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7/25/2010
07:40 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Windows Phone 7 As Web 2.0 Pacesetter?

Possibly my perspective is collaboratively twisted, because I've been spending so much time looking into Enterprise 2.0 technologies. Probably that's why I think all the chatter about Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is missing the point in comparing the new mobile platform to iPhone and Android. What Microsoft is doing is brilliant: they're bringing Web 2.0-ness to mobile more forcefully than any of their co

Possibly my perspective is collaboratively twisted, because I've been spending so much time looking into Enterprise 2.0 technologies. Probably that's why I think all the chatter about Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is missing the point in comparing the new mobile platform to iPhone and Android. What Microsoft is doing is brilliant: they're bringing Web 2.0-ness to mobile more forcefully than any of their competitors.In this sense, Microsoft's recently aborted Kin phone can be looked at not as an abject failure, but a false start on the road to an idea -- social media streamed through your handset -- which has lots of merit.

OK, bear with me, because I realize I'm swimming against the tide. Most of the debate surrounding Windows Phone 7 is an either/or proposition. As in, does it suck or is it the best thing this side of the iPhone? (And of course, if you favor the latter view, then you necessarily think the iPhone, or perhaps Mr. Jobs himself, is the place from which the giant sucking sound emanates.)

Let's set these strawmen aside while I attempt to take you through the process by which I got to this "Windows Phone 7 equals Social Mobile" mindset. It began, rather vaguely, when I clicked onto Paul Thurrott's engaging, hands-on first look at Windows Phone 7. Prior to that piece, I had been prepared to dismiss Microsoft's platform as an iPhone and Android also-ran. After so many tepid mobile attempts, what could Redmond possibly have up its sleeve?

But Thurrott's piece made me sit up and take notice. Even recognizing that he's usually enthusiastic about stuff he likes, there was just a level of excitement here which I told me that something was going on here. (It reminds me of when I took a look at the Zune HD, and realized, hey, this thing is actually pretty good. But that's another story entirely.)

I also checked out the demo video Fritz Nelson shot with Aaron Woodman, Microsoft Mobile's director of consumer experience. (Scroll midway down in Fritz's article, Windows Phone 7 In Technical Preview.)

The third leg of my reviews tour was Galen Gruman's Infoworld post, Windows Phone 7: Don't bother with this disaster. (If you want some real fun, read Thurrott's rejoinder, wherein he characterizes Gruman's article as a moronic Chicken Little blog post.

Gruman's take, btw, is that Windows Phone 7 is a pale imitation of a 2007-era iPhone. I think that's possibly been superceded by the iPhone 4 being a pale imitation of a pre-2007 iPhone, but I digress. OK, so let me cut to the chase here. Somewhere along the way I ran into one of those reflexive questions you see, namely "Did anyone bother to test how it works as a PHONE?" The answer, in the case of the new Microsoft platform, is no, because the thing is still in the prototype stage. That's when it dawned on me that the phone isn't the point. (Hey, if you want to make calls, get a Blackberry.)

What is the point is the ability to carry around the stream of bits you need to access the important information of your day. For younger people, that's their AIM/Facebook/text message stream. For the older and employed among us, it's a more heterogeneous mix of emails, docs you can kinda but not completely access on your mobile platform, and contact lists and schedules so you can keep up with all those meetings you'd rather not have to dial into anyway.

If this all sounds like a big, messy mish-mash, that's because it is. We all know it is, and no one's made complete sense of it yet. But I like the fact that Microsoft appears to be taking a stab at it, and the fact that Office Apps are in the mix means they're coming at it from a perspective which might eventually make a lot of sense to enterprise users.

Click through my image gallery to get a sense for what I mean:



Click to see "Slideshow: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Revealed."

Leave a comment below or e-mail me directly at alex@alexwolfe.net.

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

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