Windows Mobile was once the leader in the smartphone operating system space. Over the last few years it has lost significant market share to competitor devices like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android phones, which have grown rapidly due to user demand and developer community support. According to a recent comScore report, RIM is still the most popular mobile smartphone platform in the U.S. with 42.1 percent share of U.S. smartphone subscribers, Apple ranked second with 25.4 percent share followed by Microsoft at 15.1 percent, Google at 9.0 percent and recently acquired Palm (purchased by HP) at 5.4 percent. While the iPhone continues to set new standards and maintain a healthy lead in the market share, Google’s Android platform is making rapid gains in the market.
With Windows Phone 7 (WP7), Microsoft is trying to re-capture its market share in the mobile world. Its competitors have made great strides in offering outstanding user interfaces with great features and applications that have seen broad user adoption. Microsoft has acknowledged the importance of end user demand and is focusing on their user experience by creating a new user interface which focuses on information and applications that are most important to users. This ‘hub’ based user interface gives a fresh look to the design and is a key differentiator from the other smartphone OSes on the market. ‘Live tiles’ which are dynamically updated provide summarized information people are concerned most about and act as the entry points to the various hubs. The mobile version of IE on WP7 offers a significantly improved browsing experience and like most other smartphones supports multi-touch with pinch and zoom capabilities for ease of browser usability. With additional emphasis placed on social networking, music and gaming, WP7 promises to bring new competition to the top players in the smartphone market by creating a device with the look, feel and features users demand.
The next key driver in the success of smartphones is the variety of high quality third party applications easily available via an online market place. In addition to end user demand, attracting the developer community to develop apps for a device platform is crucial for success. Apple leads the application market with more than 100,000 apps (approved by Apple) in the App Store for iPhone and Google is catching up fast with over 20,000 apps in the Android Market. Microsoft will also provide its own marketplace for ISVs and third party developers to create applications. The platforms for third party applications are Silverlight and XNA that are based on .NET framework, potentially giving Microsoft an edge over its competitors considering that .NET already has a large developer base. Silverlight and XNA are rich modern frameworks that allow developers to easily and rapidly develop compelling applications and games. All the developer tools are available at no cost so developers can download, install and build a rich application in just a few minutes – this gives Microsoft a great opportunity to attract third party application developers. To date, several posts in the blogosphere indicate a positive feedback from the ISV community and third party developers, which are good signs for Microsoft.
Clearly user-friendly OS, plenty of phone applications, and a renewed focus on the consumer market are Microsoft’s top priorities with WP7. It will be interesting to see what enterprise features will be available on WP7 and how traditional corporate customers will view the platform. Microsoft is counting on WP7 to be successful and help win back share in the mobile market.
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