Microsoft has a long history of producing bad software and plugging away on it for a few versions -- usually version 3 -- until it is serviceable. But that "get it right in version 3" strategy won't work this time. Back in the Windows-Mac battle, Microsoft had the bigger market share and was already entrenched, thanks to DOS, in the key business market (PCs weren't all that personal yet). Macs were a niche product from their very beginning. Microsoft has the same establishment advantage in the early browser wars. But today, Apple's iPhone is the top smartphone when it comes to data usage such as via the Web and apps, and Google's Android is close on its heels. The iPhone is well-established and entrenched, and Android is fast becoming so. Microsoft is nowhere, having essentially pulled out of the mobile market last year after spending a decade being stagnant during an era of "cold peace" against the equally stagnant BlackBerry OS.
Microsoft has no establishment advantage in mobile today, so delivering an outdated, hamstrung mobile OS and hoping to fix it later just won't fly.
I'm still shocked that Microsoft isn't showing any smarts or competitiveness behind its mobile OS. When the iPhone first came out, a wait-and-see attitude made sense. But more than three years later, it's crystal-clear that the iPhone is no fluke and that it has in fact redefined the mobile market. During this sea change, what has Microsoft done? It wasted a couple years screwing around with Windows Mobile 6.5. When everyone ignored that faux effort, Microsoft made a lot of noise around Windows Phone 7 yet also diverted resources to an array of mobile OSes -- seemingly as insurance policies against Windows Phone 7's failure. Windows Phone 7 should have been Microsoft's "man on the moon" project, but now it's clear that the Windows Phone 7 was Redmond's equivalent of the bungled Hurricane Katrina response effort.
If the iPhone is the platinum standard, Android is the gold standard, WebOS is the bronze standard, and Symbian and BlackBerry tie for tin. Windows Phone 7 is clay -- a clay pigeon, in fact.
Shades of the Vista debacle, it appears that Microsoft is content to deliver an obviously backward operating system for mobile users -- or is so out of touch that it can't see the junk it's built, a larger problem that InfoWorld's editor in chief calls "Microsoft's embarrassing problem with the future."
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has made some angry noises at recent events about the need to get mobile right with Windows Phone 7. I guess either that he's not actually seen Windows Phone 7 or that there's no bite behind the bark.
Microsoft needs to kill Windows Phone 7 and avoid further embarrassing itself by shipping this throwback. It's not a question of whether Windows Phone 7 will fail -- it will -- but how long it will take Microsoft to admit the failure. For the company's sake, the earlier it fesses up, the better.
This article, "Windows Phone 7: Don't bother with this disaster," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com.