Microsoft goes up against the iPhone and Android

By now, even independent bloggers are aware of the importance of what is called their "brand." They know that a name, an image, an associated value -- all can affect how consumers see your products: hardware, software, your words, or even yourself.

Microsoft has had distinct problems in branding itself, especially to a consumer audience. (For the most recent example, see the company's weird HostingYourParty video on how to hold a Windows 7 launch party, which has all the believability of a 1950s instructional film.)

Microsoft's most recent attempt may be a bit more successful. Today, the company announced a new line of Windows phones -- mobile phones that use the latest version of what is technically Windows Mobile 6.5. The line consists of a range of different types of handsets from a variety of manufacturers and for most of the major services -- to begin with, in the U.S., the company announced two AT&T phones (the HTC Pure and HTC Tilt 2), the HTC Imagio from Verizon Wireless and the Samsung Intrepid from Sprint.

Designer edition of Windows phone

It's an interesting approach. I got a quick glimpse of the new mobile OS today, and it looked, on first glance, like a strong contender. New features include an easily navigable Today screen that uses Flash to let the user scroll quickly (via the touch display) to e-mail, text messages, the day's schedule, and other "need to know now" data. There's also a Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which will allow consumers to purchase Microsoft-approved applications with a 24-hour return policy attached. And a new free service called My Phone will allow you to back up all your data to the cloud; for $4.99, you can also find a lost phone via GPS mapping, remotely lock it or even wipe it.

Obviously, Microsoft is going lock, stock and barrel after Apple's iPhone and Google's new Android platform. Microsoft certainly has got its work cut out for it; Apple's iPhone has a strong and loyal customer base -- it's only weakness being it's attachment to AT&T -- and Android has the attraction of being new, interesting, associated with Google and, not least, open source.

I don't think we'll really know how well Microsoft -- or Google -- will succeed in their attempts to unseat Apple's iPhone until after this coming holiday season, when consumers will be choosing between them (those consumers that still have an income to purchase new mobile devices, of course).

At least, Microsoft didn't call it the mPhone.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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