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Top Mobile Development Platform: iPhone, Windows, Android, Blackberry?: Page 3

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3. Windows Phone

Brandon Watson, the Microsoft director responsible for the developer experience of Windows Phone 7, sounded like he was going to have an aneurysm when I asserted that Microsoft has dropped the ball time and time again in the mobile channel.

“We’ve shipped millions and millions of units. We and BlackBerry have both been prominent smartphone players in the enterprise for quite some time now,” he said.

Point taken, but for a company that has a history of rolling through new tech spaces like Sherman through Atlanta, Windows Mobile’s meager success pales in comparison to Windows, Office, Explorer, Server, Xbox, etc.

As recently as September of last year, Windows Mobile accounted for 19 percent of the smartphone market, according to comScore. That number dropped to 13.2 percent in May 2010. Much of the decline can be attributed to the success of Android.

More charitably, the fact that Window Phone 7 is due out at the end of the year must also be factored in. Early reports warn that Windows Phone 7 won’t be backwards compatible with Windows Mobile, so who in their right mind would invest in Windows Mobile now?

The larger point I was making to Watson is that Windows Mobile doesn’t have the “fans” that iPhone and Android have. When Nielsen finds that only 34% of Windows Mobile users want another Windows Mobile device, that number should trouble a tech giant being challenged from seemingly everyone at once.

Microsoft understands that they do indeed have a problem. “Apple did the industry a service by pioneering the app model and codifying a way for developers to make money on mobile,” Watson said. “While we have sold millions of handsets, we also realized that we had to do a hard reset on the operating system. One thing that we at Microsoft know how to do, and do well, is build operating systems.”

Watson isn’t simply peddling Microsoft propaganda. Most of the analyst, developers and even execs from rival mobile companies that I’ve spoken with in the past few months believe that Windows Phone 7 will be a strong, competitive platform.

Microsoft will have distinct advantages in being able to integrate the smartphone seamlessly with Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint.

Windows Phone 7 isn’t due out until the end of the year, but the developer launch is already underway, and (small sample size aside), the early results are positive. There is definite enthusiasm for the platform.

“We’re putting pre-production phones – with a production-quality OS – in developers’ hands this month. Developers need tools and time to build apps, and we’re doing everything in our power to ensure that they’ll be successful when Windows Phone 7 launches,” Watson added.

Windows Phone 7 may well push Android aside in the enterprise. For now, Android is predominantly a consumer platform, although the updates have been slowly integrating enterprise features. What Android doesn’t have is the strong sales channel into the enterprise that Microsoft has.

Out of the box, Windows Phone 7 will have security features such as app sandboxing that will appeal to the enterprise. Windows Phone 7 will also having dormant capabilities that won’t be ready right away but that Microsoft is planning ahead for.

For instance, the platform is capable of handling true multitasking, but that feature will be turned off initially so as not to drain batteries. Apps running in the background kill battery life, so Microsoft will have to work with handset manufacturers to address that limitation. Expect that to be figured out a couple of updates down the road.

Windows Phone 7 will also follow the iPhone App Store model, rather than the wilder and woollier Android Marketplace one. “We believe in a curated market,” Watson said. “It gives you a better chance of trapping bad apps.”

Next Page: Blackberry


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Tags: Blackberry, iPhone, iphone apps, iPad apps, best smartphones


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