If you heard a funny sound yesterday, it might have been the unfamiliar thwack of Microsoft laying the mobile OS smackdown. After years of incremental improvements, its admittedly groundbreaking mobile software had grown weak, but the emergence of a new version, rewritten from scratch, says Microsoft is ready to put up its dukes to Google and Apple. We’ve pitted Windows Phone 7 Series against iPhone OS to see who might win in a scrap.
Unlike some other mobile OS start-ups, Windows Phone hasn’t followed in the iPhone’s app-focussed footsteps. Instead, it’s gone for a series of hubs dedicated to people, pictures, video/music, games and search. That means you no longer have to think about how to contact someone, for instance, only who you want to contact. The OS delves into its all the corners to put the components – from landline to Twitter – in one place. Windows Phone takes this round, if only for fresh thinking.
Winner: Windows Phone 7
Can Windows Phone 7 multitask? Honestly, we don’t know, but it looks likely that it’ll multitask in the same way as the iPhone – apps like the music player and browser will continue to work while you’re elsewhere, but true multitasking is off the menu. We’ll change our tune if that turns out not to be the case, but for now this round is a stalemate.
Windows Phone 7 Series? Really? It’s a ridiculous mouthful. Apple may be confused about where capital letters belong, but at least ‘iPhone OS’ can be said in under a second. We think Microsoft’s new OS should have had an entirely new name to reflect its reinvention and shrug off those bad WinMo memories. And we’re having to try really hard to stop ourselves calling it WinPho. iPhone OS takes this one comfortably. Sorry, WinPho... dammit.
If you’re anything like us, your iPhone (or other modular smartphone OS) is littered with apps you don’t really need, but haven’t the heart to get rid of. Of course, there’s no saying we won’t abuse Microsoft’s customisation options either, but somehow it seems a less cluttered environment than the pages of gridded icons on the iPhone. Proof will be in the pudding, but we’re giving this one to Windows Phone 7 by a trifle for now.
Winner: Windows Phone 7
Obviously Microsoft’s OS is going to have a broader product array, thanks to the legions of third-party handset makers out there. And, thanks to stringent new qualification rules, underpowered MS phones with unresponsive touchscreens should be a thing of the past. That said, Apple is able to control every element of production for its phones and optimise performance. That will be hard to better.
Despite its hub navigation face, Windows Phone 7 will have a brain for apps, sold via its Marketplace. And it should be a popular platform for developers. But it’ll still take a long time to build up a decent catalogue, especially one to rival Apple’s 140,000-strong bounty. Plus long-time WinMo fans won’t be able to move their existing apps across to the new OS. That’s a good thing in the long run, but it’ll smart to begin with. The iPhone is way ahead here.
The iPhone squeaks through with a win, but it was by no means a drubbing. Bring on the accusations of Apple favouritism, but a week ago Microsoft’s mobile OS wouldn’t have even turned up for this fight. And once developers get going on the apps and we see if the phone makers are ready to rise to the challenge, we wouldn’t be totally surprised if Microsoft was able to win a similar battle in future. That’s worthy of applause.