Ever since Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer announced Windows Mobile 7 at MWC in Barcelona, everyone in the mobile tech world has been talking about it. Microsoft used to be a pretty big player in the mobile phone space, but recently they have lost massive market share to competitors like RIM’s Blackberry, Apple’s iPhone, and Google’s Android. But is Windows Phone 7 going to save Microsoft and pull them back to the top? Although it is very possible, here are a few limitations that are working against them:
1. Late Release
Windows Mobile 7 was initially slated to be released by 2009. Now, Microsoft is saying that it will be released in late 2010. Instead, in 2009 they released Windows Mobile 6.5, which is supposed to be a brief holdover until the new software could come out.
The main problem for Microsoft is that the longer they wait before they actually release Windows Phone 7, the longer their competitors will have to build market share. In 2009 alone, they lost 13% of their market share. How much will they lose in 2010? Because smart phones are such a social device nowadays, this results in a worse experience for all existing Windows Mobile users.
2. Bad Reviews
The reviews for Windows Mobile 6.5 were definitely not favorable for Microsoft. This bad press doesn’t lead people to sit on the edge of their seats anticipating Windows Mobile 7. The good news is that this has forced Microsoft to completely start over and build a new operating system from scratch. Hopefully they get it right this time.
One of the rumors going around is that Windows Phone 7 may not be able to multi-task. Of course, this is also a limitation of the iPhone, whereas Blackberries and Androids currently have multitasking capabilities. It is also rumored that iPhones will support multitasking with the release of its 4.0 software. If this is the case, then Microsoft could be left behind even before they begin.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine definitely isn’t bad, but most people still want to use Google. Most people find nothing wrong with Google, and they don’t want to have to learn a new search engine when the one they have been using for a decade is perfectly fine. Windows Mobile 7, of course, completely integrates Bing. Users will have to jump through a bunch of hoops if they want to use Google. All the other phones integrate with Google because they don’t have a search engine of their own to promote.
5. Upgraders could be left in the cold
People who are already using Windows Mobile 6.1 or 6.5 might find that none of the apps they bought work on Windows Mobile 7. Since Windows Mobile 7 was built from the ground up, backwards compatibility is unlikely. Microsoft has said that they will most likely release some porting tools for developers or an emulator, but this isn’t a perfect solution.
When it comes to smart phones (and computers), it’s really all about the apps. Apple will have had a 3 year head start on Microsoft, and their App Store currently boasts more than 150,000 apps. Google’s Android and the Blackberry have been struggling to catch up for over a year. Microsoft hasn’t even started.
Although this isn’t a limitation YET, it is worth keeping in mind. Microsoft is normally very good at creating devices which can perform a lot of tasks and which have a lot of features. Where they usually fail is in the customer experience and the usability of their products. Hopefully they really concentrate on this aspect with Windows Phone 7.
Windows Mobile 7 looks like it could be a great device if Microsoft gets it right. Unfortunately, their competitors have a multi-year head start, and Microsoft will be climbing an uphill battle.
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