Microsoft will debut three new smartphones that carry its revamped Windows Phone 7 operating system on Oct. 11, offering them on wireless carrier AT&T a month later, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Samsung, HTC, and LG will manufacture the handsets, but so far there has only been speculation on what the phones will offer and look like. What we do know is that Microsoft has to make up a lot of ground if it expects to gain market share in an Apple, Android, and BlackBerry dominated world.
Many tech industry observers say Microsoft has to get everything right in this launch, especially after its recent Kin debacle--or be shut out of the mobile industry for good.
So far, here are five signs that the tech giant could fail.
1. The Long Wait
It's been about a year since Microsoft Windows 6.5 came out as a placeholder for Windows Phone 7, and perhaps Microsoft wanted to wait that long to rid everyone of its bad reviews. Or maybe its development team was just dragging its feet. Either way, it's been a long time to wait for a new operating system and a new product, especially when the competition has been ferociously jockeying for position. Unlike Apple, Microsoft hasn't the finesse to court the media or leak interesting tidbits or photos, so the Windows Phone 7 has been a relative mystery to the general public.
2. The $500 Million Question
Spending $500 million on advertising and marketing a product doesn't necessarily mean Windows Phone 7 is dead in the water, but it can be. Microsoft also spent around the same on its Xbox and Windows XP, both unmitigated successes. However, Microsoft also spent $500 million marketing Windows Vista, deemed to be a failure.
This isn't all AT&T bashing, because after all, its wireless service may be improving, but Microsoft fumbled when it only allowed Windows Phone 7 on a single carrier. Users want choices, including not being tied to a single provider they may have mixed feelings about.
4. No Tethering
While I think this is a small negative, others believe tethering is a must on a smartphone. Since iPhones, Android phones and BlackBerry already allow it, Windows Phone 7 will already be at a disadvantage.
5. The App Situation
We already know that Microsoft was putting out the call for developers--including offering cash incentives to bank thousands of apps for the Windows Phone 7 launch to compete with the hundreds of thousands available for Apple and Android. So far, we know there's no porn, but we have no idea what else is available and what caliber of apps awaits Windows Phone 7 customers.
It would be great if Windows Phone 7 could be successful, because consumers and business owners deserve a larger mobile phone market. Increased competition often keeps prices down and innovation up.
Microsoft already corners the market on office software, so it would make sense if its phone also was successful. But Microsoft is coming into a challenging market from a less than positive past, and it needs to be a vanguard in a tech field that it has never fully embraced. I'm not sure I would place money on Microsoft succeeding.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.
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