As TNW’s resident Microsoft fanboy, this post is hard to write. Windows Phone 7 was supposed to be Microsoft’s mobile renaissance, and when it came out it made quite the splash. We published a story called “7 Reasons Why The Windows 7 Phone Is THE iPhone Killer.” People openly agreed with the heretical idea.
That was before iPhone 4. Before iOS 4. Before Android 2.2. It was before the entire latest generation of top-tier mobile phones came out. Where does Windows Phone 7 stand now? If things have not drastically changed for the product, when it does come out this holiday season, Windows Phone 7 will be a year late and a feature short.
Everyone who loves the Zune interface and desktop software was pulling for the phone. Let’s take a look at the parts of the phone that we used to be excited about, and compare them to what is in the market now.
When we got our first glances at Windows Phone 7 the applications looked wonderful. We had not yet seen in the wild a 4.3″ smartphone like the Evo, and were thus impressed at the quality presentation of the applications that Microsoft demonstrated.
Then along came the iPhone 4’s retina display, large screen Android phones, and the Dell Streak, not even to mention the iPad. The applications that Microsoft showed us then now feel dated, small, and not that high-res. As Redmond is trying to catch the cutting edge, this is hardly the position that they want to be in.
To remedy this, Microsoft should ensure that it’s development platform is as open as possible. That leads us to our next point.
Windows Phone 7 was supposed to be a gaming machine. From our earlier coverage:
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.
Sounds cool right? Until you discover that Microsoft is crimping the style of developers everywhere. It will take guts to develop for the new platform at all, and Microsoft is not making it easy.
Instead of taking the necessary step of rolling out the red carpet for developers (Ballmer should know better), they are locking down the hardware and putting roadblocks in the developer’s way. Not good. This will limit the gaming capabilities of the phones as fewer people are going to bother to take the time to develop for the platform.
Every email function that Windows Phone 7 touted when it came out has been baked into other platforms. Hell, even the iPhone now has threaded conversations at long last. Exchange? Other people have that now too.
This is the business end of the phone that perhaps Microsoft was hoping to push as a unique advantage. Instead, they are going to launch with a product that merely matches other platforms, and does nothing in this area of regard.
The Buzz Factor
Windows Phone 7 had it, now it does not. How quickly the winds of the public opinion can change. Microsoft will be launching these phones into the holiday product climate where Apple and Google are going to be at war for Christmas dominance. Microsoft will have no brand, a new platform with few applications, and two entrenched competitors.
That is not a pretty mix. Will the phone sell? Yes it will, tens of thousands of units in its first few months on sale. It will launch, and given that it is a solid tier-two product will launch to mild success. But that is not what Microsoft wanted, they wanted to break into the big leagues and regain their former prestige.
That does not look likely in this first product cycle. If Microsoft iterates at light speed and releases endless firmware updates and new phones, they can catch up in just a year or so, but that will require dedicated vision and endless cash. We shall see, but as it stands, the Windows 7 Series phones are not going to have one tenth the splash that we had thought, or that Microsoft had hoped.