Windows Phone 7 Thoughts: Ed B

image It is a great morning out here in MN, the birds are chirping, the sun is up, and some thoughts of Windows Phone7 is hunting some readers :D.


When I first heard that Microsoft was going to be investing a lot of time and money into Windows Mobile 7 I was ecstatic. Finally (was on WinMo6.1 at the time) Microsoft was going to hush the critics up who had said it was ugly for years, and show them that they could beautify their powerful OS.
Well, time moved on and the 6.5 builds started leaking out and I began exploring them. Now I’m quite content with the 6.5.3 line of builds, in seeing that virtually all the menus have been updated, and in my personal opinion, the OS now has a nice modern feel. Then MS started releasing more of the details on Windows Phone 7.
Now, let me stop right here. I need to make a distinction on what kind of user I am. I’ve been a user of the Pocket PC world since they first started rolling off the line on the iPaq name. I primarily have used them for their PIM abilities, and later started adding more tools such as network diagnostic tools, dictionaries, SSH (putty) etc to help me in my work as an IT consultant. I’m not too heavy into the media side of things, but since getting my HD2, I’ve retired my 120gb Zune since I got tired of having the limited device. I’m not big into games on the devices, as it seems I rarely have time to sit down and enjoy anything more than the G-sensor showcase game with the ball. I first started using my devices as GPS units with my Dell Axim and Dell’s proprietary GPS software and kit, now I’m an Igo8 fanatic, and consider it to be one of my devices most important software applications.
So what do I think about WP7? I’m not a fan of the user interface, not one bit. Is it pretty? Yes, it is gorgeous, but it seems to waste so much screen to being pretty, that it is very sparse on the information it displays. The outlook mobile for example, shows only a few emails on the screen at a time, showing virtually 50% less of the information. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think they should have updated the interface for Outlook Mobile, but losing the amount of information displayed on the screen at time is not a tradeoff I find acceptable for my mobile device.
The tool kit they have for developing apps is wonderful, if you want to develop little fart applications and games of the sort. I don’t however, think for one minute that a company like Softmaker will port their incredible office suite over to WP7 if all they get to use is Silverlight. From my limited knowledge of the developer side of things, it will greatly limit some of the more in-depth apps, and from what I’ve seen of the version of office shipping with WP7, I for one at least will need the added feature set and power of Softmaker. I think locking the developers out of the core of the phone will only end up in limiting the applications for the phone to “fluff” and never allow it to have the killer applications it needs to not only survive, but keep its power user base.
What I’m seeing by many of the comments online though, is that people who are thinking that WP7 is going to be awesome, are not users who really ever needed the old platform. They could have been just as well served by any of the other mobile OS’s out there. This form over function mentality, no matter how much it unifies the OS, pushes the device further away from being a “Pocket PC”, and more towards a glorified, and powerful feature phone. While I won’t ever criticize those that think WP7 will be perfect for their needs, as an individual’s needs vary greatly, I can say in all honesty that the direction MS has charted with WP7 will not serve the users who need the power and flexibility that they got from Windows Mobile. I believe that fact is undisputed, as no one can argue that with the limitations and design MS has implemented with WP7, it is less flexible than the old 6.5.
Another point I’d like to address, is the current craze for capacitive screens in devices. I tried warning people in comments and emails, that ditching resistive screens would have drawbacks, and now I’ve noticed how limiting it can be. Opening the notes application on my HD2, I suddenly miss my stylus and having the ability to draw a diagram, or take notes in the note program. I never really thought about how much I used that feature, and thought with the large screen on the HD2, I could live without the added accuracy of the resistive screen. Now I do realize that this certainly is a feature I don’t want to be without again. However, the current market trend, for better or worse, has somehow captivated the consumers mind into thinking the hard glass screen on a capacitive device is what is best.
Soon we will see what the consumer reaction will be to the flood of highly attractive WP7 devices on the market. While I hold hope that XDA will be able to fill in many of the gaps in the platform that MS has knowingly left, I don’t hold out much hope that the smartphone world will ever again be what it is today.
So I ask you as readers, why is it that you find it so troublesome to use your Windows Mobile device? Is it remembering to close applications? How is that different than using your desktop PC? Is it “instability” in the platform that bothers you? I must admit, it has a been a very rare occurrence that I’ve needed to soft-reset my phone for a OS lockup. I’ve never seen any of my WinMo phones as untrustworthy for receiving business calls due to “instability.”
So what type of user are you? The type that needs their hand held in closing applications so that you don’t fill your RAM up, needs a marketplace to find applications, and must have a unified GUI so that they can blindly operate their device? Or are you the type of person who can devote a bit of time to learning an OS, that will give you far more flexibility and power in the long run? Someone who can manage the applications they have open and not flood the device, someone who can create a shortcut where they want it, and someone who can use a simple search engine to find what they need for software.
I fear that if WP7 succeeds, as a power user, my hope will lie in whatever Intel cooks up for their new ultra low power Atom processors.
And if it fails, MS will abandon this market forever.
I for one, do not feel the need for my mobile phone to hold my hand, but rather my hand to hold it as a tool.

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