Windows Phone 7 vs iPhone: How Microsoft plans to kill the king

Microsoft has put itself back in the smart-phone game with Windows Phone 7, but what's its strategy for beating Apple at its own game? We have a look at the computer giant's plans

Flora Graham
4 min read

There's no doubt that the iPhone lit a match that sparked a smart phone revolution, and even Microsoft admits that it's fallen behind with Windows Mobile. But now that Windows Phone 7 Series has dropped, how is Microsoft going to try to unseat the current king of phones?

Drop the suits

Microsoft sent the businesspeeps packing with Windows Phone 7 Series -- it still wants to be friends, but the love affair is over. Redmond's finest hardly mentioned the software's business chops in their launch presentation, and when we spoke to MS directly it was loath to even mention business.

Windows Phone 7 Series doesn't even allow resistive touchscreens, effectively chucking the stylus-wielding UPS guys and factory folk that use untold thousands of WinMo devices.

It may seem foolhardy to alienate the group that kept Windows Mobile alive while everyone else was ditching its dated user interface for slicker, whizzier pastures.

But Microsoft has seen the numbers, and although business users are the networks' dream team because of their heavy use of data and long-distance calls, normal people are the ones buying the phones themselves. In fact, smart phone sales will outpace PC sales by the end of 2011, analysts predict.

Even suits don't want to invest in a straight-shooting business phone anymore -- rather than carry a BlackBerry for email and an iPhone for fun, they're looking for one phone that can handle an Exchange server while still impressing the shorties.

Play to its strengths

Apple not only started the app revolution, its iTunes app store has shelves that are so bulging with choice, it's hard for any other app store to catch up. Windows Mobile has a history of fantastic apps that you can't find -- or figure out how to install -- but unconfirmed reports say that Windows Phone 7 Series won't even run Windows Mobile apps, so you can chuck that £90 TomTom app in the bin.

You will be able to get apps for Windows Phone 7 Series, but Microsoft is placing the emphasis on so-called 'hubs', which bring several features together in one place, rather than discreet apps. By poking at the iPhone's Achilles heel -- its lack of support for multitasking -- Microsoft hopes to convince us we can live without the Apple app store and its millions of tasty treats.

Make big demands

Apple's got good reasons for not allowing much multitasking on the iPhone -- it keeps the phone under Apple's control, so it can be reliably awesome. If you let app developers run rampant over your device, you end up with hangs and crashes from apps that aren't up to snuff -- just ask anyone with an Android phone.

Apple also restricts the iPhone hardware -- there is only one current model out at a time, not counting variations on a theme based on memory capacity. With Apple wielding its iron fist, it's no wonder the iPhone is such a dependable winner.

Microsoft isn't making the hardware for its Windows Phone 7 Series phones -- it's partnering with HTC, Samsung, LG and other manufacturers to churn out a bouquet of choices. It also tells us it will give third-party apps access to Windows Phone 7's home screen hubs to promote its multitasking mojo.

So, to keep the Windows Phone 7 experience a pleasure, Microsoft has laid out a set of unbreakable hardware rules for its wingmen. There's a minimum screen resolution -- which is why we'll never see Windows Phone 7 on the HTC HD Mini. The processor speed, RAM and even the camera resolution all have high hurdles that a manufacturer must clear.

Microsoft didn't want to spill the gory details of these rules and ruin its love parade with cold, hard facts. But it's understandably keen to ensure that the buzz of Windows Phone 7 Series isn't killed by shoddy, slow or irritating phones -- even if that means we won't see cheaper options, like we do with Android on the HTC Tattoo, and manufacturers will have to get creative to differentiate their phones from the similarly specced competition.

Don't screw up

Even if Windows Phone 7 Series lives up to its promises, and manufacturers sort out the hardware worth having, that's no guarantee that Microsoft will unseat the iPhone.

There's still plenty of time for MS to shoot itself in the foot -- just look at the name, Windows Phone 7 Series, which is a perfect example of everything Microsoft does wrong. Could you go into a shop and ask for a "Windows Phone 7 Series phone, please?" No, so why bother wasting the ink?

Update: We've had our hands on a prototype phone running an early version of Windows Phone 7 and have a deluge of photos, video and first impressions for you. Read our Windows Phone 7 early review here.