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Windows Phone 7 Review, Part 9: Welcome to the Windows Phone Era

If you've actually followed along for this entire review, my apologies: This darned review takes up almost 30 pages in Word, and that's before I added any screenshots. There's just a lot going on here, and I'm sure I left out huge chunks of stuff. In fact, I'm sort of stressing over it.

If you simply skipped ahead to the conclusion, no worries. I'm going to sum everything up here as concisely as I can.

It goes like this.

Windows Phone 7 is a game changer, for both Microsoft and the broader smart phone industry. I have no idea whether this platform will be successful in the market, but it's already the most user-centric system out there, putting the iPhone, in particular, to shame. Mark my words: Windows Phone will make Apple, Google, and others change their software to be more user-centric as a result. The old "app-a-mole" model (as I call it) is simply too tired and dated. Windows Phone makes that obvious.

Windows Phone isn't perfect. It hits the high notes wonderfully but suffers in the details. Fortunately, it's much easier to fix or add individual features--copy and paste, promised for early 2011, multitasking, or whatever--than it is to fix broader, endemic problems (like the iPhone's broken app usage model). But for the short term, you need to know going in that Windows Phone is beautiful but flawed. Hopefully this review and other articles here on the site will give you the information you need to make an educated decision.

I didn't discuss this explicitly in the review, but I just wrote separately about Windows Phone's lack of key enterprise features. I believe that Windows Phone is a wonderful solution for consumers (i.e. individuals) and small businesses, and for those businesses of all sizes that don't care about very tightly controlling the mobile devices used by their employees. But it might be a year or more before this thing catches up, management-wise, with Windows Mobile. It will get there. But it's not there now.

Taking a step back, and looking at the user experience innovations here, the hubs, and the wonderful photos, music, video, and gaming experiences, especially, I see the future. I see an interface that was thoughtfully designed with users and their needs and wants in mind. I see a platform that is every bit as elegant as the iPhone, but not so anally locked down and over-protected. I see a platform that offers all the choice of Android with none of the anarchy. I see a platform that real people are really going to want.

Oddly, the toughest sell with Windows Phone is the name. Folks, this software has absolutely nothing to do with Windows, and while I understand Microsoft's desperate need to cling to this aging icon of software goodness, my advice here is simple: Just call it something else. You've successfully created new brands like Xbox and, heck, even Zune. You could do it again with Windows Phone too. I wish you had.

Criticizing Windows Phone is like tripping a small child learning to walk. It's cheap, and it's easy, and it's mean, because all the problems you're highlighting are going to be fixed with maturity and time. Yes, Windows Phone doesn't have multitasking for most third party apps, yet. It will. Yes, copy and paste won't be implemented until early next year, but I've seen it, and it works just fine, sorry. Yes, yes, yes.

Microsoft made the right tradeoffs, for the most part, by opting to get a solid foundation so that it could be in market this quickly. It will add new features and fix problems over time, and if it can do this quickly enough, all the handwringing we're seeing will seem foolish just months from now. This is a product that will effectively rollout over many months as Microsoft adds new locales, languages and CDMA support. There will be ongoing software updates. And a year from now, the Windows Phone 7 software will be quite improved, I think.

But most important, Windows Phone is great just the way it is. And the most compelling argument I can make about this platform is this: I use it, every single day. And I have used it, every single day, since early July. I've never once considered going back to the iPhone. In fact, aside from app availability--another temporary condition--the very arrival of Windows Phone instantly obsoleted the iPhone, in my opinion. There's just no need for closed, choice-less platforms.

Looking ahead, I will stick with Windows Phone, and when Microsoft asks for these review units back as they must, I will gladly buy my own.

I love Windows Phone. And I think you're going to love it too.

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