Why the First WinPhone Chassis Design Is Key for Microsoft

Microsoft (s msft) is getting a lot of attention over its decision to streamline the OS and deliver only three main chassis designs with its upcoming Windows Phone 7. But if the company is to regain relevance with the Apples (s aapl) and Googles (s goog) of the mobile world, it’s the first chassis design that will be key.

As Mary Jo Foley first reported this morning, the first Windows Phone 7 chassis is designed for manufacturers building big-screen, touch-only devices, while the second will support gadgets with sliding QWERTY keyboards in addition to touchscreens. While the third chassis isn’t specified, it’s expected to be targeted at traditional, candy bar-style handsets.

The strategy allows Microsoft to all but guarantee a consistent user experience and performance across devices, as Kevin noted over at jkOnTheRun. Chassis No. 1 will be used on the first smartphones to run Windows Phone 7 when the devices come to market before this year’s holiday season. And the first chassis will also be crucial if Microsoft is to expand beyond modern handsets to leverage the wave of tablets that will come to market over the next several months.

That’s a strategy Apple is pursuing with its iPad, which runs the iPhone OS. It also is Google’s plan for Android, which is so versatile that Om envisions the Androidification of everything. Microsoft already has vast experience in the PC and laptop world, of course, so bridging the gap between phones and other connected devices shouldn’t be all that difficult. If it can truly produce a world-class mobile OS — and if it can attract developers to the platform — it will suddenly find itself competing with the most influential players in the space. Which seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Image courtesy Microsoft.