WinMo 7.0 is more than just another version of the Windows Mobile OS.WinMo 7.0 will be central to Microsoft’s ability to re-invent itself into a Mobile 2.0 service business, where Google and Apple are making all the money. Presenting a five part series on Windows Mobile 7.0 and its long term influence on Microsoft’s overall strategy
The launch of Windows Phone 7 is a critically important event for Microsoft. Analysts have defined it as a “make or break” moment in the company’s history. This is in part because of the scale of opportunity as smartphones enter the mass market, but more significantly because the battle between Apple and Google is largely being fought in the mobile domain, where Microsoft has yet to play a real part. Given that the mobile phone is now the most prolific computing platform on the planet, it is essential that Microsoft grabs a significant share. Success in all aspects of the mobile market (devices, software and services) will be critical to Microsoft’s future if it is to successfully diversify from a software licence business to one specializing in hardware and services.
Expectations for Windows Phone 7 are uncharacteristically low for a Microsoft product. The platform is launching relatively late into a crowded market, follows the ill-fated launch of Microsoft’s Kin phone and software earlier in the year and Microsoft’s previous efforts in mobile were wholly out of step with market requirements.
Hardware specifications are far more tightly defined than previous versions of Microsoft’s mobile operating system. This rigid control of hardware design sees Microsoft moving closer to the vertically integrated model adopted by Apple and RIM, albeit using a range of manufacturing partners. Microsoft is restricting flexibility in how the platform can be deployed and customized in order to closely control the end-user experience and the “look and feel” of its own services. This is something that Google has not been able to master even as Android looks different in multiple versions of its OS. Microsoft’s tight leash on hardware design is a result of a careful examination of the factors behind Apple’s success as well as a deep understanding of the challenges in maintaining consistency of experience and time to market with a horizontal platform.
While Microsoft’s vertically integrated model for Hardware design may be great for the ubiquitous-ness of the WinMo experience at users level, the similarity of the devices means few operators will require more than one or two models. This means ten phones are competing for a small number of portfolio slots. That said, an unexpected opportunity has emerged in the second half of 2010 as high profile products suffer delays, in some cases caused by constrained supply of key components such as screens. This means that operators and distributors are seeking high-tier devices that can be delivered in reliable quantities.
Also important to consider is the fact that many operators are looking for a counter to Apple’s dominance at the high end. Whilst customization opportunities are limited with Windows Phone 7, it affords far greater scope for operator services than the iPhone.
Because of the hardware specifications, and especially the demands made by the software on the processor and memory, the phones launched in the near term will be high-end, expensive devices
The next part of this series will explore the software capabilities of Windows Mobile 7.0