to download the app as a trial. The functionality for the trial is core to the new Silverlight toolbox, so it is down to the app developers to decide the best way for the trial. Some apps may be fully functional but on a limited trial time. Other apps may have limited functionality or the first few levels of a game.
Did we mention games? Forget Flight Control, how about full on XBOX action on your phone? The graphics look up to it and the game levels, credits and achievements will be recorded against your Live profile.
This cross performance works on a number of levels. Not only will you be able to continue playing your XBOX games on the phone (we don’t know right now if you can play all of them) but also that it remembers you across platforms so you can pick up where you left off when at home in front of your XBOX. In a sense, this is what Sony has been trying to achieve with the PSP/PS3 hook up, but with all the other mobile bits added.
If the 7 can be an awesome entertainment platform as well as the business platform of Microsoft’s heritage, this could be amazing.
5. A Great App Marketplace
One of the initial stumbling blocks for Android was the Market. Not only did it not have as many apps as ITunes, the actual interface was horrible (that’s a technical term.) The new market interface is better but still hard to find stuff.
What about billing? iTunes billing is great, if you have a credit card and an iTunes account. Android again, you need a card and a Google Checkout account. So Microsoft will launch with credit card payments, operator billing, and try before you buy.
The operator billing alone should extend the potential reach of app users (anyone under 18 for starters) and offer another convenient way to buy apps.
The 7 will have full capability to support not just Exchange accounts but all other major email providers as well. So, you don’t need to have an Exchange account to be using this for email. However, if you do have exchange, this will be a boon.
Remember, the iPhone has Exchange support but the Android does not offer Active Sync. The 7 will offer multiple exchange account sync which will also be good for business users. Let us not forget there are still a lot more people running Exchange emails than Gmail or Apple Mail. Blackberry, are you paying attention?
7. Mesh. Finally
Remember Mesh? Microsoft’s plans to sync your life across channels and platforms? It seemed a little ahead of its time back then but with the 7, finally everything comes into place. Music, work, games, contacts all come of age in one place.
What we forget (or I certainly did) is that Microsoft has all the component parts to serve my digital life. Email, Search, Gaming, Music. Until now some of those have been a bit crap, the Zune didn’t really inspire, don’t get me started on Vista and pre bing, search wasn’t too hot either.
Roll forward a year and Windows plans are coming together. With the phone the potential centre of my digital universe I tend to gravitate to the platform that gives me the greatest experience to hook them all together. The iPhone gets better but doesn’t perfectly integrate my Google life. Nor does Android completely – Gmail, Google apps yes but other accounts like Google Finance still don’t hook up.
Microsoft is the sleeping giant. Historically not as sexy as Apple, and not as fast as Google. The 7 phone is the show piece if not the centre piece of their empire which will help them back on the path to greatness.
Of course this post assumes Microsoft can get the hardware right. We have seen some great things, beautiful graphics, great games but will the hardware be up to it? Multi tasking is not coming which is probably a smart reason to manage the hardware drain. No doubt they will be working hard to find the right partners to deliver the best handset possible. A glitch in the hardware could be the undoing of such great potential.
Until we start to see handsets in the wild, I will remain with my view that this is the iPhone Killer. You heard it here first.
UPDATED: since we published this post a lot of new stuff happened. We even went so far as to publish a new post titled “Why Windows Phone 7 Is Dead On Arrival“. Amazing huh? But we also have more positive stuff like the leaked Dell Windows 7 phone, a bunch of beautiful screenshots AND real Windows 7 Phone videos!