Windows Phone 7's gaming should make it sell, but is it?

Posted by Mike Luttrell

It's a number that is lukewarm at best for Microsoft's much-anticipated new mobile platform. According to reports, the company sold 40,000 units in launch sales. That spans the handful of devices and two mobile carriers that put Windows Phone 7 phones in stock this week.

If this is the way the operating system is going to sell through in the US, it will be a very long fight for Microsoft.

Don't expect Windows Phone 7 to completely crash and burn. Microsoft is fully invested into trying to make it succeed. It does have the arm to make it happen, but it's not a sure thing by any measure. The one thing that really differentiates Phone 7 from Android and the iPhone is its gaming connectivity. By integrating with Xbox Live, there's a value proposition there than no one else can offer. And it sure seems like the right time to have a powerful gaming platform, thanks to the iPhone.

However, even though the iPhone is generating lots of gaming revenue, it's largely just from 99-cent games. Whether or not people want a sophisticated game phone is still anyone's guess. And if all anyone wants are casual mobile games, there's nothing attractive about Windows Phone 7 in that regard.

Okay, so there's more to Windows Phone 7 than games, but really how much of it is new? Social feeds, one-screen display of all important info, etc. There are already interface options for Android that do pretty much the same thing. The powerful hardware is also attractive, but, again, it's nothing extraordinary beyond what the established smartphone platforms already provide.

This isn't another Kin story. That briefly-lived Microsoft mobile platform was doomed from the beginning due to an unclear marketing message and inferior technical specs. Windows Phone 7 has meat behind it. There are strong bones there. However, consumers need to ask the question, what's different about it that will make me not go with the hugely-positively reputable Android or iPhone? The only thing we can really point to is its connectivity to Xbox Live, and its promise as a solid mobile gaming platform. After all, gamer publications have been talking about it for months, and publishers have been eager to get their hands dirty with it.

That's the message that needs to sink in. People can already download Windows Live Messenger clients for their phones, and every third-party integration Microsoft is pulling is something that other players have already done. Xbox is the one thing that makes it stand out, and there's a huge Xbox population. If Windows Phone 7 can attract that base audience, then it has a chance of gaining market share and getting more attention from everyone else.