Issue 50 - November 2010
Editorial Intro - Matt Nicholson
So here we are, celebrating our 50th issue with a look back over the past decade and a look forward to what the next 50 might bring (actually from two perspectives, as Paul Stephens also does a spot of crystal-ball gazing in Short Cuts). At the same time, Microsoft is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Windows operating system, version 1.0 of which was released in November 1985. Microsoft has every right to celebrate the occasion, after all Windows 7 has apparently sold more than 240 million licences to date, but it is also worth remembering that Windows was a latecomer to the market. The Apple Macintosh had been launched 20 months previously and was the first to bring the now ubiquitous WIMP (windows, icon, menu, pointer) interface to the general public. Digital Research had shipped GEM in February 1985, and they were all derived from work carried out at Xerox PARC during the previous decade.
It was only in 1990, with the release of Windows 3.0 which took full advantage of virtual memory and the protected mode offered by Intel's 32-bit processors, that Windows' future was secured.
Jump forward 25 years and here we are announcing the release of yet another operating system from Microsoft, namely Windows Phone 7 (see overleaf). Once again Microsoft is late to the market, and once again it is Apple that pioneered the field with the iPhone (or more specifically iOS). Once again there is a third player in Google Android. At this point the parallels run out - as far I know, iOS is all Apple's own work - but it does highlight the danger of dismissing the latecomer. Although praised in many quarters, there are plenty who dismiss Windows Phone 7 as derivative.
I think this is premature. Robert Scoble (aka the 'Scobleizer') recently blogged on this point, having spoken to a number of app developers. As he points out, it is an easy device to target, and there are "a ton" of developers who are already familiar with Visual Studio and .NET. Windows Phone 7 allows your app a much richer presence on the home screen than the iPhone, which developers find attractive. Scoble has also found considerable interest in the hooks that Windows Phone 7 offers into Xbox Live. Games can generate a lot of revenue, and Xbox Live has a lot of members. Furthermore it has the makings of a full-blown social network.
However the story is most compelling in the business space. Microsoft is doing all it can to make sure that Windows Phone 7 becomes an ideal partner to its server-side products, integrating it tightly with Microsoft Exchange, Sharepoint and Office, and to its emerging offerings in the cloud.
This is an attractive story for the business customer, who sees the iPhone as a device for fun and socialising rather than hard work. Microsoft has far stronger links with this world than either Apple or Google, and is sure to capitalise on them as Windows Phone 7 comes of age. If they don't they are missing a trick, because by most accounts it's a nice device.