Thoughts on Microsoft’s CES Keynote Part 2: Windows Phone

Read Part 1: Xbox+Kinect here

CES2011

Ahhh! Windows Phone 7! It has the power to bring out strong passions for or against it as characterized by the ongoing spirited discussions here and here on the speed of updates and features, or lack thereof.  That is a good thing in my opinion. It means people care enough to talk about it. Microsoft has arguably created the best looking mobile OS so far and no other smartphone comes close in terms of user experience. That doesn’t mean it is perfect by any means. Steve Ballmer was right at CES when he said that everyone who sees the phone in action wants one. Like I wrote before, the only way to appreciate the WP7 OS is to see it in action, with the live tiles and notifications updating. Danny Lam from mobilitydigest.com wrote a great article last week titled, How I Know that Windows Phone is Perfect for Me, which contains sentiments shared by a majority of readers on this site. Paul Dawson had a similar article last year describing the OS

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…

I concur with the two author’s sentiments, unfortunately, Microsoft’s inability to convey those experiences to the general public continue to hurt the adoption of the OS. Moving along  I will try to concentrate on a few key issues that I think need further exploration. By the way, while we are on the sore subject of updates, the Bing team has just announced new updates for the Bing Mobile app for the BlackBerry!

1. Scarcity of working demo phones

I once wrote about this previously here and sadly, after recently going to a few Best Buy and Radio Shack stores, they still only have dummy phones! By now, there should be working phones on every store full of content everywhere Windows Phone 7 is sold. Without real devices on hand, new users cannot experience first hand what the two authors above described and thereby will not choose to purchase the phone.

2. Advertising

The “really” ads were great but now it is time for Microsoft to start highlighting specific features of the OS. I find that most of the carrier commercials concentrate more on the hardware than the OS itself. There is a reason why those late night infomercials sell a lot of products. They are straight to the point. Just like iPhone ads highlight one task in use at a time rather than personalities, so should some WP7 ads. Windows Phone UK has some ads like this on there YouTube page. Here is an example.

Ed Bott, a respected and award winning technology writer in his article on ZDNet  titled “When does Windows Phone 7 get its grand opening?” had this to say

Most of the reactions I’ve read to the interview with LG’s Choi zeroed in on that “less than we expected” quote, but I was more intrigued by this later comment about Windows Phone 7:

  • What we feel is that is absolutely perfect for a huge segment out there. What we feel is that some people believe that some operating systems, mainly Google, are extremely complicated for them. But Windows Phone 7 is very intuitive and easy to use.

That, in shorthand, is how Microsoft should be marketing Windows Phone 7. Position it and demo it directly against Android. Contrast the complexity and confusion of Android with the simplicity of a Windows Phone. The Android platform is ripe for the same sort of pointed comparisons that Apple used to such devastating effect in its “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” series of ads.

Read the following two excerpts and notice what they have in common, first David Platt, from his article entitled “The Secret to a Successful Windows Phone 7 App” he says

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, as I wrote in my August column, “Mars and Venus” (msdn.microsoft.com/magazine/ff898402). A killer app to them is very different from a killer app for the predominantly male early adopter audience.

Then Ed Bott from the same article previously qouted in which he says

I think Choi is also correct that Windows Phone 7 is boring to the enthusiast community that has driven smartphone adoption so far. But the next big bump in the smartphone adoption curve will come as new waves of less technically savvy users arrive. Microsoft has actually designed a phone UI that is comforting for feature phone users, who don’t want to scroll though four screenfuls of apps and folders to do stuff. Making a head-to-head comparison with Android (and to a lesser extent with iPhone and BlackBerry) is the way to peel off these new arrivals to the smartphone world and guide them into your camp

I hope Microsoft takes some of these points into consideration and incorporates them in their ads. No more hipsters please!

3. Web based phone companion ala Kin Studio

Now that we have established that WP7 is a perfect phone for new users upgrading  from feature phones, I still wonder why Microsoft has  still not implemented a Kin Studio like companion for  Windows Phone 7?  With the data caps now being implemented by carriers, I would compromise and make give the option of the automatic  backups being done only over WiFi. I believe that WP7 does automatic backup but it scales down the resolution of the original images. I have been a strong proponent for the Kin Studio feature for WP7 and I hope that we will hear at least by MWC,  that they will bring this feature to the ecosystem.

OneNote has the great capability of syncing automatically to the web and it is something that  I wish  the whole Office hub could too. Imagine being able to start writing a word document on your phone and then being able to pick it up on your computer or slate or vice versa where you left off without of having to worry about saving it or where it is stored. This would be possible through SkyDrive and Live Mesh. I was therefore sad to read this excerpt from mobilitydigest

There are no plans to advance SkyDrive. If you want two-way sync, there are no imminent plans for that. Worse, it sounds like the team is still debating what direction things are headed, so don’t expect any updates in the near future

What is there to debate? How can they be so blind? This would be a killer feature!! there is nothing to think about just do it! So imagine my surprise when I came upon this article from all places 9 to 5 Mac titled, “Apple to fight Facebook with iOS 5 and Media Stream?” here is an excerpt

We speculate that Apple is currently working on “Media Stream” and this is going to go way beyond photos in the future. We think Apple will expand this to music and videos, maybe like AirPlay between mobile iOS devices where you can watch or listen to your friends’ media and of course Apple will provide easy buy links to iTunes.

Speculating further, the Media Stream has to be stored somewhere, it isn’t just going to live on your iOS device. We believe this is where Apple’s Cloud infrastructure comes in. Apple will likely have a Kin Studio-type (I know!) of automatic upload feature that will allow you to tag your uploads for either private or public consumption (see video above).

Even though it is speculation right now, it seems to certain that Apple will get that feature done and I can see them including their other productivity apps like pages, keynote, and numbers in the seamless sync using mobileme

4. Limited accessibility of the Marketplace and Bing Search in most countries

We all know it is hard to establish payment options and licensing issues when a company expands to areas outside their native home. The problem I see is that Microsoft has been selling Windows products to most countries in the world for a long time.  How hard is it then to take advantage of the infrastructure they have developed over the years with relationships with partners and governments, and accelerate opening of the marketplace to all countries where WP7 is being sold, even if it just means the free apps to start with?  Same goes with Bing Search and maps, that needs to be overhauled sooner than later.

Mobile World Congress 2011 will soon be upon us. It will mark a year since Windows Phone 7 was officially announced, Microsoft has laid a great foundation during the past 12 months, my hope is that this time around, they will come out blazing with a vision and details about the future of the OS.

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