As you will no doubt already know, Microsoft has now officially unleashed the first wave of Windows Phone 7 handsets on the UK networks and the world at large, but after the disaster that is otherwise known as Windows Mobile, is it too little too late?
Microsoft is certainly facing fierce competition in the smartphone market, with iOS and Android both being major players. Don’t forget the importance of other, often forgotten, names either. Depending on your definition of the word ‘smartphone’, Nokia still ships more units than anyone else in Europe, so it goes without saying that it won’t be a smooth ride for Microsoft in the coming months.
For all the other companies in the smartphone industry, however, there is no room for complacency. You only have to look at the already rapid development of Apple’s iOS and Google Android to see that the true mobile OS war is only just getting started.
Apple has devoted much of its attention to iOS, possibly at the expense of development in other areas, such as Mac OS X, depending on who you ask, and I don’t think that we will see slowed development for at least another couple of years until the smartphone industry as a whole begins to stabilise.
The situation is similar at Google as well, with new versions of Android arriving quicker than you can say the word ‘Cupcake’, but this in turn has caused Google problems in itself, with the problem of hardware and software fragmentation between devices across the board.
“Why is he talking about Apple and Google so much in an article about Windows Phone 7?” you may ask. The answer is simple: both Apple and Google have made mistakes in their development of iOS and Android, and Microsoft will hopefully be able to learn from these mistakes. Features don’t just magically appear out of thin air though; stable, feature packed releases take time, and this is perhaps highlighted by the omission of copy and paste from the initial consumer build of Windows Phone 7. This is coming to all phones in early 2011, but Microsoft clearly felt that it was important to get the core experience as good as it can be for an initial release.
Cast your mind back to the original version of Android that shipped with the T-Mobile G1 not too long ago, and you will remember a mobile operating system lacking finesse, lacking a truly remarkable user interface, and lacking an app Market packed with incredible, iPhone standard applications.
As far as I’m concerned, to have the third in that list, you’re going to need to nail the first two. Developers don’t want to develop for a platform unlikely to take off with consumers, and what do consumers want? A great, usable GUI with that finishing touch.
Windows Phone 7 is launching with over 2000 applications, a number that Microsoft has been reluctant to divulge to us. Despite this reluctance, 2000 good apps is preferable to thousands of “fart” apps in my opinion, and we will no doubt see this number grow even further in the coming months and years.
I’m certainly not going to say that Windows Phone 7 will be an instant hit with consumers, because like any platform it needs time to grow and develop. With the help of quality handsets, such as the HTC HD7 and the Samsung Omnia 7 though, Microsoft are well on their way to competing with Apple and Google realistically. Watch this space everyone, and brace yourself for some insanely powerful devices over the next year.
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