Windows Phone 7.5 has a shot – will Microsoft take it?

Posted by Rob Enderle

A funny thing has been happening over the last several weeks. Vendors involved in building or designing Android products are now saying they would prefer to deal with Microsoft rather than Google.

Interestingly enough, the vendors had previously complained about Redmond, claiming the corporate giant was arrogant and unreseponsive.

But apparently, Google has been teaching them what arrogant and unresponsive really is. Meanwhile, the vendor marketing teams are experiencing massive withdrawal problems from Microsoft’s co-marketing dollars - which generally funded their headcount.

I’ve become convinced that Google’s behavior is actually exceeding Microsoft’s own in terms of driving interest to the Windows Phone platform - and that doesn’t happen very often.   

Now I’ve been using patched Windows Phone 7 on a Dell Venue Pro for some time now as my primary phone and I’m a fan. 

However, I’m also aware my likes and dislikes are somewhat unique and vastly different than the average Apple user, as I also like to build my own PCs and play video games. 

Windows Phone 7 Today

Windows Phone 7 is, at least for me, a better choice. It is as easy to use as the iPhone, isn’t a clone of the iOS like Android is, and boasts a fresher interface. It runs the same key applications I want to run, has optimized Office integration, and has been able to stream Netflix since day one.   

I still don’t have an Android product that will do that. True, it initially didn’t do cut-and-paste, and it still sucks at multi-tasking particularly with games which have to be reloaded if you accidently exit in the middle (though it does remember your place).  

Like an increasing number of Android phones, Windows Phone 7 devices such as my Dell use Gorilla glass - which means they are harder to break than an iPhone. Given how often I drop my phone, this is definitely a good thing.  

Also, like most Android phones but unlike the iPhone, it uses a standard micro-USB sync/charging connector which is a life saver when traveling. For example, when I was traveling last week the hotel actually had a charging cradle in the room that worked with my phone for once.  

While the old Windows 6 series phones had what was likely the most horrid browser ever put on a phone, the Windows Phone 7 browser is actually very nice and I’m using it more often. In short, I love my phone and the issues haven’t yet been enough to pull me to an Android phone or an iPhone.  

What I’d like in Windows Phone 7.5

Let’s start with a shorter name. Seriously, in what is already the longest product name in the segment they had to add two more characters? 

Clearly, no sympathy for those of us who write. Really, though, I’d like to see improved multi-tasking so I didn’t have to reload games when my fingers go too far and take me back to the home screen. On games, I’d definitely like Angry Birds. Yes, the phone has an Angry Bird clone that features birds, a canon instead of a slingshot, and bigger birds rather than pigs, but it is nowhere near as much fun. 

I also really want 4G and tethering. I’m getting tired of carrying and paying for a separate wireless modem for my PC, which is 3G as well, and I’m ready to move to a much higher speed product. However, I’ve noticed some 4G products degrade all the way back to 2.5G when 4G isn’t available, and I’d certainly like to avoid that experience. If 3G sucks, 2.5G is unlivable. 

And what about an outdoor viewable screen? Qualcomm has this wonderful technology called Mirasol which is a transflective screen that works outdoors. I have a convertible, live in California, I put the top down, and when I do I can’t see the fricken screen on any phone I’ve tried.  

Granted, I’m not supposed to be looking at it in the first place, but I at least want to know if I should pull off the road because the message is urgent and will likely end up in someone’s trunk while I try to find an elusive shadow that will let me see the screen.  On top of that, if I’m trying to navigate in the city on foot or while riding a bike I can’t see the damned GPS screen either. This would be big for me no matter who did it. 

Finally, a remote control application like Skifta I could use to control my DLNA compliant stuff would be nice. Right now I’m using an iPad and an iPod Touch and that is kind of embarrassing.   

Wrapping Up: Windows Phone 7.5

I’ll get briefed on Windows Phone 7.5 in a bit and then I won’t be able to speculate anymore but this is my wish list. The platform, particularly given Microsoft’s history here, is surprisingly good. It just needs some tweaks to make it better. If they make the right ones this thing could be a contender - particularly if a massive vendor like Nokia gets a really cool phone out into the world market.  

I also think it has a good chance of taking on Android, as folks really seemed to be pissed off at Google. Of course, Apple is another, higher bar and that’ll be a vastly more difficult task to vault.

However, one thing is clear: Microsoft is actually playing to win this time. The only question that remains is whether they actually will.