We’re at MIX10 and the good news is that there’s a lot of chatter and excitement over hardware and what different hardware partners will be offering when the devices come to market “in time for the holiday season.” Microsoft is also creating standardized experiences, and we’re proud of the company for taking accountability and responsibility to build, grow, and nurture the platform. However, with all the centralization that is happening around Windows Phone 7 Series, the question worth asking is if hardware partners are merely commodities in an already highly competitive and crowded smartphone space?
Microsoft, at one of its sessions, showed off hardware by Samsung, which looks very similar to the prototype hardware that we’ve been seeing since Mobile World Congress–and there’s reason for that as the company is implementing strict requirements for the three hardware buttons, a five-megapixel camera, 5 sensors, a WVGA screen resolution at launch, CPU, RAM, memory, and GPU minimums, and a number of set standards for API creations. Differentiation can occur if OEMs decide to add a hardware keyboard.
Those requirements are all hardware-based, but there are also software requirements as well. The company has stated that it wants to create a standard user experience with the Start screen and Live Tiles, meaning we’d be hard pressed to find skins, shells, and UI alternatives like SPB Mobile Shell, Sense UI, Samsung TouchWiz, or LG S-Class among the many that exists today. Here, for the first time, we’re seeing hardware and OS (software) being controlled by Microsoft in a rigid environment.
Needless to say, the experience for Windows Phone 7 Series will be similar to the Apple iPhone experience. OEMs may spice up their devices with slightly better cameras or adding chrome here or there to offer differentiation, but we’re seeing the branding experience shift from manufacturers to Microsoft. With Windows Phone 7 Series, no longer are you “buying” an HTC device with the Sense or TouchFLO 3D experience, but you’re buying now a Windows Phone with a Microsoft experience.
Uniqueness between different manufacturers may diminish–Samsung could of course offer a Super AMOLED display and HTC could in fact bring the “chin” from Android devices to Windows Phone 7 Series. Windows Phone 7 Series experiences may start to look like the iPhone experience–it’s just that the hwardware are commodities made by various manufacturers with minor tweaks. Of course, to create this level of hardware and software integration, the trade off is the variations that we’re seeing in the current Windows Mobile ecosystem. And for right now, consumers seem to be happy with the overall user experience at the expense of some device individuality.