To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say: "Daddy's home!"

To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say: "Daddy's home!"

Summary: Even though Microsoft's been missing in action for this generation of smartphones, that time is over.

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Would someone please string Steve Ballmer up by his private parts and shake him until he wises up?

No, I'm not talking about his recent bonus penalty imposed by the board. I'm, instead, talking about the idiotic naming of Windows Phone 7.

Apple has the iPhone. It's a hip name, it's cool, and it allows Apple fanatics to be insufferable in their "we're too cool for our shoes" attitude. Google has Android or "Droid," with the Verizon models equipped with a Cylon recording that's just slicker than snot to play. BlackBerry is a nice, easy-to-remember name.

But Microsoft Windows Phone 7? Seriously? The name makes you ask, "Is it just another Windows CE phone? And 7? What about 8?" It's not clear whether the brand is "Microsoft Phone," or, maybe, "Windows Phone," and it doesn't seem to give the company room to grow the line's branding over the space of years.

Microsoft has often made branding mistakes, but to saddle what's likely to be a game changing phone OS with a name like Microsoft Windows Phone 7? Someone in Redmond should bounce Ballmer up and down on his fiddly bits.

Even so, I think that despite its cumbersome name, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is a game changer.

Not everyone agrees with me (there's a surprise!). I deeply respect my colleagues Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols and Preston Gralla, but SJVN says it's "too little, too late" and Preston says, "iPhone and Android users are probably beyond reach".

I disagree. I think Microsoft's Phone is going to flip the smartphone market on its ear, and we're about to see, well, the Windows market share miracle all over again.

There's no doubt that Apple, Google, and RIM all have some very smart people in their employ, and so does Microsoft. But this game isn't about who's smarter.

It's also not about who's got a better fashion sense, because while Apple always fields beautifully designed works of art, Apple doesn't always field practical devices. Microsoft has shown that while it is often willing to ship pigs that work, it can sometimes summon a deep sense of design, as the company has proven with both the later Zune incarnations and the Xbox.

Windows Phone 7 judo

No, the real issue is that Microsoft almost perfectly counters the weaknesses of its competitors and, this time, is showing surprising strengths.

Let's start with those strengths. By all accounts, Windows Phone 7 has a very, very nice interface. Even Apple fanboy extraordinaire, John Gruber stated that the new Windows Phone 7 was "really nice" and he was "really impressed." For the record, Gruber is clearly not one of my fans -- kiss, kiss, John, kiss, kiss.

Fanboi-baiting aside, the other Windows Phone 7 strengths track with what's made Microsoft a powerhouse: its ability to work with top-tier licensees. With HP embroiled in an ongoing made-for-TV battle with Oracle, Dell is likely to become a Windows Phone 7 licensee and ship a product with all of Dell's normal quality, solidity, and reliability. The same is likely to be repeated by many, many other licensees.

We're also likely to see Windows Phone 7 devices available for all the major carriers, which gives consumers and enterprises the flexibility they demand.

But what about iPhone?

It's reasonably clear that Apple introduced an inferior product with the iPhone 4.

See also: Should Steve Jobs "man up" and kill the iPhone 4? Poor Apple can't seem to catch a break Open letter to Steve Jobs: Retire now! Will shoddy products tarnish the cult of Steve Jobs?

As you can see, I've written about the iPhone's problems a lot, but it's actually gotten worse since my last article. Apparently, the iPhone 4's screen breaks 82% more than the iPhone 3GS. This is a serious problem for Apple and consumers. The Apple reality distortion field won't be able to hold when the product's own glass can't keep itself together.

So Microsoft's entering a market where the market leader's product can't be held without a special Kung Fu grip, where the back of the device shatters when put into a case, and where the screen breaks 82% more than its outmoded predecessor.

Oh, and, of course, the iPhone can only be used on AT&T's universally-hated network.

To say Microsoft's got a serious chance here is an understatement. The iPhone's time in the sun may well be over.

Next: Android's emergence »

« Previous: What about the iPhone?

Android's emergence

The iPhone is already in a battle with Android for market dominance. According to Nielsen, Android is the most popular OS in America among recent smartphone buyers.

In other words, more people are buying Android phones than iPhones.

The Android phones have a lot of advantages over the iPhone, including a lot more freedom for users and developers, availability on carriers that are not AT&T, and often both price and performance benefits (like phones that are also mobile hot spots).

But there's also chaos in the Android world. Android has many different personalities, with lots of different hacks, and better and worse implementations. It's not entirely clear what Android you're getting when you get a phone, and one Android phone from one vendor may look, feel, work, and be operated entirely different from another Android phone.

This is where Microsoft may well best Google. Microsoft has worked with licensees for years, decades even, and understands how to give licensees just so much, but not more -- and keep every Windows implementation virtually identical from vendor to vendor.

Sure, there might be different shovelware on the no-name brand you buy from one company and a sweet little box you buy from Dell, but the basic operating system features are identical.

