A readers plea to Microsoft: Up your pace

Microsoft needs to up its pace to retain its users

Last year, when Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7 to an unsuspecting world, I was blown away. The now familiar interface was, and is, completely radical in a world of skeumorphic design. I said at the time that, with some conditions, I would be first in line to get one of these new phones that seemed so completely different from anything I’d ever seen on the market, especially from Microsoft.

The first condition I had was that it had to be fast. We have gone beyond the times when it was acceptable to wait for interface elements to catch up to your swiping, or dropped framerates for performing simple actions that are fundamental to the device. Windows Phone 7 delivers on that, I’m happy to say.

The second condition, and this is something that I really thought Microsoft would get right, was that it had to get better. I knew that at launch, this OS was going to be behind. And really, that’s fine, so long as you don’t intend to keep it that way. But Microsoft by all accounts are keeping it that way. And that is really the big problem that faces Microsoft in the future.

Everyone who has these phones bought them on the understanding that it would be improved rapidly over time. In fact, back in October that’s exactly what we were promised by Joe Belfiore, who told the press that a compelling update was shipping “very, very soon”. Privately, Microsoft officials told Paul Thurrot that the update would be ready on launch day. Yet here we are, almost six months later, and NoDo isn’t here yet.

Let’s consider what NoDo actually means for users. It will bring copy and paste, a relatively minor feature, to the OS. If you’ve been using Windows Phone for the past few months you probably couldn’t care less about copy and paste by now. It is of course nice to see it, but it isn’t a major feature that will really help you in your daily life. It’s just another thing to remove from the list of missing features so often quoted by critics.
It will bring improved loading times for apps that preload graphical elements by opening up the bottleneck on the amount of data that can be preloaded. This will probably improve the experience of game load times a fair bit, but unfortunately, day to day apps ike twitter clients that don’t need as much memory won’t see much of an improvement there.

It will improve the Marketplace search from completely useless to usable, something which will definitely improve user experience, but that should have been in from day one. It is a minor fix.
Lastly some minor bug fixes will be included, but as was previously mentioned this update has been finished and ready for some time now, so it’s likely that any bugs discovered in the last few months won’t see any improvement.

It’s hard for me to get excited by NoDo. It is probably the only update we are going to see in the next 4 or 5 months, based on Microsoft’s pace at the moment. They showed off a truly compelling update recently, codenamed Mango, which included major features like HTML5 and Multitasking, yet this update won’t arrive till around the October time frame, roughly a year after launch.

In October of last year you would have been forgiven for thinking, based on Microsoft rhetoric, that there would be a major update every 2 months. Yet here we are with an extremely bleak outlook on the schedule.

It is not only frustrating, it is also difficult to even understand. Take twitter integration, for example. The Twitter API is extremely simple, yet it will take Microsoft a year since launch to integrate it into the OS, something which could probably be accomplished and polished in a few days by a small team. Why are they taking so long? Nobody really knows.

The recent iPad 2 news from Apple, whilst fairly predictable and evolutionary, marks the stark difference between the two companies. Apple are a company that are firmly geared towards consumers. You may not like the iPad, especially the increasingly tired OS, but it can’t be said of Apple that they simply don’t understand the wants and needs of their customers. In fact Apple created something, the iPad, that people didn’t even know they wanted. But 15 million people did want one, once they saw how it simplified computing and redefined what they thought of as a ‘computer’. The Post-PC devices that Steve Jobs was talking about are right in our pockets. Microsoft’s problem is that they just don’t understand this. They want Windows everywhere. They still want to fight the battle as if people were looking for computers that still have DOS support. They just don’t seem to understand that the future of the market doesn’t lie in Windows, it lies in Windows Phone.

In the next couple of weeks the NoDo update will ship and then Windows Phone, the future of Microsoft’s business, will have to wait another agonising six months for an update that only brings the OS up to par with the current market leaders’ systems today. In reality, there will most likely have been innovations in iOS and Android that once again leave Windows Phone in the dust by that time.

We are not fixed for life Microsoft. If Windows Phone is not where we want it to be when our contracts expire we will simply move on to something else. Microsoft, for the sake of competition in the market and most importantly for the sake of a wonderful OS that brings many important messages and paradigms to the user, no, for the sake of your business: don’t continue at this pace.

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