To be frank whenever one of my friends comes to me for an advice for buying a new phone I show them all the options that Microsoft’s platform has to offer and always I get the reply that it is hard to use or is not as user friendly and is lacking apps Etc. and they end up buying any android device (that is choosing from a palette of quintillion offerings), all this was true about the platform a year ago and I would have agreed with them then. But believe me when I am saying this “it has changed”, a lot. Windows phone 8 was restrictive at its best. It had a uniqueness to it but as Microsoft learned the hard way uniqueness without functionality is good for nothing, Even with some killer hard ware from Nokia (now Microsoft Mobile) sales was very low profit was way less than expenditure.
Being at the forefront of innovation in software Microsoft realized the flaws and introduced windows phone 8.1 to customers adding a slew of much needed features, improvements and added functionality. Action center and Cortana and a file manager was introduced , start screen got a cosmetic makeover with live folders, lock screen API’s were relaxed allowing more customization and moreover they made many of their API’s available for developers to ponder over.
After about 6 months the situation is way better with windows phone, many mainstream apps have joined the store and many has got way better in terms of usability. Just take the example of Whatsapp and Facebook both of them are a joy to use now with features and much improved performance .but the most welcome sight is that developers are now taking the platform seriously as updates are coming in as quick as it has ever been. In just the past weeks I have received around 50 updates for my apps and almost every day had a new mainstream app join with VLC being the latest. So the app situation and quality is way better than it was.
Now let’s look at the security and performance sides. Both of these has been the strength of the platform it was simply the most optimized OS in the market (as quoted by many famous review sites) and with 8.1 the security has also been upgraded with added VPN support. Unlike android (which is known to be a very cumbersome operating system even in some expensive hardware (especially those before jelly bean) Windows phone performs exceptionally well on all hardware ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive and is known to be very stable with very few major crashes and reboots.
Windows 10 is the talk of the town with the purported unification of ecosystems by making the same OS to run on all form-factors. The technical preview has received a widespread adoption and Microsoft is indeed all out with this version with Cortana showing up in a recent internal build of Windows 10. The Phone version is to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in January and is sure to bring even more features and improvements from 8.1. Also knowing that it will presumably run on Intel hardware just makes it the icing on the cake.
What should be the strategy going ahead
With the new boss at the helm Microsoft is working very hard to become a cross-platform services oriented company rather than building its own ecosystem of hardware and software.
I think the following are some of the things that have to be done if windows phone wants to be a major player in the market
1. Use the left portion of start-screen for notifications.
By doing this the drop down can be used for other functionality (like playing music anyone??) and much more quick toggles menu and provide actionable notifications on the left portion from everywhere inside the OS (including lock-screen). This will provide users with much greater functionality and can avoid using live lock screen app as a standalone.
2. LET THE DEVELOPERS REIGN SUPREME
Give them the API’s required to make scintillating apps and experiences without compromising on core security. Every user (including myself) has got tired of seeing the same excuse (some missing features are OS limitation) from every developer. This makes them both developers and users helpless and compromise on the experience.
3. LET THERE BE QUALITY ALONGSIDE QUANTITY
Windows phone has been much scrutinized about the lack of major apps (official) on the platform while quantity is a very important factor but without quality its nothing but like giving one a thousand i8’s free but with plastic interiors. Even if the total count is around the third of competing stores its fine as long as all of them give a quality experience.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN APPS BETER THAN THIRD PARTY ONE’S
With windows phone 8.1 Microsoft made many integrated apps standalone sighting they will be easier to upgrade but this has proven to backfire as the two main system apps music and video has got tons of criticism about crashes, lags, and all round missing features. Not to mention collaborations like Facebook etc. so rather than waiting developers to make better alternatives with limited API’s at their disposal make the official apps better.
So windows phone is not bad as it was a year ago and has made huge improvements in every aspect. The features are almost in parity the app store has more than three lakh apps with many major titles showing up. With windows 10 getting ready to be the on OS to rule it all and is going to merge both platforms into on scalable version, things are looking bright for windows phone in the future provided they can make this version the best yet.