Is Microsoft's WinPhone 7 worthy of the two-year commitment?

When it comes to Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 devices, will consumers be willing to commit to Microsoft for two years?
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive on

Is anyone out there digging out the lawn chairs and tents in hopes of being the first in line to pick up one of the new Microsoft Windows Phone 7 smartphones next month?

Yeah, I'm not either.

At a press event in New York City yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the first of its much-expected, long-overdue portfolio of smartphones that will run on the company's new mobile phone operating system.

But whether those devices can make a dent against the competition - notably Google's Android devices and Apple's iPhone - is still the big question. Until I'm comfortable knowing that Microsoft has a real contender with Win Phone 7, I'm not sure that I'm willing to go out on a limb with an investment of a two-year service commitment.

So far, the reviews have been fairly positive, but much of that could stem from the idea that the expectations were already low. Still, I haven't really heard of anything that jumps out as a differentiator, as bringing something special to the game.

And that's what kind of makes me uneasy. Smartphone shoppers are already familiar with iPhone and Android and, without something to set Microsoft apart, I can't see it shifting the tide in the short-term. In his own post yesterday, Andrew Nusca summed up Microsoft's launch approach and target audience this way:

Until now, the smartphone has appealed to the early adopter, the enthusiast, the geek — the customer who cares about having the fastest processor and the most memory and the biggest display...

Windows Phone 7 is foremost a consumer play, and it’s telling that Ballmer didn’t mention any business use cases until halfway into his introductory speech.Still, it’s all there, and as you might expect, Windows Phone 7 has tight, slick integration with Office 2010, including SharePoint, OneNote, Outlook e-mail and calendar and PowerPoint, the last of which you can edit presentation slides on the go. Add all that to key maps functionality with Bing and gaming capabilities courtesy of Xbox Live and suddenly all of Microsoft is vying for your attention via your pocket.

Again, all of this sounds great. But I just don't know if I would want to be the first regular guy on the block with a new Windows Phone 7. Just like with the iPhone and Android, version 1.0 is sure to fall short in a few areas (tethering, cut-and-paste, etc.). And just like with iPhone and Android, the first major upgrade is sure to come around while those first customers are still under contract.

Truth be told, I am walking into this whole Windows Phone 7 thing without much faith in Microsoft, especially when you consider how the Zune music player never really went mainstream and how the Kin was killed before it really ever had to a chance to grow. Seeing how tablets are all the buzz these days and how iPhone, Android and BlackBerry are already controlling smartphones, should the company have gone directly after the tablet market and skipped the phone category altogether?

On the other hand, I will give Microsoft this much: the new advertising campaign to promote Windows Phone 7 as a problem solver, as a means of taking care of business and then getting back to life, so far is a winner. In the past, I've given Microsoft some grief for its ads (remember that TV commercial with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates?) but this time around I have to give them props. The commercials are engaging, funny and down-to-earth. And they target real people, not the extreme geeks who have to decipher the real meaning behind the advertising message.

The big question remains: Is it enough? Check out this clip and let us know in the talkbacks:

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