Whether Apple’s July 16 press conference managed to dampen some of the furor over the iPhone 4’s antenna-rim issues, Microsoft didn’t exactly hesitate to poke its rival in the ribs.
“It looks like iPhone 4 might be their Vista and I’m okay with that,” Kevin Turner, Microsoft’sChiefOperating Officer, told an audience during the Worldwide Partner Conference July 14.
Turner was referring to the irritation and dismay that many users expressed towards Windows Vista, particularly before a handful of Service Packs managed to fix at least some of the operating system’s bugs and compatibility issues. The October 2009 release of Windows 7 was widely seen as an attempt to eradicate Vista from the public memory, and provide a suitable replacement for the aging-but-stable Windows XP.
But Microsoft also faces some issues of its own in the mobile space: later this year, it will release Windows Phone 7, and hopes that enough consumers and businesses gravitate towards the platform to reverse the company’s long market-share slide in the smartphone arena. Unlike rivals such as the Apple iPhone or Google Android, which cluster individual apps on a gridlike screen, Windows Phone 7 aggregates Web content and applications into a series of subject-specific “Hubs.”
Microsoft will likely accompany the release of Windows Phone 7 with a suitably massive marketing campaign, but a quieter-and equally vital-part of its strategy involves enlisting third-party developers to its cause.
On July 12, Microsoft released Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta, and is encouraging both game-centric and business-centric developers to port their wares onto Windows Phone 7. The question will be whether developers, with only so much time and resources, will view Windows Phone 7 as a profitable platform.
In order to “help” with that decision-making, Microsoft is offering cash and other assistance to developers. “We are investing heavily in the developer community by offering as many resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote to eWEEK on July 14. “Where it makes sense we do co-fund strategic projects on a limited basis.”
For its part, Microsoft realizes the stakes inherent in a successful Windows Phone 7 launch.
“All the stuff has to work pretty well, it has to be quick, it has to be stable,” Casey McGee, a spokesperson for Microsoft, told eWEEK in a July 13 interview at the WPC. “We need to launch with a [mobile applications] Marketplace that shows we have a variety of applications that can be used on a daily basis.”
Other executive keynotes at the conference hammered that point home.
“The phone is going through a massive inflection point,” Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, told an audience during his July 13 speech. “There’s this immense competition, but in many respects, things are just beginning.”
But as a number of news outlets have pointed out this week, if Windows Phone 7 doesn’t succeed, then Microsoft could find itself fighting a Waterloo in the smartphone arena-a last-ditch, everything-in battle, ending in tears and smoke.