Let's begin with a little perspective. The mobile phone OS market is ruled by Nokia's Symbian with 41% of the market. Next comes RIM (Blackberry) with 18% followed by Android, 17% and Apple's iOS at 14%. Microsoft (5%) is just one of the rest that can be found in the last 10 or so percent. So they are not a big player at the moment. (Source: business insider.)
Microsoft's phone OS's have historically been plagued by bugs and hang-ups so their track record of producing a reliable phone OS is not great. The debacle with their Kin devices does not help to induce a happy glint in the eyes of prospective phone buyers.
So it is pretty easy for analysts to predict Windows Phone 7 will flounder. Yet I think Microsoft may have a chance. They will not become the market leader overnight, that is certainly true. But they do have a very striking OS if the pre-release video's and screen shots are anything to go by. And striking is good in a market that is slowly congealing into a standard way of doing things. There are always those among us who want to distinguish themselves and Microsoft may just offer the OS to do that.
Apart from the look and feel of the OS there is another factor that may help Microsoft. Although Nokia is the world leader with their Symbian OS, they will not remain that for long I think. Their new version of the Symbian OS is clunky and not very slick. As a matter of fact it looks like Symbian is going the way of the old Microsoft Mobile OS's. Building a patchwork of features on a once successful OS without looking around you what is happening in the marketplace. The stubborn adherence to their own OS instead of adopting Android for at least some of their smart phones is going to become the death knell for Nokia.
Although both Android and iOS are a long way from Symbian in terms of market share they are miles ahead when it comes to OS quality and ease of use. And this will filter down to the buying public's consciousness sooner rather then later and things can change awfully quickly in a market where every couple of months new devices are presented, and more importantly, bought!
With the possible demise of Nokia - regarding smart phone market share, I don't predict Nokia as a company to go out of business any time soon - there will be a vacuum in the market that needs filling. The obvious beneficiaries will of course be RIM, Android and iOS but the freshly made over kid on the block may have a good chance of muscling in on the action.
Fresh looks and a shift in the market may be the reason why Windows Phone 7 has a chance in a fiercely competitive market. The one thing that will determine how Microsoft will fare in the market share stakes by this time next year is how well the OS performs. It will be put under the microscope, be dismantled layer by layer and squeezed and prodded by almost every tech blogger out there and if it turns out that the pretty face is hiding a monster, Microsoft will remain an also ran. My thoughts go out to Steve Ballmer, who's bonus was already cut due to the poor performance of the mobile OS department of Microsoft. He must have some pretty sleepless nights in the run up to his new OS's release. It would be a sad sight to see him putting his archetypal presenting skills to use selling match sticks in the street if Windows Phone 7 fails.