Windows 7 Phones are just repurposed Androids

October 13, 2010: 11:48 AM ET

Although Microsoft tried to display some smoke and mirrors with their new phone hardware at this week's event, the devices they unveiled are almost completely the same as Android devices you could've bought months ago.

Let's forget the Windows 7 software (which looks interesting) for a second.  Microsoft (MSFT) was very proud of its hardware partners for releasing "revolutionary" phones earlier this week.  But are these phones really anything special?  To me, they looked a bit familiar.

Update: To GDGT's Peter Rojas as well:

2. Hardware isn't the story here. Generally speaking the first few Windows Phones are a bit underwhelming -- most are essentially WP7 versions of handsets we've already seen running Android -- but there are a couple of standouts, like the Venue Pro, Dell's qwerty portrait slider, and the HTC Surround, which has a mini simulated surround sound speaker that slides out.

Let's take a look at the phones customers will be able to buy before Christmas in the US.  There are three and they are on AT&T's (T) network (another issue unto itself).

First, there is the Samsung Focus.  The Focus is just an obvious rebrand of the Galaxy S phones which have been available on all four US carriers (and some minor ones) starting in July.  The major difference is the button placement.  Same 4-inch Super-AMOLED screen, 9.9mm width, 1GHz Hummingbird Processor and light weight.

Separated at birth? Samsung Focus (WP7) vs. Epic 4G (Android)

The next is the LG Quantum which looks suspiciously like the LG Alley (though it has a faster clocked processor).  According to some, Windows 7 Phone doesn't do landscape very well either.  That makes typing on a landscape keyboard an exercise in neck Yoga.

The HTC Surround is last year's Nexus One with a speaker slider (or a TMobile G2 with speakers instead of a keyboard).  Personally, I don't think the external speakers are going to be a big hit.  From listening to it briefly, it is the best sound I've heard from a smartphone by a little.  But compared to the Avaya speakerphone on my desk playing hold music, it still sounds like a smartphone and I certainly wouldn't call it 'surround sound'.  HTC has made the phone significantly thicker and heavier (heaviest smartphone I can find) for something you aren't going to often use.

Would you rather have a micro speaker (Surround) or a Keyboard (G2) coming out of your HTC phone?

But the Surround is the only phone with any hardware differentiation.

It isn't just the pre-Christmas devices.  T-Mobile's HD7 looks a lot like the HTC EVO without 4G or front facing camera.  Both even have 4.3 inch displays, kickstands and dual LED flash (Except the EVO's camera is 8 megapixels vs. 5 for the HD7).  Both devices have 1GHz Qualcomm processors but the Windows Phone has 512MB of RAM.  A followup to the EVO for Android should be coming by the time the HD7 is released on T-Mobile.

The story is that there isn't much in the way of new hardware coming from Microsoft. What's most interesting is both Android and Windows Phone 7 devices use the same ARM platform so manufacturers can just build the platform and paste either OS onto it.

The most impressive Windows 6.5 phone currently shipping, the HD2 on T-Mobile and made by HTC, often gets hacked to run Android (see video below).  Going forward, will customers be able to switch OSes between Windows and Android?

Even iPhones have been hacked to run Android so maybe we'll see an iPhone running Windows Phone 7?

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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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