Microsoft's big launch of the Windows Phone 7 was one of those great hooplas that the company rolls out when announcing a new product, but this time it was some pretty important hoopla.
A lot depends on whether Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 gets off to a big enough start to succeed in keeping the company relevant in the mobile market. Right now it looks like Microsoft is giving it the best shot it knows how to make.
Unfortunately, whether Microsoft's best is good enough remains to be seen. The phone looks like it has all the right parts, meaning that at first glance Windows Phone 7 will look a lot like an Android phone, but once you get past the first look, there are differences.
Most notably, the screen is organized around functions rather than applications. So you'll see things like an icon for the e-mail hub, or one for the Office hub. These hub icons and their enclosed application icons apparently can be animated and can show a tiny view of what they'll look like when opened-kind of like the view you get when you pause your mouse pointer over an icon on the Windows 7 Taskbar.
This approach is vaguely reminiscent of Microsoft's ill-fated Kin phone that so horrified the consumer base that it was withdrawn within weeks. That phone used tiles that opened on to e-mail, instant messaging and social networking sites. But there are differences. The most notable is that Microsoft is launching this phone globally. Furthermore it's using a variety of manufacturers and carriers. In the United States, AT&T will get the phone first followed a week later by T-Mobile. Manufacturers will include Samsung, HTC, Dell and LG.
Much has been made about the fact that Microsoft Phone 7 is launching on GSM networks first, but this makes a lot of sense. While the CDMA networks of Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel are big in the United States, most of the world is GSM. This is likely the same reason that Apple stuck with GSM carriers so long-it ensures the biggest global user base. Unlike Apple, however, Microsoft is said to be planning a launch of CDMA versions of the Windows Phone 7 in early 2011.
Unlike the hapless Kin, the Phone 7 devices will at least have the capability of doing actual work in a business environment. Microsoft will include a mobile version of Outlook with the capability of connecting to more than one Exchange server, and it will have a fully functional calendar and address book.