Can a platform really be doomed before it hits the market? In the increasingly ferocious world of smartphones, the answer is a resounding yes.
Last week prominent US websites and newspapers were given prototype handsets to take home featuring a 'technical preview' of Windows Phone 7. For a pre-release product the previews were generally positive, though the lack of multitasking, Flash or Silverlight support and cut and paste provided sizeable caveats which will not be addressed prior to launch. The problem is these reviews are largely irrelevant because - good or bad - Microsoft has likely doomed Windows Phone 7 by getting one crucial aspect horribly (and perhaps irretrievably) wrong: timing.
Windows Phone 7 may be a radical step forward for Microsoft, but it is not a radical step forward for the smartphone industry as a whole and that is what matters. Furthermore the time for putting out a half finished mobile operating system is over.
Apple got away with basic omissions it when it launched the first generation iPhone because it was 2007 and no one had seen anything quite like it. Google got away with the rough and ready state of Android 1.0 because Apple rivals didn't yet have their game together and it was 2008. Since then both have used the subsequent years to build their OSes in full view of the public and at a tremendous pace, a luxury that has now passed.
If you don't have a) a fully formed mobile operating system at launch, b) a clear strategy to address the emerging tablet market, or c) a sizeable hardcore fan base that will wait diligently for these necessary tweaks and additions to be made then you have no place entering the smartphone sector in late 2010. Windows Phone 7 lacks parts one and two while the tarnished legacy of Windows Mobile (v6.5 above) means Microsoft is a long way short of part three.
By contrast let's take a look at three invigorated operating systems which look set to provide genuine competition to Google and Apple over the next 12 months...