Today is Windows Phone 7 launch day and an important one for not just Microsoft, but the mobile industry as well. For Microsoft, the new mobile operating system isn't a mere update to Windows Mobile, it's an entirely new effort, build from the ground-up. Microsoft is putting all its chips on the table with WP7. If it fails, then Microsoft won't have just missed an opportunity to participate in the mobile market - it may miss the only opportunity it has left. Windows Mobile has long since lost its luster and the tween-and-teen targeted KIN devices failed only weeks after launch - Microsoft has to get it right this time.
That's not to say that WP7 won't do well - it's not entirely beyond reason that it will. IDC's mobile analyst Ramon Llamas said, for example, that the phone is a "potential hit." Even Apple insider, Daring Fireball's John Gruber described the OS as "really nice."
But a nice OS is not enough. As blogger (and former Microsoftie) Robert Scoble pointed out last night, Microsoft has to compete not just on looks, but on apps. And not just top apps like Facebook and Twitter, but all the rest, too. "The long tail of apps DOES matter, " wrote Scoble. "It matters for the same reason why Microsoft wasn't able to remove features from Excel. Each app has hundreds of thousands of users."
So how many apps does WP7 have? An Engadget tipster is now saying only 86 at launch. That's a lot fewer than reported earlier, when 2,000 apps were said to be available immediately. We'll find out soon enough: the launch event starts now, at 9:30 AM EST in NYC. Stay tuned.