Musings on the sales numbers for WP7 and the bright future ahead

The sales numbers for WP7 devices or lack thereof are looking to turn into the new “copy and paste” saga as everyone tries to come up with their best estimates to gauge the state of the OS so far. The latest estimates so far come from developer Kelly, better know by the twitter handle Kellabyte, who used Facebook data, and some mathematical extrapolations to come up with approximately 286,366 devices so far. (She has updated it to reflect new estimate of  408,762 devices). I myself side with Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore and Charlie Kindel for not talking about the numbers at this time because it just gives their detractors more ammunition to pronounce the death of the platform. It is too early in the game with the expected updates coming in February, and Verizon and Sprint set to add WP7 devices to their lineups early next year. The numbers will look much different 3-6 months from now. At that point, it would be reasonable then to analyze what the numbers mean in regards to the viability of the platform. Mary Jo Foley has a different take about the whole story while engadget does a good job debunking the fallacy that the “buy one get one” deals or deep discounts mean the death of WP7.

I whole heartedly agree with Mary Jo Foley as many of our readers that Microsoft needs to stop the absurdity of not allowing WP7 to be scaled up to tablets. Even now, some OEMS, MSI in this case, are still talking about Windows 7 tablets based on the new Intel Atom Oak Trail platform that promises a little better performance and battery life. Why?? It is such a waste of time and money!

Moving on, I think WP7 will have a great future propelled by its new interface of organizing the user experience around tasks rather than apps. Paul Dawson has written one of the best posts I’ve read so far titled “Living with Windows Phone” describing this experience. I consider it a must read, and something you should share with your friends who are considering or hesitant about picking up a Windows Phone 7 device.

Here is an excerpt

Windows Phone is a flowing experience. You just have to tell Windows Phone three things in order for it to start to bring your world together. Your Facebook login. Your Windows LiveID. Your work email details. From this point in, you stop thinking about it…

With other phones I have to think about which calendar my itinerary is stored in. I have to think about which phonebook my mum’s phone number is in. None of this with Windows Phone. Once your details are in, you just have to think about ‘people’ – people you know, people you work with, their phone numbers, their email addresses, their facebook status, their photos, everything is in one place… in fact, this takes a little retraining for an old smartphone user like me. You would think that for a user experience pro, ‘people first’ is an easy thing to remember, but it takes a while to sink in. The ‘people hub’ is really the place to be regardless of whether the communication is inbound or outbound, work or social, email, voice or Facebook. One long list of people you know and the stuff that they’re doing.

The whole article is not just a love-fest because he also outlines areas that need to be improved in which we all have talked about. To achieve this goal, I think Microsoft can do more by improving upon their core features. (This is not an exhaustive list by no means)

People Hub

– The individual contacts tile with added “presence” information similar to Microsoft Lync but in a Metro UI fashion. Click on a person’s name would not only bring their contact information, but also whether or not they are online on Messenger, Facebook, Foursquare etc.

lync2010

– Next to the “what’s new” pane, there should be a new one which will include all the recent history you have had with the individual, be it calls, messages, voice mail (visual), email, social updates, shared calendars and events etc. and a way to quickly act on them  right from the same panel. I’m working on a concept of how it would look like.

– A way to sort your contacts by categories and or subcategories so you could quickly go to work, family, doctor, plumber and such.

Calendar

-This sorely needs a fully featured multiple calendar support as many have requested, month view, and more integration with third party sites and other hubs. For example, what if a concert featuring my favorite artist I had tagged on Zune updates also showed up on my calendar? It would help me with my weekend plans without having to go to another app to check for such updates.

– I’m not sure why Microsoft did not include a tasks/to-do solution at launch but it is needed sooner rather than later. Added intelligence to the tasks to help a user for example quickly navigate to stores on their shopping list and even show if those items were on sale would be an added bonus.

– The calendar and tasks solutions need  to sync across multiple devices, phones, pcs and tablets

Bing

-Turn by turn navigation with voice

– Categories so that a user can quickly jump to most commonly searched areas like movies, flights, gas prices and more and a way to save searches.

Voice command

I hope that this feature gets more expanded capabilities like the ones found on Windows mobile. I also really don’t like the fact WP7 version is a service that requires a data connection since limits its use in bad network coverage areas.

The main point here is that WP7 in its native form is more user friendly than all the other platforms out there and the gap can grow if Microsoft moves fast.  There are still more people using feature phones than smartphones and Windows Phone 7 fits this demographic perfectly. David Platt has good post titled ” The Secret to a successful Windows Phone 7 app” in which he details who the next wave of smartphone owners will be. (Bodes pretty well for all the techies who have to consider the WAF-Wife Acceptance Factor or GAF when introducing new gadgets to their significant others)

Anyone who owns a smartphone today is, by definition, an early adopter. They bought an iPhone or Android because they enjoy the technology for its own sake, and for displaying status within their geek peer group.

The next wave of smartphone adoption will come from users who value technology not for itself, but only for making their lives easier. This wave is primarily controlled by women, either on their own or as telecommunication managers for their families. They have different technology-usage patterns and goals than male users…

What is the overriding factor in the life of today’s female smartphone purchaser? She’s busy. She works a demanding job, then takes care of her kids, her pets, her parents and her in-laws, herself and her husband—very much in that order. She needs apps that deliver groceries because she doesn’t have time to stop at the supermarket; apps that schedule appointments and track medical data with the pediatrician (or geriatrician or obstetrician or vet); apps that tell her where her kids are and how late her husband’s train is running…

You see, the hubs provide a perfect framework in such a way that the users don’t have to worry what apps are needed to achieve a certain goal. All they have to think about is the task at hand and as Paul Dawson writes

In summary, Windows Phone is amazing for a Microsoft version 1.0 product. it’s also a device that changes a lot of the smartphone UI paradigms. You find yourself having to think ‘how would I do this if I were 7 years old?’ And I mean this literally, so when you can’t find the camera app, and your 7 year old son picks it up, holds it like a camera and presses the shutter button which fires the camera into life, remember that way of thinking and apply it. It’s how the technology should have been designed in the first place, but we ended up with a complex way of doing things that we do not have to be stuck with…

If you want a phone that you don’t have to think about, but you’re equally proud to own or show off… then Windows Phone is for you.

Great initial sales figures or not, it is all in Microsoft’s hands to execute platform properly by providing constant and timely updates without bogging down the user experience. If they manage to do so, it will be a very different story six months to a year from now.

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