This item was originally published on October 19th, 2010 at Fast Company.
Windows Phone 7: a name that provokes people everywhere to say “Meh.” It’s the successor to Windows Mobile 6.5 (an uninspiring name if there ever was one), and surely MS intends the shift from “mobile” to “phone” in the name to indicate A Brand New Paradigm in the Shiny New Future. Actually, what it really indicates is that Windows Mobile apps won’t run on it. No backwards compatibility–not inconsistent with the Microsoft brand.
(I could tell you about the features, but Wikipedia does a much better job, so go there if you want information rather than snarky opinion.)
Although the name says “phone”, it’s not really a phone. It’s just an operating system that needs hardware and then it needs a service provider, too. In smartphone marketing, there are 3 parties clamoring for your mindshare: the operating system (e.g., Android, Windows Phone 7), the hardware manufacturer (e.g., Nokia, Samsung) and the service provider (e.g., AT&T, Verizon). And just when it seemed that consumers were starting to think of Apple and AT&T as one and the same (due to AT&T’s exclusive on the iPhone), Apple defied expectations with the recent rumor that the iPhone will be available via Verizon. So which is more important, the OS or the handset or the carrier? Ask an iPhone owner, and they’ll tell you they love the device but hate the service (love the sinner, hate the sin?). In the last six months, all of those tech-robo-futuristic Droid commercials have invaded TV–promoting Google’s brand, not Motorola’s. And when Google released its Android OS on the T-Mobile G1, you had to pay close attention to realize that the handset was made by HTC. Aside from Apple, seems like the actual phone manufacturers get short shrift.
So who will make the brand sacrifice for the Windows Phone 7? Windows Phone 7 will be available on a variety of new phones from Samsung, HTC, LG, and Dell with service available from both AT&T and T-Mobile. Tellingly, Microsoft has been making all the announcements regarding partners, so they’re clearly counting on customers’ deep love for Microsoft products to drive sales. (Please accept this huge grain of salt I offer you with that statement.) Microsoft is so excited about the new phone (I mean operating system) that every full-time employee globally will be upgraded to a new Windows 7 phone as soon as it is available in their market.
The names of the new phones don’t break any ground; they’re certainly not edgy or innovative in the way that the Motorola Rokr or the LG Chocolate were, way back when. We’ve got nine new phones: LG Quantum (AT&T), Samsung Focus (AT&T), HTC Surround (AT&T), HTC 7 Pro (Sprint), Dell Venue Pro (T-Mobile), and HTC HD7 (T-Mobile) in the US, and HTC 7 Mozart, LG Optimus 7, HTC 7 Trophy, and Samsung Omnia 7 in Europe.
I guess it was too much to expect any consistency across names, due to the different carriers and manufacturers, but wouldn’t it have been fun if they names were all related? Of course, they could have done something boring like WP7 Red, WP7 Gold, WP7 Green, etc. But I was hoping for something fun.
My recommendation would have been to go for something around the number seven–seas, continents, planets, hey, there’s a lot to choose from! But best of all would have been the Seven Dwarfs: Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, and Bashful. I know there are nine phones, so I’d come up with two more that work well with the Microsoft brand–say, Cranky, or Crashy. Maybe Bloaty? Just as long as they don’t call it Clippy!
Name Grade: B-