Pardon the baseball metaphor but it seemed appropriate: the impending debut of Windows Phones (Windows Mobile 7) is a very high stakes moment for Microsoft, especially in the wake of Kin’s recent failure. Redmond is now poised to spend a great deal of money to promote the new mobile OS in a highly competitive environment with little guarantee of success.
If consumers and enterprises “take” to it Microsoft will be back in the mobile game. If not Microsoft may be shut out of a critical market (smartphones) for at least the foreseeable future. That would then probably require some hard-to-imagine radical moves — because within the next decade (or sooner) more Internet access will happen on mobile devices than on PCs.
The fate of Windows Phones and Bing’s future are not necessarily inextricably linked. Bing has diversified beyond Windows Mobile and can succeed potentially even if Windows Phones fail. But it needs to succeed on its own merits rather than count on default search deals like the one with Verizon (which has seen some user backlash).
So far it the forthcoming Windows Phone OS, which will debut on multiple handsets, has received one generally positive, if mixed early review. My hunch is that this will be the tone of other reviews to come.
I would like to see Microsoft succeed and offer a competitive OS and user experience. A more competitive market is good for consumers and accelerates product development across the board. Witness the iPhone’s (and later Android’s) impact on the smartphone market. A formerly sleepy segment became, in the course of two years, the hottest part of the handset market and essentially gave birth to the mobile internet.
A recent smartphone forecast from Gartner, however, assumes that Microsoft will not make any gains in the smartphone segment and will see further diminishing share: