You WILL buy Windows Phone 7

Perhaps Windows Phone 7 won't come dead on arrival after all. Maybe the analysts and naysaying pundits don't give Microsoft the respect it deserves. Maybe there is enormous pent up demand for Windows Phone 7. Maybe the silent majority that loves Microsoft products has waited for this day -- ah Monday, when Windows Phone 7 officially launches.

Three days ago, I asked: "Will you buy Windows Phone 7?" The response was immediate and overwhelming: More than 150 comments to the post and more than 3 times the usual number of e-mail responses I normally get to buying questions. Among the e-mail respondents, the majority plan to buy a Windows Phone 7 device. Even among those saying nay, many expressed interest if circumstances were different, such as Microsoft getting the product to market faster (they couldn't wait and already got something else) or limited carrier availability (in the United States, no Verizon. Yet.). Most of the e-mail respondents who chose something else bought or will buy an Android handset -- that's a painful dig for Microsoft, because Android more directly competes with potential Windows Phone 7 developers and smartphone buyers than iPhone.

I am still mulling how best to handle the responses. For today, I will start with those readers sending e-mail, because they are identifiable; many Betanews commenters aren't. I may post again over the weekend from commenters, some of which are sourer on Windows Phone 7 than the e-mailers. I'll start with an apology: There are simply too many of you to include in this post. I am cramming in more respondents than usual, but still leaving many out. Hey, much as I love long-form writing, a post using all the respondents would be in the 5,000-word plus range.

That said, I have posted a shorter, but still lengthy, followup with e-mail respondents who won't be buying Windows Phone 7. Their reasons are meaningful, too.

Give It to Me Now

With that introduction, I present the positive responses to the question "Will you buy Windows Phone 7":

"I'm buying Windows Phone 7," says Mike Hartman. "I'll be the first to admit the Android and iPhone usability is perfectly acceptable, but I have a platform that I'm already invested in." That platform includes Zune and the Zune Pass subscription service, which Hartman has. Among the respondents, he was among the most pragmatic about his expectations: "I've heard the live tiles on the home screen and the social networking integration is pleasantly surprising. I expect strong Outlook/Exchange integration but I don't suspect that will be that much different than iPhone's Exchange capabilities. Office compatibility is a plus, but I don't know how much actual 'work' I'll be doing on the road."

Microsoft couldn't pay to get buyers as certain as Seth Russell: "I can honestly say without any hesitation that I will be investing in a Windows Phone 7 smartphone." Many of his reasons mirror Microsoft marketing for WP7: Music and digital media, Office integration, mobile gaming and Xbox integration, among others.

"I'm gonna buy a Windows Phone 7," says Andy Green. Like many e-mail responders, Green is a "fan of Microsoft platforms for a long time -- 20-plus years. As a developer, their Visual Studio suite is terrific, and the .NET platform itself combined with Silverlight considerably shrinks development time, and that gives a huge advantage over other platforms like the iPhone and Android. We have existing applications out there for the iPhone and iPad, but we're anxious to start writing for WP7 -- we already have some ready to go at rollout." Green is enthusiastic but not obsessed. He owns iPhone 4, which he loves. "It's tough to scoff at the beautiful design, and it does have a boatload of apps. But I have to say that the newer approach that WP7 takes to the 'home screen' idea is fascinating, and I'm anxious to see if using it in real-life lives up to its potential." In follow-up e-mail I asked if Green would purchase a WP7 smartphone right away. "Absolutely."

Gusts Linkevics gives three clear reasons for choosing Windows Phone 7:

1. I am .NET developer, so developing for windows phone 7 for me would be easy, and I can make any app I need.

2. User interface seems very interesting.

3. Phones' hardware is very good for the moment.

Garrison Neely is similarly enthusiastic:

As a C# .NET programmer, my knowledge of Microsoft tools translates directly to the Windows Phone development ecosystem. The user interface stands apart from both Android and iPhone, and, from what I've seen in demos, is quick and responsive. I like that Windows Phone's minimum specs are strong, which will mean the phones will be able to handle pretty much anything thrown at them. Finally, I like that developers who have used XNA to design games for the Xbox 360 will be able to transition their abilities nearly seamlessly -- that's a great sign for gaming on WP7 devices.

