December 10th, 2010

The Web and Windows Phone 7

Will Windows Phone 7 Save Microsoft’s Mobile Strategy?

Microsoft has been desperately trailing in the mobile marketplace, behind every other major mobile OS. Is WP7 the game changer Microsoft hopes?

While every other smartphone OS manufacturer has steadily forged ahead, under Windows Mobile 6 and 6.5, Microsoft lost significant ground and fell into last place in the marketplace – trailing Nokia, Blackberry, Google Android and Apple iOS. Microsoft naturally hopes that Windows Phone 7 will revitalize their mobile market share. This article will look specifically at Windows Phone 7 as a web and internet device – how does it stack up? Will it be enough to save Microsoft?

Windows Phone 7 Web Browsing: Mixed

WP7 defaults to Internet Explorer 7 Mobile (IE7M) for web browsing. The browser is built on old IE7 source code rather than more modern technologies. Surprisingly, though, the phone seems to hold its own against the Nexus One and the iPhone – with a major caveat.

Pro

PocketNow.com performed a preliminary speed comparison (1 – the video is posted below). They found that WP7 held its own. Additionally, IE7M comes with some solid features: up to 6 tabs, smooth pinch-to-zoom, Microsoft Silverlight (Microsoft’s less popular rival to Adobe Flash).

Con

However, IE7M does not yet support Adobe Flash or HTML5, which means an enormous – and growing – chunk of the web is unavailable to the phone. Additionally, in that speed test mentioned above: merely holding its own against phones with greater market penetration is simply not enough. True, WP7 bests Windows Mobile 6.5, but WP7 isn’t competing against an earlier version of itself in the marketplace.

The fact that IE7M is based on old, proprietary source code has another negative implication. Web developers favor more efficient and more open standards that return higher value for their efforts. WP7 still forces developers to learn/use isolated programming paradigms with limited applicability – which serves as a disincentive to work in the mobile Windows ecosystem.

However, Microsoft has already announced it is working with Adobe to integrate Flash compatibility. (2) It’s also clear that HTML5 figures into their long-range plan – they posted a position for a development engineer to work in HTML5 in Windows Phone – but it’s unclear whether that’s for WP7 or the eventual WP8. (3)

Windows Phone 7 As An Internet Device: Also Mixed

In modern phones, of course, the web browser is only one channel through which users interact with the Internet. Most phones include built-in connectivity as well, like searching, email and social networks.

Pro

In this regard, WP7 has succeeded. Built-in Facebook support appears to be stellar.

Once you sign in to Facebook, the software will automatically link entries in your address book with their corresponding Facebook profiles. Windows Phone 7 takes things a step farther by linking its “Pictures” hub to Facebook also, allowing you to access pictures your friends have posted on the social network and view all the galleries you have uploaded to it. (4)

WP7 is also gaming to integrate with Xbox Live.

With a free download, you can enable all sorts of Xbox Live features on your Windows Phone. You can see what your XBL friends are doing on their phones, PC or consoles, and even message them via XBL text messages. You can also brag about your achievements to anyone on your Friends list. (5)

Eventually, this integration will enable users to play multiplayer games and use the phone with their Xbox 360. This is a bonus none of the other phone manufacturers can offer. The iPhone has become a successful gaming platform on its own merits, but the majority of its games tend to be casual. For more serious gamers – a growing demographic – Xbox Live integration could make a significant difference.

Con

But WP7 falls down in integrating other services and social networks. Users can only connect to LinkedIn via Windows Live (requiring an account). Twitter just released an app for Windows Phone, but unlike Facebook, it is not built into the phone. (6)

Conclusion

At least one analyst thinks Microsoft’s mobile platform is doomed to failure. Trip Chowdry at Global Equities Research says, “Windows Mobile 7 misses the basics of an OS. It lacks support for HTML5, Cut & Paste and Multi-tasking.” (7) In other words, what WP7 offers is necessary but not sufficient.

Still, WP7 offers enough improvements – particularly its innovative Xbox Live integration – that the platform will likely survive. But take control of the market? That’s in the hands of consumers.

What do you think about Windows Phone 7? Let us know in the comments.


Appendix: PocketNow.com Web Browser Comparison

Includes video:

REFERENCES

(1) Brandon Miniman, “Exclusive: Windows Phone 7 Web Browser Comparison,” 23 August 2010, http://pocketnow.com/windows-phone/exclusive-windows-phone-7-web-browser-comparison (retrieved 27 October 2010)
(2) Simon Chester, “Video: Windows Phone 7 web browser vs. iPhone 4 vs. Nexus One,” 24 August 2010, http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2010/08/24/video-windows-phone-7-web-browser-vs-iphone-4-and-nexus-one/ (retrieved 27 October 2010)
(3) Surur, “Good news – HTML5 coming to Windows Phone IE Mobile after all,” 8 October 2010, http://wmpoweruser.com/good-news-html5-coming-to-windows-phone-ie-mobile-after-all/ (retrieved 27 October 2010)
(4) Troy Wolverton, “Windows Phone 7 a good start, but still needs some work,” 21 October 2010, http://www.mercurynews.com/troy-wolverton (retrieved 27 October 2010)
(5) Will, “Review: Windows Phone 7 – WP7 is sexy, but is it good enough to compete?” 21 October 2010, http://www.intomobile.com/2010/10/21/review-windows-phone-7-microsoft-wp7/ (retrieved 27 October 2010)
(6) “Twitter for Windows Phone: Pivot Power,” 28 October 2010, http://blog.twitter.com/2010/10/twitter-for-windows-phone-pivot-power.html (retrieved 27 October 2010)
(7) “Analyst: Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Will Fail,” 28 September 2010, http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/66289/20100928/motorola-microsoft-windows-mobile-windows-mobile-7-os-smartphone-webkit-html-5-ie7-browser-google-ap.htm (retrieved 28 October 2010)

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Smartphone_share_current.png

  • Anonymous

    I seriously doubt that Windows Phone 7 would make waves over time. I guess I’m joining that analyst who said that WP7 would be doomed to failure. I’m not really holding my breath on it too.

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