Microsoft recently showed a preview of its upcoming Windows Mobile platform, which has the slightly clunky name of Windows Phone 7. The technology press from Engadget to Gizmodo seemed to go crazy for the new operating system. After watching the videos and reading the articles written about it… I’m not going to say how I feel about the phone, because there is plenty of room in the market for more than one type of phone. What stood out to me were the new system requirements that Microsoft is setting forth in order for manufacturers to use it. Manufacturers have to use the same screen resolution and the same screen size, they have to have three dedicated buttons on the front — one of which is dedicated to Bing, they all have to use a specific type of touchscreen, and they all have to run a stock install of Windows Phone 7.
With the exception of the Bing button, I really don’t have a problem with a uniform look and feel to the operating system across different manufacturers; if anything it will make the experience for the end user better because an application designed for Windows Phone 7 should behave exactly the same no matter what make of cell phone it is run on. However, it is not likely that the phone makers will want have the same specifications and the same operating system with no enhancements. Is it reasonable for Microsoft to think that it has the clout in the mobile market to demand that phone makers move to its new platform, create phones the way that Microsoft has demanded, and have no way to differentiate themselves from the competition? I believe that phone makers will choose to abandon the Windows Mobile operating systems in favor of Android because Android has no requirements to use it, it will allow them to create their own application store, and to enhance the operating system to differentiate themselves from others in the market.
It does not seem reasonable to think that cell phone makers will hang around for the rest of the year waiting to be told what they can make from a software maker whose mobile platform, at this point, is a gamble.