Windows Phone 7 to launch Monday amid crowded smartphone market

Success of new mobile OS considered vital to Microsoft (see video, below)

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How can WP7 compete with Android and Apple?

The biggest concern for WP7 has a lot to do with marketing and convincing buyers that it can be distinctly different from the iPhone or Android devices, Llamas said.

Most of the preview videos of the interface show that WP7 is cleaner than the confusing interface of the Kin, but buyers will also note that WP7 offers a touch screen of about the same size as an iPhone's, with a virtual keyboard that could well be an iPhone's.

The hubs-and-tiles concept could resonate well as a way of presenting access to pertinent information right from the home screen, analysts have noted. (The tiles are actually running with real-time information on a home screen, without the need to open a full application, for example.)

Llamas also said that Microsoft will benefit from having an installed corporate base for the Windows desktop and Windows Mobile, and from the fact that WP7 will allow access to corporate e-mail through Exchange and a variety of security protections.

Still, there appear to be many things about WP7 that make it similar to other smartphones. "How is WP7 differentiated from Apple and Android and BlackBerry?" Llamas asked. "What space is Microsoft carving out? That is the multibillion-dollar question for Microsoft."

What are WP7's chances of success?

Today, the Windows Mobile OS gives Microsoft a 6.8% share of the global market for smartphones, a share that IDC expects will rise to 9.8% by the end of 2014 with WP7 and future generations.

That will put Microsoft in fifth place in 2014, which might sound unimpressive except that smartphones sold by all vendors will double in number, exceeding more than 500 million in four years, Llamas said. Gartner has been more pessimistic about Windows Phone's success, saying it will command only 3.9% of the market by 2014.

"What will constitute success for WP7?" Llamas asked. "Would it be a million sold in three days like Apple? No. Will WP7 turn heads? Yes, I think so. But this is not going to be an overnight sensation. It will take a lot of seeding and grooming by Microsoft, so look for them to do a very convincing marketing campaign. Marketing really matters at this point."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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