Last week I gave you five reasons Windows Phone 7 might rock your socks off. Today, I'm pleased to present you with five reasons it probably won't. Microsoft is throwing a lot behind WP7, but as we saw with the Kin millions of dollars and talented developers do not guarantee a success.
So what's holding WP7 back from greatness? A few things...
Track record. Windows Mobile held a respectable chunk of smartphone platform share, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any true WM aficionados. 6.5 was anemic at best, and the aforementioned Kin hasn't done anything to buoy my confidence in Redmond's knowledge of what smartphone users want.
Let's not forget that a large part of the reason for the Kin's failure was due to Microsoft's leadership. Project Pink (the Kin prelude) was horrifically mismanaged, and there's no reason to believe the people involved with that debacle won't have a hand in WP7.
Follow-Through. I bought a G1 when it first launched, so I can say with some authority that Android was NOT awesome when it hit the streets. There was promise, but it was hidden behind a lot of rough spots and holes. Certainly, no rational person could say the original Android had a superior UI to iOS at the time.
But Google kept on polishing and working and listening to feedback, and now Android kicks ten kinds of ass. Microsoft needs to be ready to spend a lot of time, years possibly, molding WP7 and building a loyal user-base and figuring out their place in the market. Their quick retreat from the Kin does not give me confidence that they will be in for the long haul.
Microsoft has a lot to learn here, and I'm not sure WP7 is anything but an attempt to "take the easy way" out by launching an OS that LOOKS slick and modern without doing any of the nitty-gritty work necessary to ensure it actually functions like a next-gen OS.
A Crowded Market. RIM, Apple and Google have the US smartphone market pretty well parceled out. In order to be a success, WP7 is going to need to attack at least one of these players in a big way. RIM is the most likely choice, due to their current weakness. But Android is already fast at work cannibalizing the BlackBerry's market share.
Honestly, the idea of WP7 acting as any sort of threat to iOS or Android out of the gate is ridiculous. Even if WP7 succeeds, it won't start leeching share from the Big Two for a year or more. Android's only just started to drink Apple's milkshake in the last few months.
People love RIM because they make great business phones. People love Apple because they make hip gadgets you develop an emotional connection to. People love Google because they give us options and tons of free stuff. But Microsoft? People don't love Microsoft. They tolerate Microsoft products because they are usually the standard.
Apps. Microsoft has made a lot of noise about how dev friendly WP7 will be. Apps are a crucial part of the smartphone ecosystem and any OS with hopes of competing with Android and Apple must be able to do battle with the App Store and the App Market.
Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn't shown any real ability to sway developers en masse. WP7 doesn't offer (and won't for a while) the sheer numbers and easy monetization that iOS does. It also can't compete with Android for sheer open-ness. At this point, Microsoft's claims of WP7 app-awesomeness boil down to "if we make nice with enough developers they will build us as many apps as Apple."
WP7: The Worst of Both Worlds. The smart way to build a new mobile platform would be to look at the holes of both iOS and Android and try to patch them. If you can do something better than anyone else, you've got the beginnings of a marketing campaign.
When it first hit, Android didn't have a smooth UI or an awesome app store or a huge number of deals with content makers. But it did have multitasking and microSD support, things the iPhone lacked entirely. And it was open, which spurred rapid adoption by a variety of OEMs and acted as "free" (to Google) advertising.
WP7 won't be as open as Android. It'll cost OEMs more to use, which will slow market share accumulation. It will also lack multitasking and microSD support, which pretty much eliminates its ability to draw in Android users. Apple users are extremely loyal.
All this leaves WP7 in a very tough spot. It will be launching at a time when bad memories of WinMo 6.5 and the Kin are still fresh in consumer minds. It won't be as polished as either iOS or Android and it won't be able to offer a viable app competitor until a fair chunk of time has passed.
Adoption of new app developers and by new OEMS will be slowed by the relatively closed ecosystem, while WP7's shortcomings will essentially kill its ability to fight against Android. This leaves Microsoft's new OS going up against RIM for market share...at a time when Android is already doing its best to devour that monster whole.
Windows Phone 7 isn't without hope, but Redmond has a long way to go before they prove that this will be anything more than the latest in a long line of disappointments.