Can Windows Phone 7 make up for Microsoft's lost generation?
Microsoft and smartphones. They're not two words that immediately go together. Not like, say, 'Apple' and 'Tablet' or 'BlackBerry' and 'business-oriented, keyboard-equipped personal device'. It's already well established that Microsoft has a serious game of catch-up to play in the smartphone market, but will Windows Phone 7 help them make up the pace?
Last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer publicly admitted at a partner conference that Windows Mobile was responsible for Microsoft missing a 'whole generation of users' in terms of smartphones; but promised that things were about to get better. "We will give you a set of Windows-based devices that people will be proud to carry at home and will fit the kinds of scenarios enterprise IT's trying to make happen with the phone form factor," he vowed.
But with Windows Phone 7 already having its work cut out for it competing against Apple's iPhone and Google's hugely popular Android OS, can it really make the grade? Well, the early reports are looking good. The Telegraph's 'hands on preview' rates the new OS as "extremely slick, smooth and attractive," having "taken heed of its rivals and incorporated a lot of what is best on both Android and iOS".
Citing a new 3D style interface, alleged non-battery draining behaviour, and excellent social media integration as well as good Office integration, early reviews seem to suggest that Windows Phone 7 will do everything its competitors do, just as well as they do, and more besides. In fact, the words 'game changer' have already been bandied around.
So if it really is that good, the only question that remains is whether Microsoft is too late to the game? It has been suggested that in a very competitive market, even a good new OS from Microsoft will be too little too late to reclaim market share from the already well entrenched iOS and Android. But both the developer communities and the more clued-up consumers tend to be flexible, and seem to be willing to be open-minded about a new product, provided it's up to scratch. And if that's the case, then Windows Phone 7 shouldn't find it impossible to find its own place in the market - and you find yourself really hoping that it does.