It’s finally arrived, and it’s very impressive. Seriously. As a former Windows Mobile addict (reformed), I have to say, I wish this had happened three years ago, when my distaste for the stagnancy of the OS was at its apex. I spent entirely too much time hacking and whittling function into every device I had because I was under the delusional impression that this was how things needed to be. I jumped ship for a BlackBerry Curve, which held my attention for about six months, until I realized how pitifully anemic the OS underpinnings really were pertaining to extensibility. Then I got an iPod Touch, and well, shortly thereafter made the jump to an iPhone.
But this isn’t about what Apple did. It’s about what Microsoft didn’t do. It’s become a company fractured by success, splitting into divisions that compete and snipe at one another internally. The XBox platform is a winner, as is the Zune interface (while being a little late to the party hardware wise, despite the introduction of the really nice Zune HD). But MS’s major problem is that it is still fighting yesterday’s battle. The decision to push Bing so hard, when the search land grab is long since over is a failure to understand where the market’s moved. Its glacial pace of product announcement and release is its greatest failure in some aspects, and is reinforced by today’s decision to release the extremely well-received Windows Phone Series 7 for the “Holiday 2010” season. Which is long after Apple will likely release iPhone 4.0, and will almost certainly be after new Android updates, RIM updates, webOS updates, and a deluge of consumer-confusion with the litany of new OS choices from phone manufacturers themselves. It’s a crticial tactical error (see Palm’s release and subsequent delay of webOS for an example of lost opportunity to capitalize on interest). And I like Palm – but it’s undeniable that the wait for the original Pre hurt possible market success.
The hardware battle is over. Actually, it’s not over, but it’s becoming irrelevant. The content connectivity/ecosystem battle will determine the next phase’s winner. As long as MS continues to look behind itself for progress, it’ll always be bringing up the rear, no matter how nice the products end up looking. Microsoft, despite leading in advances like Surface, is not a company that’s comfortable with looking ahead and doing what’s next. In the extremely volatile mobile handset world, this is tantamount to failure.
But man, it really does look nice.