Remember when Palm announced WebOS? While it was an exciting day for the smartphone industry, it was also a sad day for Palm OS, which died that day. But in order for Palm to truly create a compelling enough platform (Palm OS just wouldn’t have cut it in a modern world), they needed to start from scratch and build a new mobile operating system from the ground up. Today, it’s unclear whether that strategy will prove a success, as WebOS device still don’t have meaningul marketshare.
Microsoft pulled a Palm when they announced Windows Phone 7 Series. The operating system they unveiled was a complete change from what we know to be Windows Mobile. As far as we know now, WP7 devices can’t even support Legacy Windows Mobile apps (although, again, following Palm’s model, it’s possible that Microsoft may have some sort of emulator that will allow backward compatability). Come a year from now, it’s likely that no new Windows Mobile devices will be on the market, only Windows Phone 7 devices. Goodbye Windows Mobile.
Is this a problem? Probably not for you as a tech enthusiast. You like the idea of something new and fresh that can offer an alternative and better experience to whatever you have in your pocket right now. But considering the legacy of Windows Mobile which expands back nearly a decade, it’s quite remarkable that Microsoft was able to take out their hatchet and make such a big cut to a big piece of history.
But consider the alternative. If Microsoft had not gone with a drastically new operating system they would have produced a mere evololution of Windows Mobile (remember Windows Mobile Photon, anyone?), which would be inherently flawed. Windows Mobile is built off of the idea that mobile phones should operate like mini PCs. Applications should have an X button, there should be a Start button to launch programs, and so on. This model, as we now know, just doesn’t make sense on a small device with limited power, screen space, and capability.
Is Microsoft fated to face the same reality with Palm? Will they struggle to encourage the tech community to embrace a smartphone operating system as new as it is different? It’s difficult to say. One big thing that Microsoft has on its side that Palm didn’t was that it’s leveraging two already successful products: Zune and Xbox. These two items alone will create a sense of familiarity with the product from the millions that own an Xbox or that use Zune hardware or software.
What do you think? Is Windows Phone 7 Series destined for a future similar to WebOS, or will this story be different?