Windows Phone OS 7.0: Nowhere Near as Clunky as its Name Implies
It’s a real pity that Microsoft’s new Windows Phone OS 7.0 won’t be available until the end of the year, because it seems–at first glance, anyway–to be a robust and elegant offering. Certainly, it is a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Microsoft (MSFT) in the mobile space and would seem to bring the company into near-parity with innovative rivals like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Palm (PALM).
But Microsoft’s operating system is potentially nine months from market. In the meantime, Apple will likely introduce a new iPhone and iPhone OS, Google the next iteration of Android OS, and Palm the newest version of webOS. Any of these, if not all three, could make Windows Phone OS 7.0 look like table stakes at a game Microsoft is, once again, losing.
For now, demos show it to be an ambitious, impressive reimagining of Microsoft’s mobile OS, all gloss and sophistication, where Windows Mobile 6.5 was–let’s face it–all PocketPC. As CEO Steve Ballmer said during its launch yesterday at Mobile World Congress, “There is no question in our minds that we needed and wanted to do some things that were out of the box and clearly differentiated from our past and–hopefully you will agree–clearly differentiated from other things going on in the market.”
And, indeed Microsoft is doing so. With a Zune-influenced design and savvy integration of not just the Zune media player, but also Xbox Live, Bing, and Office, Windows Phone OS 7.0 is exactly what a Microsoft mobile OS should be. It’s the OS the company should have built three years ago.
Which, sadly, may mean it’s three years too late. With Microsoft’s share of the mobile market in decline and its new OS launching in a market that Ballmer himself described as one “filled with phones that look the same and do the same things,” the company has its work cut out for it.
That said, similar observations were made about Xbox, and Microsoft has done quite well with it in a similarly competitive market. But the company’s challenge here is far more difficult, I think. The company would have a much easier time succeeding if the launch of Windows Phone OS 7.0 weren’t so far off.