updated 09:45 pm EDT, Wed October 20, 2010
Windows Phone 7 gets mixed early reviews
The first reviews of Windows Phone 7 have surfaced and show promise for the platform but have also cast significant doubt on its competitiveness against its rivals. Veteran columnist Walt Mossberg described Microsoft's platform as "novel but lacking." He praised the concepts of informative home screen tiles and hubs but pointed out issues beyond just the known ones, such as a lack of multitasking and copy-and-paste. He warned in the WSJ that WP7 had just 1,000 apps, a fraction of Apple's 300,000, and that even the Office hub could be replicated by a good Android or iPhone equivalent.
"I see Windows Phone 7 as mostly getting Microsoft into the game, and replacing the stale, complicated Windows Mobile system that preceded it," Mossberg wrote. "It will get better. The company is already working on a copy and paste system, and said it is coming early next year. But, today, I see Windows Phone 7 as inferior to iPhone and Android for most average users. It's simply not fully baked yet."
Most of its strong points centered around the Xbox Live and Zune integration, which give true gaming and music connections with the rest of Microsoft's ecosystem.
The OS was also somewhat subject to the over-commercialization of platforms beyond the iPhone. Microsoft has tighter guidelines on custom interfaces but still lets carriers and phone designers crowd out the main screen with their own apps by default, although users should have the option of moving or scrapping their tiles.
Other reviews have taken a similar tone. Engadget found that the OS was a "good year behind" Android and iPhone and that Microsoft's scramble to restore features wasn't quite present yet. It also docked certain phones, praising the quality of the Samsung Omnia 7 but questioning the build of the HTC HD7. Phones like the HTC Surround are nearly useless as it has a poor landscape mode speaker for an OS that has virtually no landscape support, it said. At the same time, the site was optimistic that the core features were an "incredibly promising" foundation.
The company did manage to produce its first viable mobile web browser, as the IE7-based engine is reasonably accurate but also very aware of multi-touch input. Apps, however, were criticized not just for their scarcity but their poor initial quality, with many tending to crash or be unresponsive.
Many similar verdicts were echoed in the device reviews at SlashGear, but it had praise for the Omnia 7's equivalent at AT&T, the Focus. Its Super AMOLED screen is considered ideal for media playback and was matched by good build quality. There was hope for the future but also guarded worry that it could stay permanently behind. "Give it three or four more iterations... and we'd expect Microsoft to have caught up," the site explained. "Still, there's no telling where iOS will be by that point."