What Windows Phone 7 Needs to Succeed
OEMs on Board For much of its history, Microsoft could count on its hardware partners being solidly in its corner. When it comes to many form factors-particularly traditional PCs-that still holds true. But Microsoft's recent experiences in the tablet PC arena demonstrate that, despite their history of fidelity, those partners are more than happy to consider alternative operating systems to Windows when it comes to their offerings.A number of manufacturers are reportedly considering Google Android as the operating system for a selection of upcoming tablets. In addition, Hewlett-Packard recently confirmed that its newly acquired Palm WebOS will serve as the operating system for its own tablet PC offerings, among other hardware products; it remains an open question whether HP will also build flat touch-screen devices that incorporate Windows 7.HP will also likely use the Palm WebOS for any upcoming smartphone offerings; and a number of manufacturers have been producing smartphones installed with Google Android. That presents issues for Microsoft as it tries to convince those same partners that Windows Phone 7 deserves their full backing. "On the phone side, we missed a generation with Windows Mobile. We really did miss a release cycle," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience during his WPC keynote on July 12. "But Windows Phone 7 received quite nice reviews. We will give you a set of Windows-based devices that people will be proud to carry home." In addition to trumpeting Windows Phone 7's quality, one of Microsoft's strategies revolves around making Android-which currently holds a small-but-growing portion of the smartphone OS market-seem too fragmented across multiple types of devices for its own good. "One of the problems that phones are going through right now is fragmentation," Lees said during his keynote. "For developers and ISVs, it makes it very difficult. We're making sure our software is fully optimized." However many manufacturers sign on to create devices, they will be restricted to a form factor with three physical buttons and an iPhone-like touch screen. Microsoft hasn't announced specific devices from those manufacturers, however, suggesting that negotiations continue. Apple, Android Problems Windows Phone 7 will face an intimidating competitive landscape come year-end, when it will compete not only with the iPhone 4 and yet another Google Android operating-system build, but also with the new-and-improved BlackBerry OS 6. Issues with any of these smartphone platforms, on par with or greater than the public-relations problem currently facing Apple with the iPhone 4's antenna, will weaken their competitive position. That might not create a market-share upset for Windows Phone 7, but such a crisis would perhaps incline buyers to take a second look at Microsoft's offering. Ballmer likes to tell audiences that Microsoft is "all in" with regard to the cloud. But as Windows Phone 7 approaches launch, it's clear that the company is "all in" on the platform as its savior in the mobile space, as well.