Ever since iOS and Android entered the mobile scene, it has become a starkly different landscape. Old kings (Symbian, Blackberry) were dethroned and left grasping for threads of relevance. Wars are being waged, inside the courtroom and out and alliances are being formed and broken left and right, all searching for a slice of this highly profitable mobile pie. In fact, the power play and the politics surrounding the mobile industry are so tumultuous that they resemble an episode of Game of Thrones.
The reigning rulers, Android and iOS, seem to have the kingdom firmly in their grasp, leaving little room for anyone else to swoop in and take the crown. Many have tried; such as HP, using the OS wunderkind WebOS and Nokia, with its Meego/Symbian/Qt strategy but none of them were able to grab publc interest. All this time, the brilliant minds at Redmond have been weaving their own strategy, hinging around a revolutionary re-imagination of any of their previous mobile efforts, namely Windows Phone 7. And it seems like a strong contender, but is it strong enough to shatter this deadlock between Apple and Google? Well, a lot has passed within the past two years and with a strategic partnership with one of the largest phone manufacturers in the world, Nokia, WP7 may have a chance but it has to fight a highly uphill battle. Let’s look at both sides of the argument here:
The Good News
The fact that WP7 is an attention grabbing OS is unmistakeable. It seamlessly mixes the fluidity of operation of iOS, with the glance-able information and manufacturer diversity of Android; whilst seeming new and fresh. Plus, with Nokia on board, we can rest assured of superlative hardware quality as well. Another feather in its cap would be the impending integration with Windows 8, which is bound to turn it into a high value proposition for the millions of users Windows 8 is likely to capture. Also, Blackberry is rapidly losing its feet in the enterprise market, where Microsoft can now attack pretty hard with its Exchange services and Office productivity suites on the mobile side as well, because most companies are already using Windows based enterprise services on the desktop side, and making it a coherent package with Windows Phone, would render it an irresistible proposition.
Is it a good idea?
The Bad News
Although, when seen independently, Windows Phone seems to kick righteous amounts of butt, but once compared to where iOS and Android stand, it starts to pale. Both the hardware and software are highly limited, which is making its market penetration low. On the hardware side, it is limited by low resolution screens and the lack of support for multi-core processors. Though some would say that specs just don’t matter as the experience is quite fluid, it is not completely true. The resolution cannot be driven up right now because a single core-processor would not be able to handle the additional strain, plus 1080p video capture would be completely impossible. On the software side, there just aren’t as many apps on Windows Phone, and though the marketplace is rapidly growing, the quality of third-party apps, isn’t.
Some apps still experience odd bugs like scrolling issues and a lot of popular services still refrain from making Windows Phone apps. Also, the multi-tasking is pretty wonky, where some apps completely refresh when switched back to, so true multitasking is still missing.
Upon analysing both sides of the argument, what comes to my mind is that as the situation stands, Windows Phone has a long way to go. Some people would say that the issues I addressed in the “bad news” column are being worked upon for future upgrades, but the truth of the matter is, that while they are corrected, Android and iOS will continue to surge forward and innovate.
It is like a race right now, where the two frontrunners are tied neck and neck and the one in third is 50m behind them and they’re all moving at the same speed. Windows Phone needs to accelerate rapidly to hope to catch up to iOS and Android, but as it is right now, I would recommend buyers to practice some restraint, especially because of the recent news that present Windows Phone handsets would not be upgraded to Windows Phone 8 ‘Apollo’ and being stuck on ‘Mango’ for the lifetime of your handset is not going to be a pleasant experience, especially when Android Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 5.1 are so compelling.
You can connect with Harshit Passi on Twitter @hrshtpassi