Microsoft’s Windows Phone won’t hit the shelves until next month, but the OS is already drawing accolades. Kevin pointedly noted that the platform illustrates why Nokia and Research In Motion should consider dumping Symbian and BlackBerry OS (respectively) and starting with a fresh OS. Onlookers, meanwhile, are already claiming that Windows Phone is strong enough to challenge the two dominant operating systems in wireless, Android and iOS.
So if Windows Phone is a massive success, who will win and who will lose? Here are a few suggestions:
Research In Motion. RIM is already seeing its once-dominant hold on the enterprise slip, and BlackBerry 6.0 has failed to live up to claims of being “a quantum leap” over newer, more advanced mobile operating systems. If the new OS is business-worthy, it could replace BlackBerry as the platform of choice in the enterprise. Yes, QNX could eventually play the role of RIM’s redeemer, but Windows Phone may gain a substantial following in the corporate world before BlackBerry’s replacement OS finally comes to market in smartphones.
Android. There’s no denying the astounding momentum of Google’s mobile OS, but its rapid growth and open-source nature have given rise to well-documented fragmentation problems. Microsoft has wisely required its hardware partners to stick to a single program by mandating specific features (such as three hardware buttons) and is assuming the role of quality assurance enforcer for all supporting handsets coming to market. While that surely is a pain for manufacturers of Windows Phone devices, it will help avoid the headaches that will increasingly plague Android as its footprint grows.
Hewlett-Packard. The manufacturer made headlines earlier this year with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm and its webOS, which has garnered rave reviews but failed to find much of an audience. HP says it is preparing to release new webOS phones early next year, but the clock is ticking and the dance floor just got more crowded. If Windows Phone takes off out of the starting gate, it would be a devastating blow for a platform that was at the center of HP’s acquisition.
Motorola. Microsoft has lined up manufacturing partners HTC, LG and Samsung. Even Sony Ericsson — which has made many missteps as the smartphone era evolved — appears to be making Windows Phone a priority. But Motorola dropped Windows Mobile altogether last year in favor of Android, and that move has resulted in a recent patent-infringement suit from — you guessed it — Microsoft. Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said the company is still “open to finding ways to work with Microsoft,” but Microsoft seems none too pleased with the manufacturer’s move to back Android in such a big way. So don’t expect a Motorola-made Windows Phone phone anytime soon.
T-Mobile USA. T-Mo has done a fair job of shoring up its smartphone lineup, but it has yet to enjoy a hit on the scale of, say, Verizon’s Droid from Motorola. Microsoft’s name alone ensures Windows Phone will enjoy a high-profile launch — look at how much attention the OS is getting already — and Redmond has the bankroll to put some marketing muscle behind its new mobile flagship. The carrier should help itself by investing some advertising dollars to tie its name to Windows Phone, but simply being part of the launch will be a huge boost if the platform takes off.