Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: Perception hurdles and the tablet angle

Microsoft launched its Windows Phone 7 with plans to give the smartphone a fresh start. The big question is whether consumers want a fresh start. Also: The Windows Phone 7 tablet could be a long-term winner.

Microsoft launched its Windows Phone 7 Monday with big plans to disrupt the smartphone market and give mobile devices a "fresh start" with a user interface that absorbs your data.

The first wave for Microsoft is appealing to the consumer. The second wave, which was hinted at 15 minutes into Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's big unveiling, is all business. The PowerPoint and Office interface on Windows Phone 7 is snazzy.

To most folks on scene, I've talked to, Microsoft put on a credible display. The issue: The layman has two mobile operating systems on his mind---Android and Apple's iOS. Simply put, it's not clear that people want a "fresh start for the smartphone." Asking friends and relatives if they'd consider a Windows Phone 7 device was a bit of a non-starter. They weren't totally opposed to it, but weren't enthusiastic either. Simply put, Microsoft has some convincing to do.

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I think Microsoft at least established itself as a mobile choice---Andrew Nusca on scene seems to like Windows Phone 7 in an initial run---but ultimately the software giant's fate is with consumers. Not having Verizon Wireless at launch is a big handicap in the U.S., but AT&T is calling Windows Phone 7 a cornerstone mobile OS.

Jason Perlow and I were debating the merits of Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft's smartphone launch and the most interesting thread revolved around tablets. Windows Phone 7 could have a better shot on a tablet than a phone.

Here's the conversation, which will highlight how even when Perlow has nothing to say he still says a lot.

jhperlow 10:33 am: I have nothing to say about windows phone other than the fact that it's not long for this world if verizon doesnt want it ldignan 10:34 am: overall it looks credible to me jhperlow 10:34 am: yeah, the technology looks solid, but the developers have iphone and android to make money from. and the problem fundamentally is how many languages and dev environments do they really want to learn and invest in. iphone, you got xcode and c++, android you got java win phone you got .NET whatever ldignan 10:42 am: right but if wp7 gets share devs will come. if not it's done jhperlow 10:42:34 am: market is too saturated in my opinion. WP7's strongest asset is exchange and activesync 10:43:20 am: in a strong economy, corporations would be buying them for their employees 10:43:29 am: but thats not happening anymore and RIM already owns that market, which is declining 10:44:13 am: europe hates microsoft so it wont move there at all jhperlow 10:44 am: china/asia has gone android and iphone crazy and verizon seemingly hates the platform 10:45:17 am: unless AT&T gives the things away I dont see it taking off ldignan 10:46 am: I'm a little more optimistic, but it's tough. jhperlow 10:50 am: I'll tell you how they can move windows phones with PC purchases. you buy a machine with Windows Ultimate, they give you a coupon towards purchase of a phone on whatever carrier. they're going to have to give them away to get marketshare ldignan 10:51 am: right, but that's a bundling regulator issue jhperlow 10:52 am: that, or shove in the monthly zune service for free for the first year. free music jhperlow 10:53 am: but see ultimately its about MS's inability to sex up their image. the zune HD is a nice product, but they cant move them jhperlow 10:55 am: MS is going to have to expend anywhere between 1-2billion dollars to crack a few percentage points on either iphone or android's market share in the US alone ldignan 10:55 am: what choice to they have though jhperlow 10:55 am: I think they should stop wasting time and phones and go direct to slates with the windows phone OS and stop @#$@# around with windows 7. at least slates is a category that hasn’t been completely monopolized yes ldignan 10:56 am: pretty much highlights the hurdles they face jhperlow 10:56 am: windows phone OS as least as it could be applied to tablets would be in the same footing as Android and WebOS. in fact, may have some advantages. especially when used in corporate environments. pure representation of office docs like PowerPoint and cleanest exchange implementation. since they own the technology. I'd consider a Windows tablet with Windows Phone OS

So there, you have it. Windows Phone 7 may be a tough slog in smartphones, but tablets could be a different story. The big question is whether Microsoft even sees the tablet connection because it's stuck in the Windows 7-slate quagmire.

Microsoft launches Windows Phone 7