A taste of the old Apple-Microsoft rivalry came back this week when a Microsoft executive threw Windows Vista under the bus, just to bash the iPhone 4's antenna problems.
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that," Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, said at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
There are a few reasons why iPhone 4 isn't Apple's Vista: The antenna is a hardware problem and not a software issue (despite what Apple said), it's just one glaring issue on an otherwise critically lauded phone and Apple still had its most successful product launch ever.
Meanwhile, there is a real possibility that Windows Phone 7, Microsoft's upcoming smartphone OS, could be Microsoft's Vista — again. This isn't a perfect comparison either — Vista was a heavily revamped version of Windows XP while Windows Phone 7 is a ground-up overhaul — but similarities abound.
Reading Galen Gruman's thorough takedown of what he saw at the Mobile Beat conference this week, it seems that Microsoft has some interface problems to work out in Windows Phone 7. The cut-off screens of each menu slide, combined with oversized tiles, could make for a pretty, but ultimately confusing user experience. That sounds a lot like Vista, whose interface was generally seen as a step back from Windows XP.
Interface aside, the phone is missing industry-standard features like multitasking, copy and paste and browser support for HTML5, and there's no Adobe Flash, either. This could lead to disappointment among consumers, and a reluctance to adopt the platform when there are other options from other companies such as Apple. Again, that sounds a lot like Vista.
It's also worth noting that Microsoft's not betting the farm on Windows Phone 7. The company will still ship, support and sell Windows Mobile 6.5. The aging mobile OS will likely be a holdout in the enterprise, just as Windows XP was, and continues to be.
I prefer to retain some optimism about Windows Phone 7. Microsoft is taking a bold step by starting over on this mobile OS, and as a gamer I'm still interested to see what Xbox Live support entails. But just as Windows 7 was what Windows Vista should've been, Microsoft's mobile overhaul might need another generation to get it right.