we do need more mobile platforms

Posted on October 11, 2010


Microsoft launched its windows 7 mobile platform today to much fanfare, its a slick product that links a lot of the new live “cloud” services with teh handset. i especially like the xbox link, so you can play games on your phone..


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Today, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) made a grand appearance in New York to unveil Windows Phone 7 and made a convincing case for why the statement made by Google’s Andy Rubin last week was way off the mark and the mobile industry is far from topping out in terms of new innovation. Rubin had told PCWorld: “The world doesn’t need another platform. Android is free and open; I think the only reason you create another platform is for political reasons.”

But he’s wrong.

Rubin argued that Android is open, so anyone can use it to create a differentiated mobile experience. “Why doesn’t the whole world run with [Android]?,” he asks. “[Android] is a successful, complete, vertically integrated free platform. I encourage everybody to use it.”

Microsoft’s platform may not be open by definition, but today it revealed an impressive and fine-tuned piece of software that has the potential to appeal to the masses. It spent millions of dollars to make a polished piece of eye candy that doesn’t look anything like the old stagnant file folders on Windows Mobile. For Microsoft, the phone operating system is a business, for Google it isn’t. Rather, Android serves as a platform for gathering mobile advertising revenues from search. And it shows. Android has pretty much been the sole creation of Google with the help of a scatter-shot of developers. The platform often looks more like a work in progress aimed at early adopters. While that’s changing quickly, Microsoft’s selling point is that it will have a well-designed look out of the box.

At this morning’s press conference, Microsoft said it will launch nine Windows Phone 7 handsets through partnerships with more than 60 mobile operators in over 30 countries. Many will arrive in time for the holidays, including a handful from AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile in the U.S. Handset manufactures include Samsung, HTC and LG (SEO: 066570). Read all of our coverage from this morning here.

While many are skeptical that Microsoft can make a comeback amid the momentum that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google already have, the benefit of Windows Phone 7 is that it is a completely fresh start, different from where it’s been in the past. For more than a year, it virtually halted sales of its Windows Mobile 6.5 sales in order to step back and work on a while new approach. Meanwhile, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) nd RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) have been forced to iterate of its old platforms to support modern day features, like touchscreens, applications and full-featured web browsers.

In short, Microsoft has delivered a platform that will push the mobile industry forward, and offer choices to the consumer—the ultimate benefit of introducing yet another platform into an already fragmented industry. In an exhaustive demonstration, Microsoft showed how Windows Phone 7 is a hybrid of sorts, falling somewhere between Apple’s homescreen of icons and Google’s live widget approach. Microsoft’s phones will have “tiles,” which allow users to stay in touch with the people, applications and photos of their choice. What’s more, Microsoft is leveraging its already popular franchises, such as Office, Xbox and even Zune to create an optimized user experience. It will have a variety of phones at attractive price points that can appeal to a those, who may prefer different form factors, including physical keyboard or large or small displays.

It’s too early to tell how it will play out, and Microsoft has a lot of work left to do to keep the platform moving forward. One big challenge will be to convince developers it is worth developing for. But Microsoft, too, has work cut out for it, in keeping the platform up to date. It’s refreshing to hear that Windows Phone 7 can receive software updates over-the-air, unlike the company’s old OS. For example, it has already announced an update coming in the first quarter that will give users copy and paste functionality.

The answer will not be the same for all new platforms, but simply put this platform in particular won’t hurt anyone—in fact, it may just scare the competition into making something better.