1. Mango's ripe for picking
Windows Phone 7, codenamed "Mango," may have entered the smartphone market late and struggled to gain traction, but the operating system has generated a lot of buzz recently. Critics gushed over an early build of Mango back in July. Some of the bolder analysts have even predicted that Windows Phone will surpass iOS's market share by 2015.
Although I don't see Mango toppling the iPhone anytime soon, I do think it can bump Research In Motion
Over the next few months, we should see more interest in Mango, as the update hits existing handsets and new phones come on the market. AT&T just announced that it plans to add the HTC Titan, Samsung Focus S, and the budget priced Focus Flash to its lineup of Windows Phones this fall. Nokia
2. Someone built an ecosystem
It appears that Microsoft has taken a page from the Apple playbook, setting out to create a consistent user experience across all of its devices. Windows Phone 7, Windows 8's tablet-friendly "Metro" interface, and the next Xbox 360 dashboard update all have a similar design.
However, rather than copy the familiar grid of icons now found across the iEmpire, Microsoft has instead designed its interfaces around customizable live tiles, which users can set to launch an application, or display information and photos. It's an innovative design scheme that has the potential to do the impossible: make iOS look somewhat clunky.
The connection between Microsoft's platforms goes beyond just looks. They're becoming more tightly integrated as well. For example, Office365 -- the cloud-based version of the company's business and productivity tools -- will automatically sync documents edited on a Windows Phone with the user's computer, and allow users to collaborate in real time.
The company also plans to expand its Xbox Live platform to the PC and Windows Phone. I think this is an especially smart move. It reminds potential mobile gamers that Microsoft knows a thing or two about building a successful game library. I'm also hoping that placing Xbox Live on a PC will simplify the process of sharing media between my console and laptop. My current combination of the Zune Marketplace and Windows Media Extender works decently, but it could be cleaner.
3. Ooh, look at the clouds!
In addition to offering a cloud-based version of Office, Microsoft launched its own cloud hosting service, Azure. Since launching in February 2010, Azure service has signed up 31,000 subscribers and hosts 5,000 applications, but it has a lot of catching up to do. Salesforce.com
However, Microsoft has managed to snag a few big-name customers like Lockheed Martin, Xerox, and Travelocity. Also, tech news site The Register recently reported that Apple had selected Windows Azure and Amazon.com's
I also like Microsoft's strategy for bringing Azure to social gaming. The company has developed a toolkit for developing social games, which provides code and guidance for things like tracking achievements, keeping scores, and handling in-app purchases. Developers can download the kit for free ... as long as they host their finished games through Azure.
Microsoft has put in place all the pieces it needs to survive the post-PC era. Now it needs to focus on execution. Azure should grow into a valuable asset, but if the company wants investors to see Mr. Softy as more than an old geezer again, Microsoft really needs Mango and Windows-powered tablets to succeed.
If you'd like to learn about another company that is prepared to profit as we move more of our computing to the cloud, you should check out this special report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2011." It's absolutely free, so click here to download it today!
The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Apple, Research In Motion, Lockheed Martin, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have variously recommended buying shares of salesforce.com, Apple, Microsoft, Google, AT&T, and Amazon.com; creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple; and shorting salesforce.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
Fool contributor Patrick Martin does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on twitter @TMFpcmart03. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.