So Microsoft wasn't messing when it said it had come up with something radical to fight back in smartphones. The announcement today of the Windows Phone 7 Series -- effectively a back-to-the-drawing board new platform -- bears the stamp of the old, Gatesian Microsoft, the company that did a U-turn on the web despite having piled cash into a proprietary network (and even the company that more recently but less successfully doubled down on Windows Vista security in another sharp piece of footwork).
The Anyone But Microsoft camp will doubtless carp that the company has taken tactics and features popular from the iPhone and other devices but the new devices look elegant, the UI is instantly distinctive, there are some rave early reviews, an arm-long list of partners and the XBox games plus Microsoft Office integration is a totemic recognition that the artificial barriers between business and consumer devices is over.
Some of the coverage seems to suggest that the future smartphone sector has become a three-way battle between Apple, Google and Microsoft. That's just silly and the fact is that this stands to be a fragmented market for years to come with RIM still formidable in the corporate, messaging-addicted corporate sector, Symbian and Linux jokers wild on open source, and Intel a dark horse that could yet run a bigger race.
There is plenty of scope for cunning alliances, price wars and all the dark arts of capitalism to be displayed and it's good to have Microsoft back to stir things up. Let the games begin.