Are the rigid requirements set by Microsoft good for WP7?
Disclaimer - I do not own a WP7 device and I have had no hands-on experience with it. This isn't due to some bias, it is simply because the platform is currently irrelevant to my country of residence. I'm writing this merely as a tech-junkie who keeps up to date on devices and related news.
So, to the question in subject. Obviously MS takes a hint from Apple here - standardized hardware (and software) means no compatibility issues. Everything developed for one reference platform will "just work" on every WP7 device. This means less headaches for consumers, developers and MS themselves.
On the other hand, I think the disadvantages of this approach will soon become a serious problem for Microsoft, if they haven't already. You can't help but notice that every single WP7 device released since its launch is essentially the same, plus-minus some storage and/or camera megapixels. What motivation does cell-phone manufacturer X have to develop a new WP7 device? What incentive does consumer Z have to upgrade his WP7 device after, say, a year? The next phone will be identical to the old one.
The inability to customize the software also affects things here. Why should manufacturers X and Y compete against each other with WP7 devices? They are both making the same device, unable to differentiate themselves in hardware. If they could, they would try to make a difference with software, but they can't do that either. Now the consumer looking for a WP7 device has to pick between the two brands - what will he base his decision on? Since the two devices are practically identical in hardware and software, the choice will be either based on aesthetics or on brand loyalty and reputation - reputation which was (and will be) built on Android devices primarily. So why should resources be invested in WP7 over Android?
And this shows. In 2011 HTC released only 3 WP7 phones as opposed to over 15 Android devices (a big difference, even if you don't count US variations of identical phones and such). Samsung released only 2 WP7 devices in 2011. (Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Windows_Phone_devices) To make matters worse, MS goes and plays favorites with Nokia, granting them exclusive apps and services, even if not the previously rumored OS customization. How are the other manufacturers supposed to respond now?
This trick works OK for Apple, since they make their own hardware. But I think MS has to allow manufacturers more freedom if they want them to invest in their platform. Regarding the inevitable "wait for the next update" responses, Android already has a pretty big head start and it's still moving forward.
Please discuss, I'd love to hear the opinions on this.