It's clear from market statistics that Apple's iPhone and Google's Android are the predominant smartphone platforms currently. But if the buzz at CES is anything to go by, Windows Phone will soon emerge as a strong contender to sit alongside these brands and associated ecosystems.
So how with its small market share how did Windows Phone come out as the winner at CES? It would have seemed unlikely heading into CES - particularly as there were dozens of other products vying for attention - from new cars (Ford launched the 2013 Fusion/Mondeo at CES), to dozens of Android tablets and handsets, OLED TVs, Ultrabooks amongst others.
Summing up why Microsoft's Windows Phone platform got so much attention at CES is actually simple: Windows Phone is ready in just about every way. To break that down a little more there are five areas where it stands out:
- Ecosystem - In the US at least, Microsoft have built a broad ecosystem around Windows Phone (and their other platforms). Music, Video, Xbox Live Gaming, Bing Search, Maps and more. Microsoft assures me this ecosystem will continue to expand globally in 2012.
- Native compatibility - Windows Phone naturally ties closely with Xbox and Windows. These are the world's top gaming, entertainment and computing platforms. And built in compatibility with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft Office, Exchange Server and Microsoft's cloud offerings are second to none.
- Wow factor - the newest Windows Phones have it, particularly the Nokia Lumia 900, it's sibling the Lumia 800 and some handsets from HTC and Samsung.
- Ease of Use - this is probably the easiest mobile platform to use right now. Most people would expect Apple to get that crown, but Microsoft are in the process of reinventing the touch user interface with Metro - a 'design language' that will soon span Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Windows 8. If you're using another platform and don't believe me I suggest you try out a Windows Phone handset loaded with your email, contacts and social networks.
- Nokia - Microsoft's partnership with Nokia is invaluable. Though Nokia lost market share in recent years their brand still carries a lot of weight and they still sell more mobile phones than anyone else. When Nokia came to CES with the Lumia 900, pro journalists, bloggers and podcasters alike took notice. It's a gorgeous Windows Phone 4G handset featuring a beautiful large screen, Carl Zeiss cameras and bundled apps that are actually useful.
To be fair, Windows Phone isn't perfect yet, though neither are the other mobile platforms. It's main shortcoming is missing apps. The current pool of 50,000+ apps meets most needs - but if you've been using another platform there is a chance one or more of your favourite apps isn't launched on Windows Phone just yet.
Longer term missing apps should be less of a problem as analysts predict that Windows Phone will be more popular than the iPhone by sometime in 2015. And when popularity arrives, so do apps.
Despite a few shortcoming I see Windows Phone as the winner of CES 2012. Now when will Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees launch some new Windows Phones into the NZ market? (Apparently very soon in the case of Vodafone and Telecom)
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