Redmond Review

Windows Phone 7: Honorable Mention or Eventual Winner?

Windows Phone 7, although struggling out of the gate, is poised for big things.

In just a couple of months, Windows Phone 7 will have its first birthday, and its prognosis for success seems to have polarized the tech world. Some pundits and luminaries in the industry have pronounced Windows Phone 7 dead, or nearly so; its market share is relatively small, and its presence in carriers' retail stores is spotty at best. Meanwhile, Microsoft persists in its push to gain smartphone market share, two major analyst firms have projected that Windows Phone will be No. 2 in the market by 2015, and the quantity and quality of apps for the platform is growing.

So who's right? Is Windows Phone 7 washed up or just getting started? Is developing apps for Windows Phone 7 a ground-floor opportunity or Microsoft fanboy folly? There are many more customers in the iOS and Android camps, but those are more crowded product fields as well.

Based on this uncertain environment, should you develop for Windows Phone 7? There's no one authoritative recommendation here, but taking careful inventory can provide a sound analysis upon which you can make an informed decision. Inventory items include the competitive standing of Windows Phone 7, its achievements and challenges, and what it has waiting in the wings.

The Situation on the Ground
I'll start with my personal perspective. I recently switched to an HTC Trophy (a Windows Phone 7 handset on Verizon) after 19 months as an Android user; I've also been an iPad owner since the day they came out last year. After having used all three OSes, I find Windows Phone 7 to be very well-conceived, and unique from -- rather than a derivative of -- its competitors.

Windows Phone 7 has much more polish and refinement than Android, much better e-mail and calendar capabilities than iOS, and is leagues ahead of both competing platforms in social networking integration. Windows Phone 7 is without a doubt way behind in app availability, but the major apps it does have (like Yelp, OpenTable and Foursquare) tend to be better than their Android or iOS counterparts.

With its well-publicized 500 new features, it looks very likely that the "Mango" release of Windows Phone 7 will solidify these leads and propel Microsoft to be a market contender. The Nokia partnership will make for good handsets. HTC and Samsung may step up their Windows Phone 7 handset game after Google's planned acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Nokia's carrier relationships and the decline of RIM should help bring Windows Phone 7 more prominence. Nokia's involvement should especially help in Europe and developing nations, and force Microsoft to support more languages on the phone and more countries in the Zune marketplace.

Serious challenges remain, though. To begin with, Windows Phone 7 handsets can be hard to find: Carriers don't feature them prominently and offer only a modest selection of models.

Microsoft's "love your phone by using it less" advertising campaign was clever but questionable, and in any case has tapered off.

OEM Windows Phone 7 handset offerings have been lackluster when compared to the iPhone, and when compared to better Android phones as well. And let's not forget about the Windows Phone 7 dependency on Silverlight, a technology that's been under a dark cloud of late.

A Reasonable Bet
Does this mean Windows Phone 7 is underfunded or weakly supported? I don't think so -- just look at "Windows 8" and the next-generation Xbox experience. You'll see that the Windows Phone 7 tiles and Metro UI constitute the very template for Microsoft's products going forward, and that in itself will help Windows Phone. Skype integration seems inevitable, and inevitably compelling. And Microsoft has teams throughout its field (not just in Redmond) working one-on-one with smartphone app developers to get them onto the platform.

So where does Windows Phone 7 want to go today? Despite its professed consumer focus, it wants to take business-user share from RIM, mainstream share from iOS, geek share from Android -- and even wants to take portable gamer share from Nintendo. And, of course, it wants to take developer share (that means you!) from everyone.

The platform has great tools and uses the same .NET stack you already know. It looks great, and customers really like it. Windows Phone 7 is not a breakout winner. Yet. But there's significant untapped value and huge potential in the technology. If you have risk tolerance and the desire to invest, these are the things you want. Windows Phone is not a sure bet, but it's a reasonable one, with an outlook that's even better.

About the Author

Andrew Brust is Founder and CEO of Blue Badge Insights, an analysis, strategy and advisory firm serving Microsoft customers and partners. Brust is also a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP; an advisor to the New York Technology Council; and co-author of "Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2012" (Microsoft Press, 2012). A frequent speaker at industry events, Brust is co-chair of the Visual Studio Live! family of conferences and a contributing editor to Visual Studio Magazine. Brust has been a participant in the Microsoft ecosystem for over 20 years, and has worked closely with both Microsoft's Redmond-based corporate team and its field organization for much of the last 15. He is a member of several "insiders" groups that supply him with insight around important technologies out of Redmond. Follow Brust on Twitter @andrewbrust.

