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Opinion: why Windows Phone 7 has to succeed

Microsoft's pitch for your most important device

If Windows Phone 7 isn't a game-changing success, Microsoft can wave goodbye as Apple and Google disappear over the horizon.

You can rely on market-share stats roughly as much as you can trust a particularly truculent skunk, but – as with the skunk – poke around a bit
and interesting things happen.

Take the iPhone. Apple’s gadget deity accounts for less than 15 percent of the mobile phone market. This is an impressive stat for a single manufacturer, but it’s miles behind such behemoths as Nokia, with its almost 40 percent market share.

Even with relatively few Apple handsets in play, however, around a third of all smartphones used to visit mobile.pcadvisor.co.uk are iPhones. And the same, niche device is responsible for a staggering 60 percent of all the UK’s mobile e-commerce transactions.

With pleasing symmetry, ABI Research tells us that only 15 percent of mobile web users have never made a purchase on their phone, or even clicked an advert. My hunch is that of the 85 percent majority of mobile web users who are fully engaged, the power users are those with Apple iPhone and Google Android handsets. Users of BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile phones simply don’t engage with the mobile web in quite the same way.

But enough with the stats and hunches: why talk about phones at all in the pages of PC Advisor? Because, dear reader, mobile is where the internet is headed. But not ‘mobile phones’ in the way most of us recognise and use them. This makes the soon-to-launch Windows Phone 7 a VIOS (very important operating system). If Microsoft fails now, it might as well hand Apple and Google the keys to the executive washroom.

Don’t believe me? Take a sideways glance at the young person slouching next to you on the bus. I believe that children are our future. And trust me: the device they eat, sleep and interact with (over the web) is a mobile phone.

It’s certainly not a bar of soap.

Those of us who grew up with the idea of the PC as a box in the corner must get used to the fact that physical storage now matters a lot less than mobile access to the web. When you can log in from anywhere, the conversation never ends and the shops never close. In the smartphone age, neither does the office (show me a white collar worker without 24-hour access to email, and I’ll show you a P45 waiting to happen).

But the stats suggest that BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian users don’t surf the web in the same way as their iPhone and Android counterparts do, if at all. Combine awful-looking, tiny screens, slow load times and clunky input, and there’s just no incentive to do so.

Unless Windows Phone 7 can shake things up a bit.

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