Green adds to the developer perspective: "Writing for the WP7 platform is considerably less tedious than the iPhone or Android."

Bring on the Enterprise

Microsoft needs more customers like Tony Clemens. The "North America Regional IT Manager" for an organization with 2,000 users in 24 locations worldwide says Windows Phone 7 is "an extremely hot topic at work." Because Microsoft "screwed up, over the past 10 months we have been migrating some users from T-Mobile (mostly Dashes) to AT&T - iPhones, a few Blackberrys and lately a lot of Androids." Now plans are changing: "We will be migrating everyone to Windows Phone 7." In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Clemens to define everyone. "Everyone will be North America -- as that is the control I have. It cost more and consumes more time supporting multiple platforms."

Microsoft product managers should count themselves lucky, after really delivering Windows Phone 7 too late for Clemens. He's not abandoning Microsoft mobile, but it was close. "Upper management wanted the latest toy that their teenage kids bragged about (iPhone mainly, showing off all the cool apps). So IT, after fighting for months, gave up," buying some iPhones and then Androids. Most of the BlackBerries were deployed in Europe.

While standardization is one reason for choosing Windows Phone 7, Clemens gives others: "Seamless Exchange Integration (not requiring a 3rd party email account)" and "fast setup -- hand me the phone and right in the hallway I can setup (not requiring iTunes to be downloaded and configured first)." Clemens emphasized that Androids and iPhone "require more than should be required for a worker," adding that "everyone agrees, if strictly business users working with Exchange, Microsoft is going to nail this."

Alex Gouty gives four reasons (but he has others) for being "excited about Windows Phone 7." Again Exchange syncing matters:

1. Quality Exchange / Outlook syncing -- so far no one but Microsoft does this right. All of the other OS packages have problems syncing with Exchange and Outlook, but Microsoft always gets it right. Granted, they should, since it is their product, but it shouldn't be that hard for Blackberry, Android, or iPhone to do this, but they never get it right.

2. Xbox syncing -- love this idea. Leveraging their gaming platform will be a huge help, as well as expand their market for gaming. The same game that runs on Xbox, PC and Windows Phone? Genius.

3. Streamlined control and app design -- I honestly think they have finally designed an interface for the OS and apps that will work well and won't need a stylus. I know it is something the others have done, but combined with closer integration with other Microsoft platforms, I am really excited about this.

4. Better hardware -- I think their decision to have a set of hardware requirements but still let anyone develop the hardware is genius. You'll get a wide spectrum of hardware like Android, and build quality from the minimum specs without being limited to a single model of phone like the iPhone.

But carrier availability tempers Gouty's enthusiasm becoming a purchase. In a follow-up e-mail I asked if he would buy right away. "I probably won't be buying a Windows 7 phone until it comes out on Verizon or Sprint, as they have the best coverage in my area. I was disappointed to find out that Microsoft was sticking with just GSM coverage, but I will likely buy a Windows 7 phone as soon as they launch CDMA phones next year."

Fred Schultz also wants to buy sooner, but won't because of Verizon availability. He explains:

I have been a Windows 6.1 user for the last 4 years, I love it. I also use Windows on my notebook. I have been waiting to upgrade, and have been following the release closely, that is why as a Verizon customer I am upset that I will have to wait until February. I use the Office applications all of the time...I think MS should focus on the business crowd...IT professionals are comfortable with Windows and would push through a lot of devices, and focus on the interoperability of all Windows, then build applications around business professionals.

In follow-up e-mail I asked: "If Verizon had a Windows Phone 7 device ready at launch, would you buy one right away?" He responded: "On Verizon only."

Romit Mehta "will be buying Windows Phone 7" for four reasons:

1. I really like the simplicity and elegance of Metro UI.

2. Most of my most-frequently-used apps are either announced or rumored to be available soon.

3. I have restarted using Windows Live services after their integration announcements. I have hooked up Facebook and LinkedIn, and the experience is simply superb on the web and in Windows Live Messenger. Extending that to the phone will only make it more compelling.

