Admittedly we’re always the first to mock crystal ball gazers. No one knows what the mobile word will look like next year, never mind in 2015. But we can still look at the current landscape and make a few observations and that.
So, is Windows Phone 7 doomed? Depending who you listen to, Microsoft’s OS will either punch the rest in the face and take pole position by 2013, or ultimately fall flat on its face.
Research firm, Pyramid, caused a commotion earlier this month when it predicted that WP7 would take the lead “by 2015”. Amusingly, in a direct response to the naysayers, they went on to clarify that “by 2015” actually meant “in 2013”. Brilliant.
On the other hand, we’ve heard a couple of stories recently that suggest things aren’t going quite so well. Firstly, there are those figures from Gartner showing that Windows Phone 7 is still being outsold by Windows Mobile. And, just today, Martin relayed the news that Windows Phone 7 sales were slowing down.
Let’s break it down in an old school way with some sections.
Windows Phone 7 was criticised at launch for failing to include – among other things – copy&paste, something iOS and Android users have long been enjoying. Doubters still point to the likes of the lack of full multitasking, but Mango is set to crank it up a notch later this year. Or, uhm, early in 2012. In any case, Mango will justify a spot of renumbering, and Windows Phone 7 will become 7.5.
Another tick in the Pro column; Windows Phone 7 is enjoyably slick. Android, on the other hand, can be incredibly sluggish at times, though I have to admit I’ve noticed a definite improvement since carving myself a slice of Gingerbread last week.
This is one category where Windows Phone 7 is lacking quite emphatically. I recently wrote a feature about the range of WP7 handsets, and they total a whopping seven. Seven handsets. That’s your lot. Five at launch, and a further two – both QWERTY sliders, incidentally – this year. If HTC hadn’t been on board the WP7 train, the OS would’ve launched with an embarrassing two phones.
Microsoft’s rigid “chassis” (minimum spec requirements) means the phones are all much the same. There’s a minimum 5MP camera and 8GB of flash memory, for example. The result is a complete absence of low-end devices. Meanwhile, cheap low-MP/low-res phones are a huge driver for Android.
So far we’ve seen devices from stupidly-prolific HTC (responsible for 4/7 of WP7’s current range), Samsung, LG and Dell. Sony Ericsson was originally named as a launch partner, but it has decided to back off unless WP7 can prove itself as a contender. Finally, Motorola is sticking to a fairly emphatic “no” when it comes to the possibility of a Motophone 7 (er, I just made that term up).
Nokia is expected to give the platform a much-needed boost when it finally arrives. Pyramid reckons that Nokia’s presence will – crucially – drive down the cost of Windows Phone 7 handsets.
Going back to HTC, the Taiwanese haven’t been put off by the Nokisoft bromance, which is just as well. The rumour mill is rife with talk of future HTC WP7 handsets, including the Omega, Eternity and Bresson, as well as the Prime and Ignite that we heard about earlier this year.
Windows Phone 7's range of apps pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands offered by iOS and Android. Having said that, there's an old adage that goes "quality not quantity"; how many of those hundreds of thousands of Android/iOS apps are genuine must-haves? And the big names are slowly but surely jumping on board with WP7.
If I were a high-paid analyst, I’d come up with some graphs suggesting that Windows Phone 7 might – with an increased range of handsets and apps, and a few meaty software updates – vie for second place come… just picking an arbitrary year here… 2013. That’ll do.