More than three years have passed since the iPhone debuted, and one year ago this month, Verizon and Google announced an Android partnership that led to the popular Droid line of smartphones. Indeed, Microsoft is late to the party, but after further consideration, I don't buy the idea that tardiness destroys Windows Phone 7's chances of success.
First, let's debunk the idea that arriving early is a sure way to become popular. In 2008, Apple was dominating the slick touch screen smartphone market, and the tech press was starved for anything that looked remotely like an iPhone killer. Blackberry's Storm was the first candidate, at least until it actually arrived. Reviews were mediocre, and sales underperformed.
Then, there was the Palm Pre, which launched on Sprint in June 2009. Also hailed as an iPhone killer, the Pre was reviewed favorably, unlike the Storm. But sales were weak, and under HP, Palm is trying for a second coming with WebOS 2.0.
As for being late, Windows Phone 7's detractors assume, incorrectly, that there's no room left in the smartphone market for another platform. Over the next four years, global smartphone shipments are expected to double, according to iSuppli, and right now smartphones are the fastest-growing category of mobile phones. Plenty of people haven't jumped on board yet.
Meanwhile, Research in Motion, the smartphone market leader in the United States, is flailing. Quarterly Blackberry sales in the Untied States recently fell behind Android for the first time, according to The NPD Group. Customer satisfaction with Blackberry is at a new low, ChangeWave Research found. Long-time Blackberry users will be looking to jump ship, and Windows Phone 7 will be right on time with the rescue boat.
I'm not arguing that Windows Phone 7 doesn't have problems right now. Missing features like copy-and-paste (I know, it's coming next year) and multitasking, skepticism from Verizon Wireless and a wait-and-see attitude from some app developers cloud Windows Phone 7's future. And yes, Microsoft would be in better shape if it was around for Android's big gains, but the smartphone party isn't over yet. There's still time for Windows Phone 7 to get drunk and dance with the cool kids.