iPhone 4 Is Apple’s Vista, Says Microsoft

A top Microsoft exec likened Apple’s iPhone 4 to Windows Vista – but Microsoft’s Windows 7 could be an equally big disaster

While Apple held a hasty press conference to deal with the iPhone 4’s signal problems, a Microsoft executive likened the device to a Microsoft product disaster – despite the looming problems his company faces in the mobile market.

“It looks like iPhone 4 might be their Vista and I’m okay with that,” Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer, told an audience during the Worldwide Partner Conference on 14 July.

Turner was referring to the irritation and dismay that many users expressed towards Windows Vista, particularly before a handful of Service Packs managed to fix at least some of the operating system’s bugs and compatibility issues. The October 2009 release of Windows 7 was widely seen as an attempt to eradicate Vista from the public memory, and provide a suitable replacement for the ageing-but-stable Windows XP.

Windows Phone 7 will be a struggle

But Microsoft also faces some issues of its own in the mobile space: later this year, it will release Windows Phone 7, and hopes that enough consumers and businesses gravitate towards the platform to reverse the company’s long market-share slide in the smartphone arena.

Microsoft will likely accompany the release of Windows Phone 7 with a suitably massive marketing campaign, but a quieter—and equally vital—part of its strategy involves enlisting third-party developers to its cause. This will involve some convincing as, unlike rivals such as the Apple iPhone or Google Android, which cluster individual apps on a gridlike screen, Windows Phone 7 aggregates Web content and applications into a series of subject-specific “Hubs.”

On 12 July, Microsoft released Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta, and is encouraging both game-centric and business-centric developers to port their wares onto Windows Phone 7. The question will be whether developers, with only so much time and resources, will view Windows Phone 7 as a profitable platform.

In order to “help” with that decision-making, Microsoft is offering cash and other assistance to developers. “We are investing heavily in the developer community by offering as many resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote to eWEEK on 14 July. “Where it makes sense we do co-fund strategic projects on a limited basis.”

For its part, Microsoft realises the stakes inherent in a successful Windows Phone 7 launch.

“All the stuff has to work pretty well, it has to be quick, it has to be stable,” Casey McGee, a spokesperson for Microsoft, told eWEEK in a 13 July interview at the partner conference. “We need to launch with a [mobile applications] marketplace that shows we have a variety of applications that can be used on a daily basis.”

Other executive keynotes at the conference hammered that point home.

“The phone is going through a massive inflection point,” Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, told an audience during his July 13 speech. “There’s this immense competition, but in many respects, things are just beginning.”

But as a number of news outlets have pointed out this week, if Windows Phone 7 doesn’t succeed, then Microsoft could find itself fighting a Waterloo in the smartphone arena—a last-ditch, everything-in battle, ending in tears and smoke.