Microsoft Re-Enters The Mobile OS Game

After over two years of development, Microsoft is wiping the slate clean and introducing a new mobile Windows operating system. Microsoft has been a player in the mobile OS market for some time, but they have been getting behind in the market with their traditional mobile OS, which is largely based on their desktop Windows system. Since the release of the iPhone, Microsoft’s system has looked outdated and is often seen as lacking capability compared to the application environment and touch interface of the iPhone (and Google’s Android OS).

This is not Microsoft’s first try at a newer system. Microsoft released the Kin series of phones, that were targeted towards users of social applications, in the last year. However, these phones were coupled with expensive data plans that didn’t make sense for phones with limited internet functionality, and they were a failure. The new Windows Phone 7 platform will expand those capabilities to a level comparable with the Android and iPhone OS.

Microsoft looks to be integrating two features that they hope will differentiate their phones and increase their visibility in this increasing competitive marketplace. One feature continues along the path that the Kin phones started. The phones will integrate different social and communication services into the homepage of the phone. Further, users will be able to customize these pages to best suit their needs. A second strategy involves integration with some of Microsoft’s other platforms including their Zune audio/video content, and their Xbox online gaming system. The phone will allow individuals to connect with content and games that they use on other devices.

The greatest challenge will likely be for Microsoft to gain a developer community quickly, so that potential users see the usefulness of the new system. One of the problems with Microsoft’s previous mobile OS was that it had been installed on a wide range of hardware devices. This made it very difficult for developers to reach a large audience with a single program. With the new system, Microsoft is trying to push for more hardware standardization by making hardware manufacturers (which include LG, Samsung, HTC and Dell) use a semi-standard device setup and by making them pass hardware quality tests. They are also partnering with larger developers to create an initial set of high-quality applications that will be available for all of the initial devices. However, it may be difficult for Microsoft to attract the thousands of smaller developers that now create applications for the iPhone and Android OS. Many of these developers have already committed significant amounts of time to learning the intricacies of these other systems, and they may not be initially attracted to the new Microsoft platform. However, if Microsoft is able to attract key larger developers and get organizations to adopt this new system, the small developers will likely eventually follow.