Windows Phone 7 was launched yesterday, and it has received some mixed reviews. Some are very excited about it, while others not so much. It certainly had a big launch, with 9 handsets being announced at once, half of those being from HTC, and the rest from Samsung, LG and Dell.
Besides an impressive launch, even people who don’t believe in WP7’s success, agree that the UI is quite polished, and unique. But will this and Microsoft’s money, be enough to stop Android or even slow it down? I believe it won’t be, and there are 3 main reasons why it won’t.
1. Android’s popularity will always be bigger than WP7. Why? It’s simple. Not only will it be used on more phones than WP7 because it’s free, open source and can be put on a much bigger variety of smartphones than WP7 which is quite restricted, but it will also be put on any kind of device that has a screen. From tablets and TV’s, to airplane entertainment devices, fridges, ATM’s and pretty much everything else that will require a light OS.
Why does Android being on all devices matter? It matters because you’ll see a lot more news coverage about Android in general than about WP7. This will directly boost Android’s popularity in smartphones. Why would you want a WP7 phone when everything else in your house will be powered by Android?
2. Android will be put on very cheap smartphones, as cheap as feature phones, and even cheaper than that as the technology necessary to support Android will become cheaper. Google is already pushing local manufacturers in India to make Android phones that cost $150 this year, and even $100 next year. It will be years before 1 Ghz chips can be put in $100 phones, and by then Android will be in much cheaper ones.
3. Android will keep being on the latest and the greatest pieces of hardware that come out, as soon as they come out. Because WP7 is restricted too much by Microsoft, and they have to make sure it works the same on all phones released, the release cycle of new generation WP7 phones will be longer, and the phones will always have outdated chips.
Just take a look at the launch now. All WP7 phones had the old Snapdragon CPU with the old Adreno 200 GPU. That’s inexcusable for an OS that wants to have console games ported to it. They need the best graphics performance, and they actually have the worst one in their phones. HTC is going to release Desire HD and Desire Z this month with the new generation Snapdragon that is more battery efficient, more powerful and has the Adreno 205 GPU that is 4x better than Adreno 200.
The *new* WP7 phones came out with absolute outdated chips – at least for a smartphone. They are basically mid-range phones now. It will be more obvious how outdated the chips are, 3 months from now, when Droid Terminator and other phones with Tegra 2 or other dual core chips will be on the market.
Why does having the best hardware matters? Because best hardware comes with “hero phones”. Early adopters love hero phones with the best hardware. And they are the ones to create buzz around them and evangelize them to their friends and families. They create the excitement around a product – not the mainstream. Just look at RIM with its Torch phone that had a measly 600 Mhz CPU. That alone was reason enough to lose the early adopter’s respect, and cause them to not take it seriously. What happened when RIM announced the Playbook with awesome specs? Everyone was excited about it. It was a hero product.
Someone recently said that “they come for the hardware, they stay for the apps”. Well, WP7 phones won’t have the best hardware and they will have the least apps out of all the platforms, at launch.
The simple truth is that even though Microsoft’s strategy of delivering a consistent interface with tight control over the OS across a number of devices, is the best they can do, and is similar to the Windows strategy for PC, it’s just not enough anymore. Android has the better strategy here. Being free, open source, and with very little restrictions compared to the others, will mean Android will be by default the #1 choice for most manufactures in the world.
This is just something Microsoft can’t do anything about, because their mentality is to make an OS that they have control over and for which they can charge money. The problem is when it comes to capturing the most market share, that is not a good enough strategy compared to Android’s strategy.
This is not simply Linux’s regular strategy here. The Linux never succeed in the mainstream because Windows already dominated the mainstream. Android is a totally different story. It’s Android which dominates (almost) the smartphone market right now with over 120 smartphones out there, and WP7 will have to play catch-up – if it can.