Microsoft’s new phone OS met with cautious approval

Microsoft’s new operating system for mobile devices was met with a broadly positive reception from analysts when it was unveiled yesterday.

Windows Phone 7 represents Microsoft’s latest bid to crack the smartphone software market. The company built it from scratch over the last two years, and will gradually discontinue its previous system, Windows Mobile.

The system is designed for devices with touch screens, now the dominant form factor in the smartphone market. It features a new user interface design called Tiles, which separates the various functions into individual squares on the screen.

The OS has been received as Microsoft’s best attempt yet. “Microsoft is finally well equipped to be a key market player,” remarked Saverio Romeo, mobile communications analyst Frost & Sullivan.

However, it is still uncertain whether the software giant will be able to make up for lost time. “There is also a lot of work to do to make up for almost two years of uncertainty,” Romeo added.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi made similar remarks. “Do I think that this is a marked improvement over previous versions of the OS? Absolutely,” she wrote yesterday. “Do I think that it will have a positive impact on sales this year and next year? Yes, I do. Do I believe that Microsoft has done enough to establish itself as a key OS in 5 years time? I am not sure.”

To accompany the operating system, Microsoft has launched a new version of its Marketplace application store, the equivalent of Applie’s AppStore. Users will only be able to purchase applications through Marketplace.

Developers will be able to build applications for Windows Phone 7 using either Silverlight, Microsoft’s equivalent to Adobe’s Flash runtime environment, or the mobile version of the .NET framework.

Windows Phone 7’s advantage in the business smartphone market will be its integration with Microsoft products such as email server Exchange, document management system Sharepoint and the Office desktop applications range.

Certain questions remain about how Windows Phone 7 will operate in a business environment, however, such as how mobile applications can be managed by a corporate IT department.

So far, Microsoft has focused on marketing the new operating system to consumers. But given the typical adoption path for smartphones in the workplace, wherein employees start using their personal devices for work purposes, this may also be its approach to cornering the business market.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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