Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Microsoft enters the Smartphone market

There was much speculation as to whether Microsoft would make the leap into the smartphone market. It’s a market already dominated by huge name brands such as Apple with its iPhone, and Google with Android. However, as of October 21 2010, Microsoft have entered the smartphone market with the release of the Windows Phone 7, which was launched in Europe and Australasia.

Coming so late to the market represents a great risk for Microsoft. With two huge brands in the guise of Apple and Google already firmly established, it’s not going to be easy to squeeze market share. Perhaps its saving grace is the fact that Microsoft is also a huge brand in its own right, just not in the smartphone market. However, entering the smartphone market also represents a great opportunity. Microsoft will have to work very hard if it wants to become the third major player. To do that it will have to leapfrog HP with its Palm Pre and Blackberry.

It’s also refreshing to note that Microsoft haven’t simply copied Apple and Google with its user-interface, but instead have developed something completely different.

As should be fairly obvious, to be successful in the smartphone market isn’t entirely about just the phones. To be successful you need to have lots of great, cool apps! You also need social media integration so users can keep up to date with their friends on Twitter, Facebook and so on. So the challenge for Microsoft is to have a simple user-interface so that users can navigate their way around their smartphone applications, and a feature rich / well documented API (Applications Programming Interface) to allow developers to write all their cool applications for it.

The Windows Phone 7 application development will be based on Silverlight, Xbox New Architecture (XNA) and the .NET Compact Framework 4.0. These are all technologies that will be familiar to a Microsoft based developer.

It will also use Microsoft technologies such as Bing for its web searching, and have gaming integration with Xbox.

It will be critical for the success of the Windows Phone 7 that it comes with a multitude of applications at launch, and with many more scheduled to come soon after. The quality of those applications needs to be fantastically high, given the massive head start of the competition. It has a lot of catching up to do if it seriously wants to challenge Apple and Google, or rather leapfrog HP and Blackberry. Those applications need to be cheap (preferably free), stable, simple to use and brought to the market as soon as possible (but without breaking the stability already mentioned).

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft fares in such a highly competitive and well dominated market. The coming months should reveal if the decision to move into such a market was the right one or not.

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