Windows Phone 7 has critical acclaim but needs apps

Critics, analysts and carriers have all lauded Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, the company’s latest attempt to reclaim ground in the mobile space. But in a field increasingly dominated by Apple and Android, the biggest name in personal computing is still far from a major player.

Opening day sales figures for the phone line were anemic, coming in at a reported 40,000, despite a lavish marketing campaign and worldwide media events. (To put that in perspective, Apple sells roughly 270,000 iPhones per day.) But the early numbers don’t necessarily tell the full story.

Microsoft has had some very public flops in the mobile space — including this year’s Kin, which Microsoft euthanized after just six weeks. But with Windows Phone 7, the company is taking a long-term view. It sees the software powering the phones as its best chance at becoming relevant in the market.

Others seem to agree.

“The operating system, per se, is a very good one,” says Roger Entner, SVP and head of research and insights in the telecom practice at the Nielsen Co. “It’s well done and innovative, but what they have to work on is getting the application universe there. Right now, it’s like having a Windows computer, and you only have Notepad and Minesweeper.”

There are, roughly, 3,000 apps available for Windows Phone 7 right now, but the company recently announced that 15,000 developers are working on others.

That’s a step in the right direction — but Microsoft could certainly use a hit app on the scale of an “Angry Birds.” In the meantime, the company is leveraging its strengths, showcasing tie-ins with Xbox Live and the company’s Zune music streaming service. That means it’s easy to rent a film — and Halo fans can keep up with that universe while they’re on the go.

However, as Palm proved with its Pre phones last year, a good operating system isn’t enough to make you a player in today’s mobile market.

“I think they have a chance,” says Entner. “They should not, however, rest on their laurels — or their strengths.”

Four gadgets for hip trips
Devices ensure you’re never without entertainment

Apple iPad
Old news? Maybe, but less than a year ago it was only a rumor, and version 2 has yet to be unveiled. The fastest-selling electronic device in history has become remarkably ubiquitous before its full potential as an entertainment platform has been truly explored.

Samsung Galaxy Tab
The tech field is littered with the bones of wannabe Apple killers, but the Galaxy might thrive in a separate niche. The 7″ Tab (smaller than an iPad, bigger than an iPhone) may attract people who miss their paper day planners.

HTC Evo 4 smart phone
Another device feeling for an unfilled niche, the Evo 4 offers a bigger-than-iPhone screen, 4G networking and a camera for shooting high-res photos and 720p video. Not quite pro quality, but hey, it’s a phone.

Joos Orange travel charger
All those mobile players need batteries, and batteries need charging. The Joos Orange won’t eliminate the need to recharge, but at least you won’t have to go home — or burn gasoline — to top off your mobile devices.

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