Here's the simple truth about touchscreen smartphones: it's the software, dummy. Just look around at all the flagship handsets... other than a choice of with or without a QWERTY, today's handsets all look pretty much the same and are built using the same off-the-shelf components with very few exceptions. That's why we see so much skinning on Android handsets -- that's how manufacturers like Motorola (Motoblur), Samsung (TouchWiz), and HTC (Sense) differentiate themselves with consumers. But how's that going to work for Windows Phone 7 devices with Microsoft boxing OEMs in with a narrow set of hardware and software guidelines that restrict them from modifying the user interface? Easy, Microsoft is going to help them write unique apps. At least that's what this June 1st Microsoft job posting for a senior Windows Phone software developer says:
"We are looking for a strong and experienced developer to help the OEM to design and develop applications that make their devices stand out in the marketplace. You will also help them to bring new phones to market."
The position would be "working directly with a top Korean cellular phone manufacturer, who has made a large commitment to Windows Phone." Uh, would that be LG or Samsung, we're guessing the former. It'll be interesting to see if these apps are enough to differentiate one touchscreen handset from another. Even more exciting will be watching the homebrew community attempt to hack the manufacturer-specific apps into different handsets in order to create the ultimate Windows Phone 7 superphone... or Frakenphone as the case may be. Regardless, it's clear that Microsoft isn't leaving anything to chance as manufacturers prepare to launch their first devices running Redmond's virgin OS.