4. Zune Pass. I have an iPod and 2 iPhones but I would love to have a tie in to a subscription music service. Zune Pass, with $15/month and 10 songs to keep is effectively $5/month for unlimited streaming of any song. I was never going to buy a Zune HD, but WP7 is that plus a phone. :-)

5. Potential of multiple devices to choose from. I am looking forward to seeing some new devices to help me get rid of my iPhone fatigue.

In follow-up e-mail I asked if he would buy right away. "My only concern is that some devices (like Dell's, for example) may not be unveiled next Monday. Should I wait? Perhaps. But if there is a good device at launch that satisfies me, I will get it."

Joel Brache's reasons are similar to many other e-mail respondents, but he has a few different ones:

Wireless Sync. Why in the world should I ever have to plug my phone in to synchronize. This is 2010, not 1990. Let's dump the wires and do everything over the air...Option to choose a hardware vendor If there is something you have to have the one hardware vendor doesn't provide, then go to a different vendor. You can't do that with iPhone, but you can with Android and WP7.

In follow-up e-mail, I asked Brache when he would buy. "I have been impatiently waiting for six months for the Windows Phone 7 devices to be released. I plan on purchasing a WP7 device on launch day."

James Chalkley, who gives Windows Phone 7's "sleek, styled" user interface as one reasoning for buying, also won't wait. "I will be buying/getting one on contract on launch day of the OS."

Maybe Yes, Maybe Not

Martin Bennett answers "maybe" to the will buy question. "I'm in no rush. I'm going to see how the dust settles and see how the Windows 7 phone works in the real world, read reviews and consider what I'll do." But he absolutely is considering a purchase, with the first reason being a major priority expressed by Clemens: "Seamless integration with Outlook -- period. No one else does it." He's also interest in "seamless integration with Office documents...Droid and iPhone have many combinations of workarounds, but only Windows Mobile offers an app that quickly sees the files, opens them all, allows editing, saving and synchronization as well." But these reasons somewhat cower before another: "Practical, useful Apps. This is where iPhone is light years ahead of the pack, and may be uncatchable."

Bob Nargang is another maybe: "I won't be running out on the launch date to get one of the first Windows Phone 7's, but I am holding off on getting an iPhone (my wife keeps prodding me) because I'm very curious how the Windows Phone 7 (Microsoft really needs to work on catchy, short names!) will compare. If it sucks, I'm getting an iPhone. However, I'm cautiously optimistic that Microsoft can pull this one off!" The appeal is simple: "I want a phone that integrates well with the Windows environment."

Peter Austin gives two answers: "No, I do not plan on personally purchasing a Windows Phone 7 device. However, my organization is planning on making the transition from our current fleet of Windows Mobile 6.5 devices to Phone 7 devices. Austin was unique among e-mail respondents for having "had the opportunity to use Windows Phone 7 a fair amount during its development." Excerpts about what he liked:

SharePoint/Office integration on Phone 7 is very good. I still wouldn't use it to draft entire Word docs or Excel worksheets, but Microsoft's native implementation of these applications makes using Phone 7 for document work the most elegant solution on the market. Zune media integration on Phone 7 is not just excellent, it's the best (mobile phone) media player on the market. The Zune media experience on Phone 7 is almost identical to that of the Zune HD media player...Xbox Live integration on Phone 7 is another differentiating feature. Whether you own an Xbox or not, you have to admit that the Xbox is the #1 gaming console on the market...Bing Maps integration. Mapping on Phone 7 is unlike the mapping experience on any other mobile OS currently available. Microsoft has integrated it's Silverlight-powered version of Bing Maps into Phone 7 which provides a much richer mapping experience than Google Maps...Social media integration on Phone 7 is fantastic, whether it is unified contacts, unified calendaring, or unified picture libraries (Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, etc) the integration of your various social accounts on Phone 7 is, in my opinion, the best of any mobile OS.

Austin expresses concerns, too, about number of applications -- "Apple simply has the most apps, and arguably the best-quality apps too"; Microsoft mobile mindshare -- "Windows Mobile (6.5) is not just fading from the public consciousness, it actually has a negative association tied to it;" and CDMA carriers -- "Microsoft has said that Phone 7 will be GSM-only at launch."

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