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Will 7 Be Lucky for Microsoft's Windows Phone, Too?

A couple of quick things before we begin: First off, thanks once again to Scott Bekker, the Earl Morrall (or Jeff Hostetler, if you prefer) of RCPU, for writing the newsletter last week while your editor was in England watching West Ham beat Birmingham in the other kind of football. And thanks also to Jeff Schwartz, who was busy cranking out stories yesterday while the rest of us enjoyed the day off by watching the Olympics and...well, that's about it, really. It is February, after all.

And while we know that there's a big mobile show going on in Barcelona this week, we did find it a bit odd that Microsoft chose yesterday -- a holiday in the U.S. -- to introduce its completely new, totally revamped approach to smartphone software. Windows Phone 7 essentially (and mercifully) breaks with the old Windows Mobile 6.whatever product.

We kind of wondered whether Steve Ballmer and friends chose a U.S. holiday for this big announcement so that nobody here would pay any attention to it. After all, the whole Windows Mobile franchise hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Upon further review, though, we don't think that was the case.

In fact, Windows Phone 7, if it works the way it's supposed to, could do for the mobile operating system what Windows 7 is doing for the mothership OS -- that is, save it from the ignominy of its predecessor. The technology and philosophy sound solid, at least from what we can read in Jeff's excellent report linked above. And then there's this from Jeff's story:

While companies such as Apple and Research in Motion manufacture their respective iPhone and BlackBerry devices and therefore control all aspects of hardware and software design, Microsoft, by comparison, exerts minimal control over Windows Mobile. The new strategy aims to provide the best of what Apple and RIM offer in terms of control over the hardware, while allowing developers and OEMs to have broader options.

Sound familiar? It sounds to us very much like what Microsoft did with desktop Windows years ago: license it to OEMs and let them run with it rather than forcing OEMs, partners and users to conform to the restrictions of a particular kind of hardware box and development strategy. Granted, people don't seem to mind using the iPhone or BlackBerry, so maybe the old paradigm that held sway on the desktop 25 years ago doesn't matter on the smartphone's smaller screen.

Then again, how would we know? Microsoft hasn't really had a seriously competitive mobile offering...well, ever, arguably. So, maybe smartphone users really are aching for something somewhat less proprietary than what's on offer now, and maybe developers and OEMs will flock to Microsoft's new mobile OS offering in search of a little breathing room. A fair number of OEMs seem to be on board already.

Windows 7 has already started making people forget about the disaster that was Vista. Maybe there's something to this "7" thing for Microsoft. If Windows Phone 7 can replicate the success of its desktop cousin, Redmond might be on its way to dominating yet another facet of the software industry.

What's your take on Microsoft's new mobile strategy? Will it work, or will it flop? Send your thoughts to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 02/16/2010 at 1:22 PM


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