It goes without saying that the late 2010 launch of Windows Phone 7 was not about 2010 at all. We may have a few devices like the LG Optimus 7, Samsung Omnia 7 and HTC 7 Trophy, but the real fight starts in 2011.
With Windows Phone 7 Microsoft pulled Apple's trick: it came to market with a super slick platform lacking key functionality. The problem is Apple did this in 2006, Microsoft did it in 2010. Consequently key to 2011 will be how quickly Microsoft addresses these shortcomings. The absence of competition allowed Apple to take 2 years to fix basic iOS omissions like copy and paste, but Microsoft doesn't have that luxury. The OS has been greeted with cautious optimism, but early sales are slow.
Microsoft needs to capitalise on its critical good will early in 2011 to convince consumers there really is a fourth superpower in the smartphone sector. It cannot afford another wasted year.
The hybrid device Microsoft has still to make up its mind about. Is it a sector for Windows as Microsoft has indicated so far with the likes of the LG H1000B and HP Slate (below) or will Microsoft tablets ultimately use a mobile OS as Apple has so successfully decided.
Whatever Microsoft's decision the most important aspect is to decide. Calling an operating system 'Windows Phone' suggests Microsoft either a) sees it as a dedicated smartphone platform or b) did not foresee the tablet explosion. The former would be a mistake, the latter concerning. After all, wouldn't 'Windows Mobile' have been a far more flexible brand name to stick with?
The good news for Microsoft is there is potentially room for both Windows and Windows Phone tablets. Yet with CES under three weeks away all we know is there will be Windows tablets, but there is no official word on what platform with be favoured. The likelihood is Windows will get the nod, but in our opinion there needs to be a tablet friendly version of Windows Phone 7 in the first half of 2011 if the company isn't to concede yet another blossoming sector to its rivals. Once more the pressure is on.
The Potential of 2011
The good news is while 2011 will be a fundamentally important year for Microsoft, it can also be the year to complete its come back. Windows 7 swept away the nightmare years of Vista and Windows Phone 7 finally did away with the decrepit Windows Mobile and suggests genuine promise. Furthermore if Microsoft focuses its mind and gets the right partners aboard it can also pose a major threat in the tablet sector.
12 crucial months lie ahead and the stakes have never been higher…