IMHO – Windows Phone 7 needs a hero handset

Windows Phone 7 is being unleashed on Monday, and we can expect the handset heavens to open at the same time. It should be raining shiny new phones, e

Windows Phone 7 is being unleashed on Monday, and we can expect the handset heavens to open at the same time. It should be raining shiny new phones, each eager to flex its WinPho muscles in the hope of catching the eye of a passing gadgeteer.

We’ve got wind of some of these new delights and – without exception – they’re all handsome beasts with powerful hearts. But nothing we’ve seen yet is a hero worthy of such an auspicious occasion.

HTC’s G1 may not be a looker by today’s standards, nor powerful enough to keep pace with modern mobile OSs. But it looked like nothing else, and its tombstone in the gadget graveyard will always stand as a reminder of those heady early Android days. It’s technology may have been surpassed, but its memory is indelible. It is an icon.

More recent hardware has also been brave enough to forge its own identity. Look at Nokia’s N8, the first handset to run Symbian^3. It’s got a brickish camera enclosure on the back that’s bold, brave and eye-catching in a world of thin, flat glassy mobiles.

And the original iPhone – the template for those homogenous designs – was a revolution in phone design.

So where’s Windows Phone 7s hero handset? Among all the leaked spec sheets, pictures and videos, we’ve seen nothing that looks like anything more than a casual update of existing handsets for other platforms.

Manufacturers could still surprise us on Monday. But I bet they won’t. Their new phones will all be sleek, smart and shiny. They’ll all have good processors and cameras and screens. They’ll all paddle around the first incarnation of Microsoft’s new operating system with ease. And we’ll probably rank them among the finest phones we’ve ever seen.

But in five years time, when we look back, will we remember them? Will one phone stand out in our minds when we think back to the new dawn of Microsoft’s mobile story? I doubt it.

Windows Phone 7 needs a hero handset. And we can only hope that a surprise lies in wait for us on Monday. There’s time for Motorola to surprise us yet…

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