Observers in two related, but discrete, worlds are intensely interested in the fate of Windows Phone 7. Microsoft watchers know that this is the last, best chance the company has to stay at the very cutting edge of innovation. It always will be big and influential, but Windows Phone 7 needs to succeed for the company to stay at the top creatively.
The other group is more directly involved in the wireless game. NewsFactor posted a feature on Christmas Eve looking at the status of what the author deemed was the big four smartphones: Android, BlackBerry, Apple and Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 seems to be at the party simply because folks are so accustomed to lauding Microsoft. The story, written by Jefferson Graham, suggests that Microsoft needs to get moving. He quotes Forrester analyst Charles Golvin:
AT&T and T-Mobile offer the first Windows Phone 7 models, but Sprint and Verizon will follow with more models next year. Windows has only about 1,000 apps available for the phone. They have a lot of catch-up to do, but it's not too late.
A lot rides on Windows Phone 7. Ars Technica reports that the early word on the phone's acceptance, while not conclusive, is positive. The story says that Microsoft claims to have sold 1.5 million handsets. Writer Peter Bright points out that the number refers to the amount of handsets bought by carriers. It is unknown how many actually made it to end users. He is upbeat on the partial information, however:
Even if half those phones are sitting in storerooms or on shelves, that's still three-quarters of a million phones sold to actual customers, and for a brand new platform, that's not a bad record at all. Given the difference in sales models between iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7, exact comparisons are always a bit hard to make, but by means of comparison, Apple took 74 days to sell its first million iPhones, and T-Mobile in the US took about six months to sell one million Android-powered G1s.
Windows Phone 7 still faces challenges both with consumers and business users. Microsoft shares something with both cable operators and telcos: All face a major challenge as people move away from the product or service that made them a success. Cable subscribers suddenly have many choices for video, telcos saw their phone revenues plunge as VoIP exploded and people are buying far fewer desktop PCs.
For Microsoft, a successful Windows Phone 7, together with its other businesses, could enable the company to thrive-though the world is just too different a place for it to ever regain its former dominance.Time certainly is of the essence.