This consistency will do wonders in selling phones, because consumers and businesses will know what the phone has, and since Windows Phone 7 looks pretty good, they'll know any Windows Phone 7 is pretty good.

Essentially, Microsoft removes the guesswork vs. Apple, because Microsoft's phones are unlikely to shatter in your case or require you to master the Vulcan finger grip to be able to use them.

Microsoft removes the guesswork vs. Google's Android because Microsoft's phones will be predictable and consistent from vendor to vendor and carrier to carrier, so you know what you get when you get it.

What about RIM?

Who?

Seriously, RIM's primary advantage has been email and there will be some who like to thumb type on those little keyboards (me, included). But, in response to the iPhone and Android lines, RIM is moving away from its signature keyboard and moving more to a me-too line of full-screen phones.

RIM's other advantage was its position in the enterprise, with its excellent mobile connection to Exchange servers. Who makes Exchange servers? Oh, that's right: Microsoft.

Daddy's home

Microsoft employs a tremendous number of very very smart people and always learns from its mistakes. So even though Microsoft's been missing in action for this generation of smartphones, that time is over.

All that leads up to this conclusion: Microsoft's coming to the market and the company is both going to bring discipline, quality, good design, and flexibility. It's competitors have some of those features, but not all.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Software, Smartphones, Operating Systems, Mobile OS, Microsoft, iPhone, Hardware, Google, Apple, Windows

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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151 comments
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  • Android 3.0

    Let's see what Gingerbread brings and then honeycomb (3.5)
    in the middle of next year.
    Alan Smithie
    • yeah

      @Alan Smithie
      sure, whatever. let's wait until that and that. vaporware never goes out of fashion, i guess.

      and mr. gewitz, it's more like unkle fester is home, with "the inferior product" going from one sales record to the next and microsoft a little late to the party desperately trying to convince the very same and even narrower group (in case you didn't hear it motorola just got sued by unkle fester and hp goes with web os) of money losing phone makers to buy a license for wp7 when android is free. good luck with that. and dell stands for quality? you gotta be kidding. on which planet?

      i know, i know, this is just the usual click baiting with "apple" in the title and - yes it works. damn it!
      banned from zdnet
      • Going with one O/S means you can't also offer another?

        @banned from zdnet - "in case you didn't hear it motorola just got sued by unkle fester and hp goes with web os"

        I can understand the lawsuit angle, but I'm pretty sure that won't stop Motorola from releasing the latest and greatest "re-designed" Moto-Q (oh yeah, did you forget that "back in the day" there were Windows "Smartphones" - only back then we called them "PDAs with a built-in cell phone")

        As for HP going Web OS - does that mean they can't choose to also offer Windows Phone 7 on some models? if so, how so?
        daftkey
      • IWont be taxed by a win7 phone

        Why, cause when MS is the gorilla in the field, it shoves its useless products down consumers throats. So

        iWon't buy our recommend a win 7 phone.

        Now why should MS care? Cause considerable amount of clients (seven digit range) do take my advice and it will affect their perception of MS.

        MS can only duplicate or buyout, but they can't innovate unless they are pressed too. Consequently they can keep their products. Cause if they become the gorilla in the phone market again, expect win ce to happen again.
        Uralbas
    • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

      @Alan Smithie Do you actually think that most of the world knows about, let alone cares about random OS updates from Google? Gingerbread and honeycomb may get you excited but for the vast majority of phone users they just want a phone that works. They don't go around updating their firmware. That's rediculous.
      marksashton
      • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

        @marksashton Apple has gotten lazy and cheap. They build their products around a budget and design them more for eye appeal over functionality and new innovative ideas Different than what got them there in the first place. That's why they're failing!

        It's never been the major players that bring the most innovative features either. They have always been the keepers of ideas locked in their traditions and values of their past! .....and that would include both Microsoft and Apple!

        No company has been more innovative and had more future vision than Google. They've never been followers and always been bent on trying something new never tried before. Android came from another real innovator. Andy Rubin has never been a follower either. He was a part of the WebTV Set Top Box Revolution of the late 90's, that Microsoft bought it and killed it. He started the company that made the awesomely innovative Danger Hiptop (rebranded the SideKick). Then Microsoft bought them and killed it. Andy also was the first to begin to design a Location Aware Touch Screen OS way before either Microsoft or Apple simply stole the ideas he had started with. Apple simply stripped down their OS-X system and gave it a touch interface two years after Andy had publically announced and incorporated Android in a ground up touch screen OS in 2003!

        Google had innovated Search and Web advertising into a new art form and money maker and together with Andy's Android OS. The way they planned on this all working was to involve Manufacturers, Carriers and Developers in a single group endeavor to make mobile devices that put users first before profits. Which was the opposite of how companies like Microsoft and Apple work. Companies centered on profits and the bottom line over what customers actually need or want. Make it pretty, elegant w/ minimal functions, then stamp slogans like "Think Different", "Revolutionary", "Magical" and WP7 Daddy's Home!

