Bits of evidence are flowing in suggesting whether or not Windows Phone 7 will enable Microsoft to become a more meaningful player in the smartphone game.
The jury still is out. It's clear, at this point, that the operating system isn't a failure. The deal with Nokia announced in February was one bit of good news for the operating system. At least some analysts see a bright future. Enterprise Mobility Today reports that the most recent IDC Phone Tracker says that Windows Phone 7 will boost the Microsoft entrant more than 20 percentage points-from 5.5 percent this year to 20.9 percent in 2015-and into second place.
That's the future. Meaningful numbers are starting to trickle in about the present. The success or failure of a smartphone has a lot to do with the size of its ecosystem -- outside entities working for its success-and the number of apps that it offers. Last week, Microsoft reported that 36,000 people-developers, mostly-and companies are working on Windows Phone 7. About 1,200 are joining each week. 3G.co.uk added that Windows Marketplace has 11,500 apps, with about 4,000 of those free.
It's difficult to take a number out of context and say whether it is impressive or not. This Seattle Post Intelligence blog written by Nick Evans suggests that the 11,500 figure indeed is. The post includes laudatory comments in an email from IDC analyst Al Hilwa. Evans points to somewhat disparaging things written at the Microsoft Developers blog about how Apple arrives at its far more imposing numbers. Watson says Apple is very liberal in computing its numbers, which makes Windows Phone 7 numbers look better by comparison.
PCWorld blogger Jared Newman doesn't put much stock in measures of available apps. He doesn't know if the phone is selling or not, but thinks it may not be. Far more important to him is the nature of the phone itself. The lack of multitasking, HTML5 support, copy-and-paste capabilities and a carriage deal with Verizon are far more important to him. Writes Newman:
Windows Phone 7 hardware has also been unimpressive so far. Most handsets don't have front-facing cameras. None have dual-core processors. Most lack expandable storage, which wouldn't be an issue if they included more than 8 GB or 16 GB of on-board storage. Every time an Android phone pushes the hardware envelope, Windows Phone 7 falls further behind.
Some of those issues are being addressed. Microsoft is readying the next version of the phone. Codenamed "Mango," it will have several new features, according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley's report on comments by Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Program Management.
Microsoft, in a way, is all about drama. In this case, the tension is whether Windows Phone 7 can keep it relevant. The signs about five months after its launch appear to mixed. The sense is, however, that things are moving in the right direction.