What an interesting year in the smartphone industry we are embarking on now. In the very near future we'll see Windows Phone 7 hardware in the hands of developers and, undoubtedly, many analysts and industry watchers. We'll start to get impressions on just how innovative this platform will be, its usability, and whether or not it will win over the plaudits of smartphone enthusiasts. We'll also see new hardware and software releases of the Palm WebOS platform once HP officially gets closes its acquisition and makes its first mark. We'll see whether RIM can modernize its smartphone OS and finally deliver a workable browser. We'll also see if these rumours of a BlackBerry tablet have any substance, and if so, whether anyone really wants a BlackBerry companion. We'll watch the steady progression of Android devices as they try to take on the iPhone and gain market share. Will there be unexpected surprises? You bet. What will happen with MeeGo? Can Nokia produce a platform that will appeal to North American businesses and consumers?
Of course, watching and seeing how Microsoft's mobile strategy plays out will be a critical endeavour. Is Microsoft driving the smartphone industry? Not at present, but you can be sure Apple, RIM, Google and other platform providers are paying attention. This is one industry segment where Microsoft is not an island against which getting a beachhead is near impossible. However, if Microsoft can make good on the seemingly tangible opportunity to connect and combine its treasure trove of services and enabling platforms, then we could see a formidable new platform emerge. Having an outright success with wave one - Windows Phone 7 for the consumer - will be essential. Is the pressure on Microsoft? No question about it.