consumer experience, mobile applications, technologies

Look out the Windows (is coming)

Look out the WindowsMicrosoft Windows 7 was launched on Monday with a well-coordinated fanfare. Early signs are impressive but it’s banking as much on the mysterious allure of it being ‘Something Else’ for consumers, as it is on any fine detail around the new Operating System. It’s this same Something Else factor which HTC’s Android devices have effectively traded on until now, helped along by the Quietly Brilliant tag.

When customers in stores turn their noses up at iPhones merely for being samey, or being bored, the alternative option placed under those upturned noses has often been an HTC, through which the customer can be assured to spend a comparable amount, yet have a sense of difference.

Now there’s a new kid in town.

Some say it’s too late to catch Apple, RIM, Symbian (still way out in front) and Android, but they can’t fault Microsoft’s effort.

This week’s launch of the Windows Phone 7 OS has seen 60 global operators climb aboard, together with four OEMs announcing devices and a rumoured marketing budget of £250m.

Few customers buy mobiles because of an operating system, so much onus is on the devices themselves, and the operator tariffs. From there, user experience, reputation and word-of-mouth buzz will decide if it flourishes.

This is a natural step which Microsoft was obliged to take, although it always faced a major catch-up scenario given the lost ground. Media’s future will be inextricably linked to data, the internet, TV, games and music: and moreover, the ability to access all of this whilst on the go.

It’s important for Microsoft to make this work, and the early signs are encouraging. The press reception of devices, the OS and its applications available all appear to be positive. Indeed in an Apple-jaded world, there’s virtue to be claimed in the plain newness of repackaging regular Facebook, email, text message and mobile application experiences. This, combined with an interface boasting arrestingly slick looks, is certainly pushing buttons. (Or tapping icons).

But still much will depend on the noise generated by the same newly socialised, you/me-centric social media web age which appears hardwired into the new Windows Phone 7 and its apps. This will decide whether the Something Else becomes a serious alternative, or even a serious rival.

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