You may have heard about the new smartphone platform from Microsoft (s msft), Windows Phone 7 (WP7). It was officially rolled out today, and there’s been no shortage of coverage. Windows Phone 7 is a total departure for Microsoft specifically, and the smartphone space in general, and Research in Motion (RIM) should be worried about it. RIM (s rimm) has only recently rolled out the next version of the BlackBerry OS, and the overall reaction to that launch was that it is merely a modernization of its old platform. WP7 is not only a fresh start; it firmly straddles the fence separating the consumer space from the enterprise, and the latter is the realm of the BlackBerry.
When the pundits start pontificating on what WP7 must do to succeed, they usually compare it to what Apple (s aapl) and Google (s goog) have done with iOS and Android, respectively. There’s no question that these are the current hot platforms in the flashy smartphone space, but RIM and Nokia (s nok) are still pretty darn big, too. Microsoft could make a good start in reclaiming lost position in the smartphone wars by eating into the sales of either one of these two companies, and WP7 has a firm hook into the enterprise through tight integration with Office 2010.
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I played with Windows Phone 7 at our recent Mobilize conference in San Francisco, and I came away with a great deal of respect for the new phone platform. In addition to creating something totally new, Microsoft has incorporated good integration with Office 2010. WP7 owners will be able to view and edit complicated Office documents right on the phone, something that has only varying degrees of success on other platforms. Third-party apps on the BlackBerry enable this capability with older versions of Office, but with results not always as good as desired. WP7 brings a rich Office environment to the mobile worker, coupled with good Exchange email handling, and RIM had better be scared.
RIM has spent a lot of effort in the last few years to bring the BlackBerry to the consumer space having already conquered the enterprise, and until the iPhone and Android took off it was successful in that venture. WP7 does the consumer space better than BlackBerry 6, so Microsoft is poised to hit RIM in both the enterprise and consumer spaces with a better offering. The folks in Redmond have a lock on Office compatibility and with Xbox/ U-verse integration on the phone, big advantages over RIM.
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