Last week, after an eternity of being an irrelevent player, Microsoft once again stepped foot in the phone market by releasing Windows Phone 7, a mobile operating system built completely from scratch and a successor to their Windows Mobile platform. HTC, Samsung and LG all have released WP7 phones on the platform's launch date, and the reviews have been pouring.
It's almost unanimous: the only WP7 phone that matters (to us in the U.S. at least) is the Samsung Focus. Hardware wise, this phone has it all:
- 480 x 800, 4 inch super AMOLED screen
- 1 GHz Snapdragon processor
- 512 MB of RAM
- 8 GB internal storage with microSD slot for an additional 32 GB
- 802.11 n
- 5 megapixel camera, with 720p HD video recodring
They didn't introduce anything new with the Focus, but they did manage to pack the best of what's available in the top end of the phone market today, and that's not so bad considering that hardware is about to peak itself out in the phone market simply due to battery technology. So basicaly, it's all up to the OS to determine if the phone is relevent.
Microsoft did a great job with Metro, WP7's user interface. It doesn't try to be something it's not. Instead of copying the iPhone's styles, with it's glossy app icons that look like marble button's (something that Android tried to do and didn't quite succeed), everything is flat and mate, very modern and true to itself. It simply looks "right" for a phone trying to portray today's take on what a modern UI should look like. Performance is right on par as well, with little to no lag according to my personal experience and the reviews. However, it does lack in one department; features:
- No copy/paste
- No multitasking (not even Pandora)
- No device encryption for email (a must for exchange servers) = no work email
- No HTML5 or Flash support
- No device-wide search
- No advance network settings (static IP, VPN, etc…)
In comparison, the iPhone with iOS 4 supports all of the above except Flash (The Skyfire app actually brings Flash to iPhone, but it's still somewhat limited) and Android is even bringing Flash to the table with their latest versions.
So what does this mean? Is WP7 set for failure? Not necessarily. If you remember when the iPhone first launched back in 2007, it had most (not all) of the limitations listed above, and Apple's legendary App Store wasn't even introduced until a year later when they released the iPhone 3G. So truth be told, Microsoft does have a somewhat on par first stab with WP7 when compared to Apple's iPhone in 2007.
But that was 2007, this is 2010, and we're only a few months from 2011. Times have changed, consumer perceptions has changed, and if Microsoft wants to avoid having it's brand new ticket to the mobile phone race not end on the ground, they need to step it up and patch up WP7's shortcomings with speedy OS updates. And by speedy, I mean faster then anyone has ever done before.