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Reader Comments:

Sat, Feb 2, 2013 Martin Generic Lipitor

All may be true but are you old enough to remember video tape? Betamax was far superior to VHS but what happened?

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Fri, Jan 25, 2013 Yota Generic Lipitor

Thanks for the support Andrew. We need more positive articles that give WP true recognition.

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Thu, Oct 25, 2012 John

I am very happy to be here because this is a very good site that provides lots of information about the topics covered in depth. Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Please keep it up. I cant wait to read whats next.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011

I actually like the tiles and find that I have less accidental app launches than when I use an icon driven model (due to clicking the wrong icon). The drawback is that less fits on the screen, but that isn't an issue for me.

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 Drewes Kooi Columbus, OH

I had a windows phone 7 right from the start and upgraded to mango. It is an ok phone, not a great phone. Those tiles are interesting idea but not many applications actually use them, also they are to large so not many apps on main screen. No folders , come on, how hard can it be to make that possible. I think the only way for it to succeed is to make it really cheap so it will basically be on every Nokia phone. I am considering switching back to iPhone 4s, better integration with my iPad, Mac Book and Apple TV, always used to be a windows fan, but for now Apple has Microsoft beat, it just works better.

Fri, Sep 9, 2011 Michael

Many seem to completely miss the problem. WP7 was released missing a couple of core features. I suspect Microsoft released it because they felt they needed to test the waters and get a place holder out for developers and users. If it succeeded immediately then great. I don't think Microsoft expected that. Obviously they have an agreement with Nokia so production will expand significantly at some point. Nokia will certainly advertise it. Now the flip side to Microsoft's late entry is, will there be room for Microsoft to compete with three entrenched lines of products (iPhone, Android and Blackberry). Also how motivated is Microsoft to carry through? After all they get a decent income stream from licensing to one Android manufacturer.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011 Steven Alameda, CA

Aaron has, I believe, hit the most important nail on the head. MS needs to really push this phone in a major fashion if they really believe in it. If nothing else, it will help convince developers that MS is really trying to make it successful, and it will be worth their while to risk a little development time.

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 nathan

i have an ipod g3, used to have a nexus s, and have just got a htc 7 pro(the keyboard one) its lacking in apps, but it already has better games than anyone else and like you said its totaly different from many of the other os avalible. aron is right, microsoft need to push this, nokia will be a boost and google buying mota might make other manufactorors put more effort into windows phones... its time they had a proper advertiseing campaign......but the biggest problem is they are hard to find. and some of the windows phones are olny stocked by a smaal number of people. they need to try harder to get people to notice them,

Fri, Sep 2, 2011

All may be true but are you old enough to remember video tape? Betamax was far superior to VHS but what happened?

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 Aaron Virginia

I think one of the biggest problems haunting the Windows Phone is the lack of marketing behind it. I could tell you how many hours it has been since I've seen another cheesy, feel-good commercial for the latest iPhone but I can't even remember how many months it has been since I've seen any advertisements for the Windows Phone. And the ironic thing is that it should be the opposite. The iPhone has enough publicity and word-of-mouth to continue selling itself without any paid advertising but Apple does it anyway. When a lot of people buy their first smartphone or are considering switching, it's almost always "iPhone or Android?" If Microsoft would just be more aggressive and start advertising like they mean it, it would force frustrated iPhone or Android users (I myself being the latter) to at least consider the Windows Phone and give it a fair chance. A commercial won't guarantee a sell but at least it will reassure everyone that the Windows Phone is being taken seriously by its own creator. And for those wondering, I also own the HTC Trophy and the Windows Phone is by and far my most favorite smartphone. I want it to succeed. And Microsoft should too.

Fri, Sep 2, 2011

It's difficult to find honest assessments to corroborate how I see this platforms chance of succeeding. Glad I found this one here. The naysayers don't provide compelling reasons why Windows Phone 7 will fail and ignore outright the reasons why it has potential to succeed. When bringing these up, they get up tight. Glad to see the positivity more and more.

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 Samsung Focus WP7.0 User Dallas, TX

Thanks for the support Andrew. We need more positive articles that give WP true recognition.

Thu, Sep 1, 2011

For once an article without any bias. In the world of blind and passionate iOS/Android followers, someone at last had the guts to call a spade a spade.

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