Here we go again. Is “7” Microsoft’s lucky number? Maybe “10” is the lucky number (as in 2010). Anyway you look at it, 2010 would appear to be Microsoft’s year and “7” is the theme.
A few weeks back, I wrote about the possibility that Windows 7 would go “viral.” Viral is a strong term when associated with an operating system (and Microsoft for that matter), but an interesting way to get a discussion going. Windows 7 does seem to be living up to the hype and is already Microsoft’s most successful operating system launch ever. As of March 1, a mere 4 months after wide spread availability, it accounts for 10% of the installed Microsoft market and 8% of the total installed market. Over 90 Million copies have been sold (although the OEM community has vast stockpiles). Any way you look at it Windows 7 is trending to be very dominant in the marketplace.
The latest “7” themed announcement from Microsoft is the Windows Phone 7 Series recently previewed at the GSMA World Congress in Barcelona. The early buzz is very favorable and it was the talk of the show. The gadget community has weighed in and the response has been positive.
As with Windows 7, most of the market buzz being created by Microsoft is related to the user interface, ease of use, application support, appearance, social media and Web content integration capabilities. This is an obvious and critical strategy that Microsoft is using to position against Apple and Google for mindshare. They realize that these areas of functionality are critical in appealing to the mass market. As the buzz escalates and the bloggers blog there has been some concern in the community that there is not enough being said about the enterprise capabilities and features. I don’t think this is purley by accident.
Microsoft knows that its enterprise community will expect and assume that there will be strong business application and integration focus. This has been the heritage of Windows Mobile and this enterprise heritage will continue and be enhanced in Windows Phone 7 Series. Microsoft also knows that the mass-market battlefield has been defined by Apple around usability, content, social media, music and video, and has decided to attack in these areas head on. They have kept the message focused on these areas. They know they have to get favorable reviews from the established tech press and the social media community in order to build demand in the individual purchaser community to have a shot at any real market share.
Microsoft has learned that adoption of handheld devices and building market share depend a great deal on the individual user’s personal preference and choice, even within the enterprise purchasing community. Apple, RIM and Google have played to this reality successfully at the expense of Microsoft and Windows Mobile. While the all important enterprise features and capabilities are not at the forefront of the messaging, there is no doubt we will see critical business centric device capabilities such as multi-tasking and strong encryption, as well as fundamental configuration and policy management interfaces. We can also assume that key business features like secure email and calendar synchronization will be integral. Existing deep application, ISV and services support that has grown up over the years around Windows Mobile will easily adapt to the new platform.
The other variable at play is Carrier influence. These sleeping giants are starting to wake from their iPhone bender with a hangover. Vodafone, AT&T and others have been waiting for a RIM alternative and something that will allow them to regain some control over the devices. In the view of many carriers, RIM has an uncomfortable stranglehold with the popularity of the devices and controls too many aspects of the devices and services. The same is true for the Apple and the iPhone. Carriers have been pining for Microsoft to close the gap and offer them the features, capabilities, control capabilities and the market mindshare that would allow them to be true advocates for Microsoft. The big Carriers have always hoped for great things from Microsoft in the Mobile Device area. The day may be at hand.
In summary, I think Windows Phone 7 Series will offer a good balance of user features and “coolness” and compete well against the iPhone and its clones. It will also offer strong productivity and security capabilities. This may be just the mix that Carriers and Enterprises are looking for.