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5 Reasons Why Windows Phone 7 Will Rock The World

A sizable contingent of industry analysts are gleefully predicting failure for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, but there are also plenty of reasons to believe the OS could shock the naysayers.

Bashing Microsoft's mobile business has become something of a sport, and frankly, it's a pretty easy one given all the holes that exist in Microsoft's strategy. But with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has hit reset, gone back to the drawing board and come up with mobile OS with hooks for both consumer and business users.

Microsoft has a ton of ground to make up, of course. But as the Chinese philosopher Laozi wrote in the Tao Te Ching, way back before even Windows Mobile was launched, "A journey of a thousand [miles] starts with a single step." Following are five signs that Microsoft, with Windows Phone 7, has got things right this time around.

1. Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers

Microsoft's decision to forgo backward compatibility with Windows Mobile was somewhat controversial, but going with Silverlight for application development in Windows Phone 7 was the right call. In doing so, Microsoft is empowering developers with .NET experience to hit the ground running and start building apps for Windows Phone 7.

"Microsoft might be onto something with their use of Microsoft Silverlight as the standard way to develop applications for Windows Phone 7 devices," said Dave Meeker, director of emerging technology at Roundarch, a user experience and technology design firm that works primarily with the Fortune 500 and large government organizations.

Next: Windows Phone 7 Could Quickly Ramp


Despite the insane level of current buzz around the iPhone and Android, developers on these platforms went through their share of trial and error as they got up to speed. Microsoft, meanwhile, claims it has half a million Silverlight developers.

"It took a while for software developers who didn’t know Apple’s Objective-C to start creating really good iOS apps," said Meeker. "Android, in a similar fashion, has required a long runway to allow for quality apps to become available."

2. Windows Phone 7 Fits Right In

Let’s face it: System administrators and IT departments aren’t big fans of change. Many still view the iPhone as a sort of horrific, invading locust with all kinds of troublesome implications for network integrity. But Windows Phone 7's deep integration with Microsoft products is going to grease the skids for the OS in business settings.

"Being able to use Microsoft-on-Microsoft technology to give mobile users access to existing enterprise resources is appealing," said Meeker.

This is an important point of differentiation for Microsoft. Sure, iOS and Android have Exchange integration, but not full integration. Andrew Brust, CTO at Tallan, a Microsoft Gold partner in Rocky Hill, Conn., says Exchange integration on both his Motorola Droid and iPad leave much to be desired.

Next: Exchange On Other Platforms Is Only Skin Deep


For example, while over-the-air synchronization of e-mail, calendar and contacts is enabled, notifications for calendar conflicts and control over out-of-the-office messages aren't, which means users must use a Web browser or full Outlook client.

"It looks like Windows Phone 7 will avoid silly problems like that and will still have excellent applications that are nicely integrated rather than siloed," said Brust.

3. The Snazzy Metro UI

One of the biggest complaints Windows Mobile had was the clunky user interface, which forced folks to click and click and click to find what they were looking for. With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has started over with Metro, an OS similar to that which runs the Zune HD and is designed to let users quickly find information.

Microsoft has put a lot of work into defining the Windows Phone 7 experience with Metro, particularly in terms of the typography and white space, according to Meeker. Metro also borrows heavily from the characteristics of signage in airports, bus and train stations, where the conveyance of information takes precedence over flashy bells and whistles.

"From a geek’s perspective this might not matter, but ask the millions of happy iPhone users what they like most about their device, and many of them will surely reply 'how it looks and feels'," said Meeker. "Experience matters."

Next: Why Xbox Live Integration Is Key


4. Xbox Live As A Differentiator

Many industry watchers see Microsoft's integration of Xbox Live and the XNA Framework in Windows Phone 7 as a key point of differentiation from competing platforms. Of course, iOS and Android also have games, but neither offers the type of experience Microsoft can bring to bear with Xbox Live.

Could this help the software giant achieve its goal -- some might say obsession -- of getting consumers excited about Windows Phone 7? Partners sure think so.

"Microsoft has and will continue to drive home the Xbox link," said Clinton Fitch, a Dallas-based Microsoft Windows Phone MVP (Most Valuable Professional). "It is their number one way to the consumer and I think they'll be able to leverage Xbox quite nicely and expose it to a whole new audience."

5. Nice Mapping features

Bing Maps is quickly becoming a big fat frozen salmon with which Microsoft can fish-slap anyone who claims that it's not capable of innovating. It's one of the most impressive technologies the company has ever developed, and allowed Microsoft to steal the show at the TED conference in February.

The Windows Phone 7 SDK features Bing Maps as its default map control, and Microsoft has taken to calling it a "first-class citizen" in its technology roster. Microsoft sees this as one of the strongest weapons in its mobile arsenal, and partners that have tried are impressed with what they’ve seen so far. "It’s pretty slick," said Meeker.

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