Microsoft: Smartphone Latecomer?

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft thinks it has a product to rival Apple’s iPhone. But is it too late?

The company has sent mixed signals. Darren Huston, cvp, consumer and online at Microsoft, speaking at the Monaco Media Forum, allowed that the tech giant is playing “catch up” but only “to some degree.” The Windows Phone 7 represents an advancement in many areas, he said.

“I’m pretty proud of our track record,” he said. “As a company we’re starting to get on the front foot again with innovation.”

Huston’s comments come as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company is “early” to mobile.

The remarks drew a fair amount of raised eyebrows.

For marketers, the phone represents a great opportunity and also a challenge, Huston said. The opportunity is an always-on device that can be the linchpin of “360-degree marketing.” The challenge is moving beyond “banners and blue links,” he said.

Microsoft is working with brands to develop applications that bring real utility. Huston previewed a J&J app, which Microsoft calls a “live tile,” that updates diabetics on their insulin levels with health information stored in the cloud. Another, for American Express, shows local guide information. A third, for Chevrolet’s Volt, lets users play a casual game.
The invitation-only Monaco Media Forum, which continues through Nov. 12,  gathers approximately 300 global leaders in traditional and new media for of discussions about the future of online, broadcast and print.