When Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage Feb. 15 to announce his company’s new Windows Phone 7 Series, there was significant doubt in the room and around the globe. Could Microsoft, the company that once led the way in smartphones, revitalize its mobile brand after Apple, RIM and Google have surpassed it with new and more viable technology?
It would be difficult. Microsoft has been lagging behind for a long time. Apple’s iPhone is capturing more and more market share by the day. And RIM still reigns supreme in the enterprise. Microsoft’s platform would need to boast something special to make anyone notice.
In many ways, the Windows Phone 7 Series delivered. Although the name is a mouthful, Microsoft’s latest mobile software delivers on several promises. It includes a gaming element, an outstanding new user interface and much more. When folks first had the chance to see what Microsoft has been working on for so long, they were impressed.
It’s a good first step in the right direction for Microsoft as it attempts to rebuild its mobile brand. But not everything is worthy of praise. There are some issues with the Windows Phone 7 Series. And we need to acknowledge those as well. Take a look at the 10 things, both good and bad, that you need to know about Windows Phone 7 Series.
1. It’s Part Zune Phone
Unlike every other iPhone competitor in the mobile space, Microsoft also offers an iPod competitor. The Zune plays a major role in the Windows Phone 7 Series. The full slate of Zune features makes its way to the software. Users can listen to music, check out FM radio and use Zune Social to share their music recommendations with friends. It’s no small addition. Prior to the release of Windows Phone 7 Series, Apple’s iPhone was the only device to double as an PMP. All that has changed.
2. Gaming Plays a Major Role
For the first time, gaming is playing a major role in a mobile platform. According to Microsoft, Windows Phone 7 Series will integrate Xbox Live. Gamers will be able to play Xbox Live games on their Windows Phone 7 Series devices, sync with their accounts on their Xbox 360s, and look up other gamers right from the device. Considering Xbox Live currently has over 20 million subscribers, Windows Phone 7 Series might be the chosen device for gamers.
3. Go Social
Although the iPhone and Android-based devices feature social applications that can be downloaded from their respective app stores, Windows Phone 7 Series software has social elements built right in. The software’s “People” hub allows users to see all their friends’ latest status updates from the social networks they’re using. It even provides the ability to update Facebook status out of the box. Microsoft didn’t announce Twitter support just yet, which will hurt the software, but it deserves kudos for realizing the importance of mobile social networking.
4. The Name Might Hurt It
There’s little debating that Windows Phone 7 Series was a bad idea. Whatever made Steve Ballmer and his team decide that they should go to market with such an awful name is anyone’s guess. Soon, you’ll be able to buy an iPhone, an Android device, a BlackBerry or a Windows Phone 7 Series product. Yikes. There’s still time for Microsoft to come up with a better name for its software. And although it won’t look good if it changes things up, it doesn’t have much of a choice-Windows Phone 7 Series just doesn’t cut it.
Nice Features, but Potential Buyers Face Long Wait
5. The Interface Is Unique
It’s hard to fully appreciate the interface on a Windows Phone 7 Series without actually seeing it. Unlike the iPhone or Android-based devices, Microsoft’s software doesn’t stick to grids that users can click on to work their way around the software. Instead, the interface mimics the Zune HD’s. Users can slide their fingers around the screen to view different options. Text is easily readable. And perhaps most importantly, it’s totally unique to anything currently offered on the market. Even better, the phone supports multitouch, so users can intuitively control the interface.
6. Browsing Won’t Be So Hot
Although Microsoft drastically improved its mobile browsing software, it still runs Internet Explorer. That means it won’t be as fast as Apple’s mobile Safari and security concerns will play a role in using the device. That said, the software boasts several common mobile-browser features, including pinning sites to the device’s home screen. But it’s still Internet Explorer. That might hurt it.
7. It Targets the Enterprise
The iPhone is designed specifically for consumers. The BlackBerry is designed with enterprise users in mind. Windows Phone 7 Series targets both markets effectively. That should make enterprise users give a sigh of relief. Rather than forget about the corporate world, Microsoft has ensured that its phones will play a major role in that space. The device features Office built-in, so users can compose and edit documents from their mobile devices. The software also features SharePoint Workspace, which should make it ideal for those companies that collaborate in the workplace. Simply put, Windows Phone 7 Series devices might turn out to be the most corporate-friendly products on the market.
8. Partners Galore
Microsoft didn’t waste any time telling those in attendance on Monday that it has already signed on several vendors that will be installing Windows Phone 7 Series on their devices. That list includes Dell, Garmin, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung and others. Even better, those devices will be available on all major carriers, including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. That’s important. The iPhone is currently only available to AT&T customers. By making its software available to multiple vendors and to see those products for sale at every major carrier, it could help Microsoft regain lost mobile market share.
9. Apps, Music and Movies
One of the main issues with every iPhone competitor is the lack of an efficient means of adding multimedia content to the device. Android-based devices come closest. But with Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft’s software will match Apple’s iPhone. According to the company, the software will accommodate music and video. And thanks to the integration of a new application marketplace, users will be able to download mobile apps and games directly on their device. Finally, Apple’s iPhone has a competitor when it comes to entertainment.
10. The Long Wait
As exciting as Windows Phone 7 Series devices might be, they won’t be coming out anytime soon. According to Microsoft, Windows Phone 7 Series phones won’t be available until the holiday season later this year. Unfortunately, that gives Microsoft’s competitors almost a full year to capitalize on those delays. It also ensures that Microsoft won’t be able to stymie some of Apple’s growth going forward.
Regardless, Microsoft has developed a software platform that people are actually getting excited about. So although it’s not ideal that Windows Phone 7 Series phones won’t hit store shelves anytime soon, it’s good that people are looking forward to their release. That’s the first time we can say that about a Microsoft mobile platform in a long time.