Walt Mossberg writes a damning review of Windows Phone 7

A customer views a mobile phone with the new Windows 7 operating system after its arrival in British shops, in central London October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS SCI TECH)

Let me start by saying this: I don’t think Walt Mossberg’s review of Windows Phone 7 will make or break the platform. The platform will break the platform, especially if, as Mossberg suggests, Windows Phone 7 fails to compete with Android and the iPhone.

Here’s the real hammer blow:

But I couldn’t find a killer innovation that would be likely to make iPhone or Android users envious, except possibly for dedicated Xbox users. Even the built-in Office can be replicated with third-party Office-compatible apps on competing platforms; and the iPhone and Android phones also can interoperate with Microsoft’s corporate Exchange email, calendar and contact system.

So for now, I see Windows Phone 7 as mostly getting Microsoft into the game, and replacing the stale, complicated Windows Mobile system that preceded it. It will get better. The company is already working on a copy and paste system, and said it is coming early next year. But, today, I see Windows Phone 7 as inferior to iPhone and Android for most average users. It’s simply not fully baked yet.

That was Microsoft’s whole schtick – that Windows Phone is different from old Windows Mobile, different from the iPhone, different from Android. The only difference, though, is that it’s months, even years behind its competitors in terms of tech. Without improving the tech behind the phone, how can Microsoft hope to compete?

The bottom line – they can’t. If anything, Microsoft should have looked into producing a killer set of apps for the current mobile marketplace. If Windows Phone 7 bombs, which seems very likely at this point, there goes millions upon millions of dollars in development and advertising. In a couple years, maybe even just one, Windows Phone could have a competitive offering, but my guess is that by then it will be way too late.

The case for a January Verizon iPhone

Verizon iPhone.There have now been countless news stories regarding the January release of a Verizon iPhone. Everyone’s been waiting for it, but does January really make sense? Not to me. Not to a lot of people. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball thinks differently, though. He’s got all kinds of reasons that a January Verizon iPhone release makes sense.

My biggest issue is timing. Verizon’s going to miss the holiday season, which is a big miss. There’s also the fact that Apple has announced a new iPhone during each of the past couple summers. So consumers will have six months with their new toy before a new one comes out?

Gruber addresses my concerns, and plenty of others, in a post that actually has me believing it will happen. Here’s the part that makes the most sense:

Bottom line: If Apple’s goal is to accelerate iPhone market share, particularly in competition with Android, then they should finalize a deal with Verizon soon. And if they’re going to do it soon, that means CDMA, not LTE.

A lot of people, myself included, haven’t considered that LTE isn’t going to be nationwide. It will be out in some cities, tested in some cities, and completely overloaded in some citites. In short, most of America isn’t going to see LTE for a while, and Apple can’t wait that long to try to get Verizon customers off Android. I know I’ve thought a time or two about jumping the AT&T ship and just getting on to Android. The App Store kept me around, but it’s only so long before Android has everything I want (they just got Angry Birds!).

New Macbook Air heralds the death of the disc

Apple recovery drive.

Well, it looks like MG Siegler over at TechCrunch called it. Yesterday, Apple announced the new line of Macbook Air laptops and they’ll ship with the little number you see in the picture. That’s right, that’s your recovery drive.

It’s a miniature USB stick, packed with the data that would normally come on an Apple recovery disc. This isn’t a huge surprise – more like the natural evolution of data storage. DVDs replaced CDs a while back for their superior storage. Flash drives have long since surpassed DVD storage, but they’re still more expensive to make. By stripping away a lot of the plastic and limiting storage, I’d imagine the cost will come down enough that we’ll see this option more and more often.

Aside from the new recovery method, the new Air line is looking pretty good. It comes in 11-inch and 13-inch models and is ridiculously thin. Both models have the unibody design and now sport the multi-touch trackpad present on the Macbook line. For me, 11-inches is way too small, especially if it’s widescreen. My current 13-inch MB Pro often feels too small, if only because of resolution.

App Review: Growlator

growlator-iPhoneIf you’ve ever taken a stroll down the frozen foods aisle, you know the name Hungry-Man. Most often associated with college students and the working man on the go, Hungry-Man is all about delivering big meals with enough flavor to keep you going. Personally, I like to cook, so I tend to stay away from frozen dinners, but I was definitely intrigued when asked if I would review Growlator, the Hungry-Man app designed to listen for your stomach, diagnose your specific growl, and offer a Hungry-Man solution to your problem.

There’s just one problem with the app – it doesn’t actually listen for anything. Granted, that’s not a surprise. It would be hard enough to hear a stomach growl, let alone differentiate among them. The descriptions the app has for different kinds of hunger are pretty funny, though, and here’s the kicker: every description offers a dollar off whatever Hungry-Man product is recommended for your growl. That’s really a pretty nice deal for a free application.

You can get the Growlator app for free from the iTunes App Store.

Will optical drives soon die?

Optical drive.I read this article over at TechCrunch the other day about the eventual demise of the optical drive. It rung home, not because I haven’t used my optical drive, but because I just used it this past weekend.

I had traveled back to Ohio for a friend’s wedding reception but ended up staying for more than two weeks as my girlfriend lost her grandmother. In the part of Ohio that she’s from there isn’t much to be had in the way of reliable internet. That meant no Netflix and no access to video I have stored on my network drive. I had to…watch DvDs. It was awful.

Seriously, though, using an optical drive can be kinda brutal. It’s hot, loud, and drains your battery much faster than spinning a hard drive does. It can’t be too long before we’ll see widespread adoption of driveless laptops like the Macbook Air. There is still something about that specific machine that makes me a little nervous, but I treat my current laptop with such care I don’t think a change would be too scary.