At an event in New York today, Microsoft kicked off their Windows 7 Phone assault on Apple, RIM, and the Google Android syndicate. Judging by today's event, and the gorgeous Windows 7 phones on display here from AT&T, it's clear that Microsoft has all the right weaponry.
For starters, Microsoft has made it relatively easy to build an app for Windows 7 Phone, says Darren Cross, head of business development at Fandango. This is something Windows 7 Phone has borrowed from the Xbox, which has famously pro-active developer support for game-makers; Microsoft even holds events for game devs to gather and learn new stuff from Microsoft hands-on. ("They're there just as much as you want them to be," says Fandango's PR director, Harry Medved.)
"Windows 7 development is more like the iPhone than Blackberry or Android," says Cross. The iOS, he explains, only has two form-factors (the iPad and the iPod/iPhone) and one OS to support. By contrast, there are a half-dozen different versions of Blackberry OS and Android out there, and devices for those platforms exist in all kinds of screen sizes and hardware profiles. This makes optimizing an app much more time consuming.
Microsoft has saved developers headaches by creating some loose standards for Windows 7 Phone devices: the screens can only be one of a few sizes, usually around 4 inches, and hardware spec is controlled. All of the devices announced today, for example, have 1GHz chips.
Microsoft is touting two things with Windows 7 Phone. One selling point: its large-text display and easy-to-view UI. Indeed, you can hold a Windows 7 device at arm's length with no trouble reading text. In the home screen, notifications and apps flow top to bottom. Inside an app, you toggle information by swiping left to right. It's clean and logical. (The Windows key at the bottom of the device brings you back to the home screen.)
Microsoft's second big push is connectivity with other Windows 7 devices like PCs, Xboxes, and Windows 7 televisions. "Apple really has not had a 'Trojan Horse' into the living room," says analyst Ross Rubin of NPD Group. "Microsoft, by comparison, has had two: the Xbox and the [AT&T] U-verse box." That gives Microsoft a "stronger position in the living room," says Rubin.
NPD hasn't released any sales projections for Windows 7 Phone devices, says Rubin, but some new numbers are coming that might shed some light on Microsoft's likelihood of success.