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10/15/2010
01:19 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Top 5 Reasons Windows Phone 7 Will/Won't Succeed

Our columnist makes the possibly contrarian assertion that, with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is reinvigorating the smartphone. Read his take and see if you agree or not.

Plus: The Handsets Don't Suck. OK, maybe my verbiage shouldn't be so negative. However, Apple's iPhone - the death-grip antenna aside -- has clearly set a high bar for industrial design. So a nice phone might cost more, but, heck, I'm worth it.

Which is where the initial Windows Phone 7 handsets almost, maybe, but not totally, pass the test. The launch devices are the Samsung Focus, HTC Surround, LG Quantum. I don't know about you, but I don't get a Mercedes-Benz-like brand association when I think of HTC, LG, and Samsung. (Read Eric Zeman's first impressions here.) Yet, at the launch, Paul Thurrott, who's deeply knowledgable about Microsoft and Windows Phone 7, was telling me I should check out the Focus, cause it's got a super screen. It turns out that he's right.

So perhaps my tech snobbery is getting the better of me here. However, I still believe Windows Phone 7 will need to cement some kind of user association with a Grade A1 handset. That's what both Apple and RIM have done, and where I feel Android falls short, though in response, Google would say a multiplicity of offerings is an advantage, not a drawback.

Plus: Microsoft Is Reinvigorating The "Smartphone Is The Computer" Meme. I know what you're thinking--What's a "meme"? Seriously; this is my big point, and why it's why I'm so enthused about Windows Phone 7. When I wrote the InformationWeek cover story "Is The Smartphone Your Next Computer?" in October 2008, enterprises were beginning serious work on connecting their mobile workforce beyond simple voice calls and e-mail.

Microsoft's Windows 7 Revealed
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft's Windows 7 Phone Revealed

As I wrote at the time:

" Smartphone makers are rushing to partner with software houses, as both see big bucks in giving their customers mobile enterprise access. The former envision over-the-air ERP and CRM as ways to drive expensive handsets into the hands of workers who currently don't rate more than commodity cell phones. And software vendors anticipate broader usage--or at least heightened mindshare--for their apps if they can get many more people to spend more time interacting with customer and transaction-oriented data on their handsets."

The idea was that tiny smartphone apps would serve as portals to serious back-end enterprise software. Fast forward to late 2010 -- two years later -- and it's clear that, though there's been a proliferation of apps, smartphones haven't become anything like a PC replacement. (That almost-honor belongs, kinda sorta, to the iPad.)

Rather, smartphones have become, by analogy, more of a ruggedized handheld for white collar workers. As in, the delivery truck driver totes an Intermec, while the salesman enters the info on his last call into an iPhone app.

I believe that Windows Phone 7 can take the smartphone back toward that "PC replacement" model, if only because of its aforementioned collaboration posture. OTOH, maybe I'm engaged in wishful thinking here, but it's also true that the "Windows" in Windows Phone 7 has nothing to do with desktop Windows. Microsoft's new phones come from a Windows CE heritage.

What's Your Take?: Leave A Comment

Those are my pluses and minuses. Now I'd like to hear your take on Windows Phone 7, and, more specifically, on my assertion that Microsoft is reinvigorating the smartphone. Let me know, by leaving a comment below, which will in turn stoke the discussion with your fellow readers.

Follow me on Twitter: (@awolfe58)

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

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