Microsoft has many miles of bad road to cover if it's to make any headway in the smartphone market. As I see it, if users are to have any confidence in Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is going to have to offer users some guarantees that they are buying into a platform that will be around for a few years.
Lets face it, Windows Mobile is dead. But the problem is, rather than give is a decent burial and give users the space they need to grief and move on, Microsoft has instead decided to leave its rotting corpse in plain view. You can go out today and buy a handset powered by Windows Mobile 6.5 and know that as soon as Windows Phone 7 handsets make an appearance, the old platform is a gonner.
And that's been the problem with all Microsoft mobile platforms for years now. Each revision has meant upset, upheaval and having to spend more dough on applications because the old ones wouldn't run on the new platform. Rinse and repeat ...
Part of the success of the iPhone platform is the fact that while we've seen several hardware and OS iterations, the platform has remained consistent as far as users are concerned, and stuff that worked in the beginning has carried on working. Even iPhone OS 4, which we expect to make an appearance mid June, will still install on first-gen iPhones and iPod touch devices, albeit with some features not present (such as multitasking).
The problem with Microsoft's approach to mobile is that, for a user's perspective at any rate, the company lacks a clear vision and direction. rather than build on past (modest) successes, the company is continually back to the drawing board. Users have never been able to rely on having an upgrade path to new OS releases, making each handset purchase a one-off investment with a lifespan that ends with a new release.
Even Microsoft's current plan seems confused. The Windows Phone 7 platform and the Kin platform will run side-by-side up until some point in the future (which may be never) when the two paths coalesce. Even in a highly competitive marketplace, Microsoft is still choosing to put its energy behind two platforms instead of one.
We need some guarantees from Microsoft that the Windows Phone 7 platform will offer users a stable platform that goes beyond the lifespan of the current platform and onto Windows Phone 8 or whatever it ends up being called. Applications need to have a lifespan that goes beyond the life of the OS installed on the handset, and the same goes for user data and settings.
Without the guarantee of a platform that can outlast a single release, and handsets that will truly be upgradable to the new handsets (rather than letting OEMs handle this), Microsoft will end up being handed its hat and escorted out of the mobile game.