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Why we need Windows Phone 7

If you love iOS or Android, then you may think that Windows Phone 7 isn't worth your time. But if you care about smartphone innovation, that's a big mistake.

Give us more, Microsoft, because we need it.

For a slow holiday news week, there's been plenty of chatter over the last few days about Windows Phone 7.

It all started Tuesday when several tech blogs posted editorials on why Microsoft's operating system was failing, a fact that Mobile Burn's Dan Seifert wryly pointed out on Twitter. And then, almost as if in response, a leaked memo on WMPoweruser spilled details on the next software update, the Windows Phone Marketplace hit the 50,000-app mark, and WinSupersite reported that AT&T will be the first carrier to offer LTE-enabled Windows Phone 7 devices.

I'll spare you another musing on why I think Microsoft's operating system is failing (though I think "flailing" is better word), since I doubt that I'd have anything new to add to the discussion. By all means, stronger carrier support, more devices and apps, and faster software updates are crucial to Windows Phone 7's success. That's exactly why I hope the above rumors are true. And if you care about the future of smartphones, you should too.

Though I played with Windows Phone 7 quite a bit shortly after the first handsets were introduced in October, 2010, I used an HTC HD7 as my primary phone for a few months last autumn to really get to know the OS. To honestly see its merits and drawbacks, I couldn't view it through iPhone or Android-tinted glasses. And, frankly, I quickly understood why it was winning a high user satisfaction rating.

To me, Windows Phone 7 offers the best elements of both iOS and Android. The hub-based interface is clean, customizable, and completely original (I really love the notifications); you can choose from more than one handset design; updates arrive directly from Microsoft (though some also consider that a liability); there's real multitasking and great integration with apps (even if there aren't many of them), and I never had to hard reset a phone. In many ways, it's a great middle ground.

That's why we need a third viable smartphone OS, despite what warring Android and iOS fanboys might argue. At the moment, RIM certainly isn't it up to the task and HP's sad decision to pull the plug on WebOS has left with one less viable player. So I really hope that Microsoft can step up its WP7 game and prod the iOS and Android teams to do better. Do you really think Apple and Google would continue to be as innovative if the other wasn't around? Of course not, which is why we need strong competition to continue.

Like I've said before, we shouldn't want to live in a world with no choice in smartphones. Having just one OS would abysmal, but even two isn't enough. So in addition to actually trying to use the OS for once, I hope that knee-jerk Windows Phone 7 detractors--maybe you'll find some in the comments section for this blog--think twice before denouncing the OS as dead and dancing on its grave. Choice is fun. No choice is boring.

Yeah, we've heard a few times now that Windows the glory days of Windows Phone 7's success are just around corner. I pretty much said as much in my 2012 CES preview, and I said it a few times last year like when Nokia announced its Microsoft partnership. Maybe it won't come at all, but with Nokia designs, LTE phones, more apps, and bigger updates coming down the road, anything is possible.