If I believed in conspiracy theories, I'd say that Windows Phone 7 is a failure six months before its expected availability. And the Nokia-Intel MeeGo operating system will be dead on arrival, if it's ever released.
Windows Phone 7: Microsoft seems to be investing in alternatives
Let's start with Windows Phone 7. Touted earlier this year as the successor to the much unloved Windows Mobile platform, Microsoft has gone largely silent on Windows Phone 7 since then, all but ignoring its great hope to stave off the iPhone at its recent TechEd conference. (And according to a recent Cnet report, Microsoft is sticking with its earlier decision not to include copy and paste -- sheesh!) In the meantime, Microsoft has announced three other mobile operating systems.
If Windows Phone 7 is meant to be the break-from-the-past successor to Windows Mobile, as Microsoft has said, the all-new mobile OS that brings Microsoft into the 21st century, why has Microsoft released Windows Phone (the poorly received Kin phones) and now the Windows Embedded Handheld OS?
A Microsoft spokesman told me that Windows Embedded Handheld OS was meant to provide continuity for enterprises using specialized Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. Windows Phone 7 won't run Windows Mobile applications, so developers had two choices: Switch to Windows Phone 7 and rework the apps to the modern operating system, or keep using their specialty legacy devices.
Windows Compact Embedded 7 is meant to let hardware makers create specialized devices, from signature readers to set-top boxes, based on Windows technology such as Silverlight. Most enterprises wouldn't develop their own apps for it, though they theoretically could. Windows Embedded Handheld is meant as a successor to Windows Mobile for handhelds and possible smartphones that let businesses use their existing Windows Mobile apps, which are often homegrown.
Where does that leave Windows Phone 7? Allegedly, as the broad-based Microsoft OS for consumers and businesses that is supposed to ship this fall (a Microsoft video says October, but the company won't confirm that). The two Embedded operating systems are meant for specialty uses, and the already-released Kin operating system is aimed at young adults purely for socializing.
Confused? You won't be alone. It gives me no confidence in Windows Phone 7 that Microsoft decided to create a separate consumer operating system for kids and a separate "continuity with the past" enterprise operating system for specialty and legacy handhelds. That makes Windows Phone 7's role "other," which is usually the first character the monster eats.
Microsoft positions all these mobile options as a strategy for covering varying needs. It feels to me like it has lost faith in Windows Phone 7 and is creating some backstop bets.
Update as of July 1: Today, Microsoft confirmed it has killed the Kin phone as part of a refocusing on Windows Phone 7. That's a wise, if belated, move and offers a glimmer of new light for Windows Phone 7.