        When Google bought Android in early 2005 only months after Apple had hired it's first Touch screen Engineer, everyone knew they were headed for making Touch Screen Phone in the mobile World. They eventually joined Khronos Group who has has just began designing the API's that would be used in this new mobile graphical interface to marry the OS to the Hardware will these devices increasingly more Desktop like than Andy's HipTop Phone!

        Khronos Group was basically built on an Open set of API's where no Manufacturer, Application Developers or Operating System held ultimate power. Just like the Open Handset Alliance all members could openly use these new mobile API's equally in their own software and devices. That forced them to compete on their own product value and merits. Instead of locking them up in proprietary API's giving only some competitive edge!

        The FUTURE is OPEN and nobody does OPEN better than Google!
        i2fun@...
        • This ^

          should be its own wiki article :)
          jdwilcox1
  • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

    [i]Apple has the iPhone. It?s a hip name, it?s cool, and it allows Apple fanatics to be insufferable in their ?we?re too cool for our shoes? attitude.[/i]

    You seriously think that putting the letter "i" in front of everything makes it a cool name? iDon't. Its just a name, and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is very descriptive and falls in line with the Microsoft naming conventions. I don't see a problem there.

    Aside from that you are pretty accurate, WP7 will be a game changer because of its new UI. I have to say I'm surprised that ZDNet even let you post good things about it. Microsoft has always had the tools available to developers to make it easy to develop for their platforms. And with Microsoft Windows dominating the software industry you can be sure there are plenty of developers, many of which will port their applications to WP7.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

      @Loverock Davidson

      I think what David said, and meant, is that other people believe that "i" makes it cool. I don't interpret it as his personal belief, only reporting.
      clfitz
      • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

        @clfitz you do remember that iPhone was not invented by Apple, don't you?
        pupkin_z
    • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

      @Loverock Davidson: Microsoft naming conventions? What conventions? Win 3.1, Win 95, Win 98, Win NT, Win 2000, Win XP, Win Vista, Win 7... where's the convention? Other than having "Windows" in the name, that is.
      levinson
    • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

      @Loverock Davidson It rarely happens but I actually agree with Loverock. the iFOO names are...bad. iPad? Really? The only thing that makes them "cool" is that the products are pretty good. iPad is slightly better than "Big Pile of Dog Poo" but as a name it is not something to be emulated.

      Despite the nonsense posted by modern-day "journalists" and trolls, Windows is one of the most powerful/valuable/trusted brands in the world. A fairly small percentage of techno-fetishists think otherwise but the vast majority of the people in the world actually like Windows. They don't love it but they like it. Using Windows in the name fo the phone software is a smart move by Microsoft. Don't forget that you are not representative of the world at large. Bad things happen when people forget that.
      marksashton
      • Talk about reality distortion...

        If they didn't have such cash cows in Windows and Office, they might be gone having wasted so much cash on search, Zune, xBox, Kin, Vista and the variously crappy version of Windows mobile to mention a few.
        @marksashton
        GoPower
      • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

        @marksashton

        Windoze is a depreciating name that conveys poor conception, engineering and operation which results in millions leaving it behind each year. Now that Apple is the largest PC manufacturer in the USA (including iPad), the depreciation of the Windows will accelerate. In 10 years, Windows will be as current as outhouses and dial phones. A whole generation is growing up that flees from the third rate, virus ridden, malware ridden trash that M$H!T has foisted on the public for 25 years.

        Yeah, Daddy's home: Xbox, ME, Vista, SPoT, bing, Zune, Encarta, Money, etc. Each and every one a failure soon to be augmented by WinPho 7. M$H!T has two declining products: Windows and Office. As more and more move to iPad, Office is seen as a bloated bag of dung. Who needs Windows? Daddy's home and good luck to him 'cause he needs it, badly.
        Jeremy W
    • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

      @Loverock Davidson
      The name does not roll off the tongue well. iPhone, droid, they do, simple, easy. "Microsoft Windows Phone 7" does not. Neither does "wp7".
      bigsibling
      • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

        @bigsibling

        Maybe they should just call it Seven, as in seven minutes in heaven and tell apple to play with iself. Maybe I'll send this message to balmer.
        crzymorse
  • iThink the iMeme has lost it's touch

    But it does give a perfect description of Apple as a company. There is no you, only 'i' ;)
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: To Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, Microsoft has one thing to say:

      @Cylon Centurion 0005 Good one.
      hayneiii@...
    • "iThink" for you that's a stretch:)

      @Cylon Centurion 0005
      Cylon Centurion.... You pick the low level "grunt" Cylon to name yourself after?

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • iPhone Glass Breaking 82% more...

    That's not bad considering its got twice the amount of glass. You're just a fandroid. And inferior product? Inferior to what? It's still the best smartphone out there.
    PDOG101