A perfect storm is brewing. Android and iOS have been butting heads for more than a year now, ignoring the emaciated spectre of Windows Mobile as it huddled, terrified, in the corner. But now Microsoft is hitting back. Windows Phone 7 is due out in October. It'll either either shake the current status quo to its core...or crash and burn.
Microsoft has their work cut out for them with WP7. Taking the fight to two established platforms won't be easy. Here's what Windows Phone 7 has going for it in the battle for OS domination.
Tiles. The WP7 homescreen has a very unique look, due in large part to the decision to handle organization with live "tiles". These act as shortcuts / widgets, with the added benefit of being easier to lock together neatly. Applications will also have tiles, which allows you to control something like the flashlight directly from the app's homescreen tile.
Tighter Organization. Microsoft can be a bit of a tyrant at times, which is actually beneficial for WP7. Android is heavily fragmented, which creates cross-platform development issues for app-makers and confusion for users. IOS does not fragment at all, which limits its appeal. WP7 will be available for a wide variety of manufacturers, but Redmond is imposing much stricter controls on manufacturers.
Try Before You Buy. One of the coolest features of WP7 as a platform is the ability to download apps as a trial. App developers will have the final decision about how the trial works, but all apps will give you some way to test them out before dropping any real scratch.
Apple has tried something vaguely, but the idea that every app should have a test version is something no platform currently offers.
Xbox Integration. WP7 might be the first smartphone OS to challenge iOS in the handheld gaming arena. Xbox Live integration will bring LIVE games to your mobile. Gain achievements and update your gamer profile wherever you are. The 23 million active LIVE subscribers make this feature potentially extremely lucrative for Redmond.
The Hardware. Microsoft is coming late to the smartphone party. Their last few attempts to cash in on the craze have been embarrassing. And they know it. Which is why the first wave of WP7 smartphones look so damn good right now. The HD3 will be a 4.5" monster with the potential to sell even better than its predecessor.
All this together isn't near enough to ensure WP7's victory, or even immediate survival. That said, this is Microsoft's best stab at smartphones yet. It may still crash and burn, but if it does the fire will be glorious.
See also the 5 Reasons Windows Phone 7 might Fail.