Windows Phone 7: Savior, disaster, or somewhere in between?

7382.santa_claus_wallpaper_thumb_7a89ce91 Mobile We’re in the middle of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and although it might not feel like it, “this holiday season” is right around the corner.  That’s when Microsoft has promised Windows Phone 7, and its re-emergence into the modern mobile smartphone market.  When Microsoft took the wraps off this new “series” of phones at Mobile World Congress in February, it generated a lot of buzz for the new direction it was taking: smart, cool, and, well, “Metro”.

Since then, however, in the fast moving marketplace that defines smartphones, a lot has happened.  Google’s Android phones have taken off, Apple has released the iPhone 4, we’ve gone through both “antennagate” and unprecedented sales for the new iPhone, and Microsoft’s KIN phones and Google’s Nexus One have come, and gone.

Last week Galen Gruman in InfoWorld started off his post Windows Phone 7: Don’t bother with this disaster by saying:

“There’s no kind way to say it: Windows Phone 7 will be a failure”

Gruman calls the Metro design elements of Windows Phone 7 lipstick on a pig, decries the lack of a modern browser in the new mobile OS, calls developer support “tepid”, and points out some other “old technology” limits, including lack of multi-tasking and copy-paste.

Not everyone agreed with Gruman however.  Paul Thurrott was even moved to write a rebuttal post, Don’t bother with this blog post disaster, where he disagrees pointedly that Windows Phone 7 is a 2007ish version of an iPhone:

Windows Phone is not the same kind of phone, or a copy of the iPhone at all. In fact, the Windows Phone interaction model is so unique and innovative, and it’s global access to online services information so seamless, they’re not really even the same kind of device.

All in all, it’s been a busy week for smartphone news.  But as much as we’d like to snicker at anntenagate, and anxiously await Windows Phone 7 to come down from the mountaintop, we can’t help but have at least a bit of an uneasy feeling about what the holidays will bring.  For right now, we’re going to just lay out our concerns.  Maybe they’re unfounded, maybe not.

  • The browser.  Sorry, but it just plain doesn’t make any sense that Windows Phone 7 won’t ship with a mobile version of IE9.  A great chance to hit one out of the park, but instead we’ll get IE “7.5”.  Bleh.
  • Windows Live integration.  We’re a bit worried here.  Windows Phone Live promises that you’ll be able to “view your contacts and calendar” on the companion site.  In Microsoft parlance, where every word is gone over with a fine-toothed PR comb, we’re afraid this WON’T  mean “sync your contacts and calendar”  And what’s the relationship of Windows Phone Live to Windows Live Devices?  Windows Phone and Windows Live are in two separate, separated divisions.   We have a sinking feeling that “seamless integration” between Windows Phone 7 and Windows Live will be at least a version away.
  • KIN.  Microsoft took pains to let us know when the KIN shipped that it was indeed a Windows Phone.  Precisely.  Now they’re trying to sweep KIN under the rug, but the fact remains that the same people who allowed that debacle to happen are in charge of Windows Phone 7.
  • Zune Pass.  Look, the Zune Pass rocks, and it has the potential to be a “killer app” on Windows Phone 7.  However on KIN, there was no built in Zune Pass subscription, it required an extra $15/mo on top of everything else.  A Zune Pass subscription should come with every Windows Phone 7 sold, no ifs, ands, or buts.  We clamored for creative data plans with KIN, didn’t get them, and look what happened.  We’re hoping for better this time around.
  • Hardware.  Make no mistake, Windows Phone 7 can’t afford an inkling of a RROD or antennagate hardware problem.  These phones have to rock, and be rock solid.  Microsoft took an aggressive approach with Windows Phone 7 hardware, and hopefully it won’t be a problem, but it can’t be.

Still, we ARE anxiously awaiting “this holiday season” (heck, we were anxiously awaiting KIN, too, until we saw the pricing).  We think Windows Phone 7 has potential to be a great, Windows centric, cool new phone, and be able to carve out a nice niche in the rapidly growing smartphone marketplace.  Will that shiny new bike be under the tree?  Or will we get a bag of coal, like the KIN?  We sure can’t wait to find out.  What do you think?