Borrowing the classic Marlon Brando line from the movie "On the Waterfront," Microsoft "coulda been a contender." The problem is that Microsoft has made a number of mistakes and omissions with the highly-anticipated Windows Phone 7 platform that greatly handicap its potential success against rival platforms like iPhone and Android.
Windows Phone 7 was delayed--by a lot. Had it been rushed, it might excuse some of the issues, but the fact that Windows Phone 7 was pushed back so much implies that Microsoft wanted extra time to work on it and work out the kinks to ensure the best possible mobile platform once it was released...and this is what we got.
It may be the first release of Windows Phone 7, and perhaps we can forgive Microsoft some minor faux pas, but only to a certain extent. Even iPhone and Android have issues arise when new releases or updates to the OS are unleashed. But, Microsoft has to respect that it is launching a new mobile OS that has to compete from day one against mature smartphone platforms like iPhone and Android.
My IDG peer from InfoWorld, Galen Gruman, wrote a fairly scathing piece about Windows Phone 7--calling it a disaster of epic proportions on par with the Titanic. Its lack of copy-and-paste functionality and multitasking are glaring omissions--especially considering that Microsoft had the benefit of sitting back and watching Apple struggle to manage the fallout from leaving this same functionality out of iOS. It makes no sense to release a new smartphone platform this late in the game that lacks basic functionality the market has obviously demanded.
While Microsoft, with its dominant role in business computing as the de facto PC operating system, prominent Web browser, virtual monopoly on productivity with Microsoft Office, and leading messaging platform with Exchange, should be the standard for business smartphones, it has dropped the ball for years. The confusion over Windows Phone 7 encryption making it impossible for users to comply with ActiveSync security policies and connect with Exchange messaging is just another in a long line of major stumbling blocks.
In Video: Windows Phone 7 on the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround
Windows Phone 7 smartphones have expandable memory with SD memory card slots. However, apparently with Windows Phone 7 those SD memory cards are shackled to the smartphone and greatly limit the functionality. Never mind that it seems only certain SD memory cards will work with Windows Phone 7 in the first place.
There is a lot to like about Windows Phone 7, and Microsoft exhibited extraordinary innovation (at least for Microsoft) in developing a unique smartphone interface. It is unfortunate that the bigger story about Windows Phone 7 is what's missing and what it can't do rather than what it is capable of.
The rookie mistakes inherent in the initial release of Windows Phone 7 may mean it won't survive to see the updates that might make it a real contender.