Windows Phone 7 will be unveiled on October 11: can it compete?

Windows Phone 7 will be unveiled on October 11: can it compete?

Summary: Microsoft plans to unveil some mobile phones running Windows Phone 7 at its second annual Open House in New York on Monday, October 11. This won't be an exclusively phone-oriented launch but will also show off other consumer-oriented technologies, including the Xbox 360 games console, Zune media player and subscription services.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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Microsoft plans to unveil some mobile phones running Windows Phone 7 at its second annual Open House in New York on Monday, October 11. This won't be an exclusively phone-oriented launch but will also show off other consumer-oriented technologies, including the Xbox 360 games console, Zune media player and subscription services. There will be associated events in other cities, including London.

Microsoft is expected to demonstrate smartphones from HTC, Samsung, and LG, all running on AT&T's US network, though they will not be available for sale. However, all three companies are also making Android-based phones. While HTC built its business on Windows CE with both PocketPC and Windows Mobile devices, it's not a market that allows for charity, and Microsoft's share of the smartphone market has slumped from a peak of around 20% to only 5%.

Windows Phone 7 is a bold initiative, in being both innovative and consumer-focused. Instead of building on Windows Mobile's relative success in large enterprises, Windows Phone 7 aims to exploit Microsoft's success in the games market with Xbox Live, and Windows Live services including Messenger. However, in another change from the Windows Mobile era, Microsoft will exert close Apple-style control over the apps download market.

Companies may be attracted by Windows Phone 7's Office functionality, but it's not clear how they'll be able to knock out corporate apps and deploy them locally. At least Visual Basic will be available. How many will develop apps in Silverlight is another matter.

Such questions should be answered with Round 2 of Windows Phone 7, when more businesslike BlackBerry-style models should be available with keyboards and smaller 480 x 320 pixel screens.

Microsoft also has one recent flop on its hands, with the Kin phones that came out of its acquisition of Danger (Sidekick). These were reasonably good youth- and social network-oriented feature phones, but offered via Verizon at insane smartphone prices. In a Q&A with Steve Ballmer on mobile, search and Facebook at the Seattle Times, the Microsoft boss said:

The No. 1 message from Kin is a message of focus. You only get so many things you can really talk about, communicate, work on with the consumer. You've got to be bold, you've got to look forward and you've got to stay focused. Kin was neither -- with 20-20 hindsight -- bold enough relative to where the market's going, and it just defocused activity from Windows Phone.

You can certainly expect Microsoft to get behind Windows Phone 7, with promotions and advertising, because it's a key piece in linking together all its products. Bringing PC, Office, Xbox, Live online services, Zune, and music and movie services together gives it power and range currently beyond either Google or Apple.

But while Microsoft has previously benefited from being able to offer more different smartphones on more networks than anybody else (and Windows Phone 7 will be available on all the UK networks), that is no longer the case. Google Android now offers the widest range of options, and it looks unstoppable.

Topic: Tech Industry

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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14 comments
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  • Microsoft's law suit of Motorola shows that it doesn't think it can compete. It has to try and sue its competitors - Android in this case - out of existence rather than compete with them.
    BrownieBoy-4ea41
  • @BrownieBoy
    So Apple can't compete with Nokia, which it is trying to sue out of existence rather than compete with them, right?
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jack,

    Agreed. But I didn't mention Apple, did I? And I'm not defending them here. They're just as bad as Microsoft in this regard, IMHO.

    So, let's get back to Microsoft, shall we? Or do you think that two wrongs make a right?
    BrownieBoy-4ea41
  • @BrownieBoy

    I think both remarks are equally silly.....
    Jack Schofield
  • Hmmm.

    Those that can, do.
    Those that can't, sue.
    Tezzer-5cae2
  • @Tezzer
    Again, do you apply that to Apple suing Nokia as well? If not, why not?
    Jack Schofield
  • Yes. I apply it across the board. This whole patent issue is a disaster that is greatly damaging the industry as a whole, and whether people realise it or not, greatly adding to the cost of everything they buy that has any software elements. From my experience and observation almost all the really neat ideas come from individuals and small groups, not multi-national corporations, who frequently have a vested interest in things not changing.

    Absolutely every bit of code in the world today is built on other peoples ideas. Can you imagine where we would be if all the 1960s ideas were patented, and these patents were continually 'refreshed'?

    How about:
    "A method of exchanging the contents of two data stores without incurring the use of a third."

    It is virtually impossible to write an efficient program without at some point using XOR, which is what this relies on.
    Tezzer-5cae2
  • @Tezzer
    > This whole patent issue is a disaster that is greatly damaging the industry as a whole,

    I agree, but that's not the point. The remark in question was and remains silly....
    Jack Schofield
  • What I find interesting is that Microsoft is suing Motorola over technology Motorola had access to under licence for their Windows Mobile phones; this looks like much more of a business issue than other lawsuits in this area, although that may be a good disguise

    M
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • @Jack,

    >> I agree, but that's not the point. The remark in question was and remains silly....
    That's your opinion. It is, after all, your blog!

    Obviously, I don't think the remark is silly at all, and it also answers the question that you asked in the title of your post, which is "can Microsoft compete?"

    So, let's try it another way; if Microsoft *can* compete in this market, then why does it need to sue its competitors?
    BrownieBoy-4ea41
  • @BrownieBoy
    Sorry, I'm not going to keep feeding the troll. Go play somewhere else...
    Jack Schofield
  • Sticks and stones, Jack.

    As I said, it's your blog...
    BrownieBoy-4ea41
  • > Can it [Windows Phone 7] compete?

    Early days, but it looks like the answer is a resounding "no". Preston Gralla (not a known MS basher) reckons that Android is outselling WP7 by a 15 to 1 Margin, and that even Symbian smart phones are outselling WP7 phones by 3 to 1:

    http://blogs.computerworld.com/17431/android_outselling_windows_phone_7_by_15_1_says_retailer

    Do a Google for "Windows Phone 7 sales figures" and the words "disappoint", "tanked" and "dud" are all front and centre.

    Microsoft itself remains tight-lipped about the WP7 sales figures, which tells a tale. Resellers have been reduced to so-called BOGO ( that's "buy one get one [free]") deals to try and push up the sales figures.
    BrownieBoy-4ea41
  • Microsoft is being rather tight-lipped about sales figures for WP7, so I'd say they're not selling in great numbers. Preston Gralla at Computer World says:

    " If Microsoft were posting blowout numbers --- even if the company was even selling a reasonably high number of devices --- it would no doubt be touting them. Its silence speaks volumes about how Windows Phone 7 is being received."

    http://blogs.computerworld.com/17455/more_evidence_that_windows_phone_7_sales_are_tanking
    BrownieBoy-4ea41