Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Phone Wars 2010

The Microsoft Windows Phone 7 was released this week with the first units actually being delivered early next month. Only a few phone companies will offer the WP7. Verizon and AT&T are not among the first adopters. There is also a report that Verizon will begin offering IPhones in 2011.

So what does this mean to me? Nothing. Ask me again in a couple of years when my current plan expires.

I suspect that the majority of the smart phone users are like me. I recently upgraded to a Droid Incredible. The WP7 would seem like a downgrade since there are so few apps for it. The IPhone might have been a bigger deal if Apple was offering it through Verizon last Summer but Steve Jobs is so heavy-handed about managing his phones that this was enough to make me prefer a Droid, regardless.

Apple has a good thing with its AT&T contract. They actually get a cut out of everyone's monthly phone bill. In exchange for this, only AT&T could sell IPhones. That gave the rest of the market an incentive to come up with an alternative and some breathing room for it to mature. The IPhone is supposed to have a slicker interface but a lot of the features of the most recent IOS were there to catch up to Android. Then there are the problems with the antenna and the glass back. When Verizon finally does start carrying IPhones they will be just one in an assortment of smart phones.

Microsoft may have missed the boat completely. By all accounts, their new phone is solid and has a unique interface. It is still missing several features like multi-tasking and cut and paste. I just used both of these to copy a phone number from an email to a contact.

There has been a lot of talk about how fractured the Android market is. There is no standard phone so developers must write for a variety of screen sizes and allow for touchscreen and hardware keyboard. By contrast, there is only one IPhone model per year and Microsoft has very strict requirements. This actually gives Android an advantage. Not everyone wants the same phone. The huge screen of the Droid X may appeal to some but I wanted a smaller phone. Android also allows the carriers to add branded content. Some of this is junk but it offsets the price of the phone.

The phone market has a very real chance of replaying the early 1980s PC market. Then, as now, Apple made their own computers with little variation. You could be certain that anything would run on any of their computers. Regardless, the PC was more open and quickly left Apple behind. Ironically, this time around Microsoft looks more like Apple.

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