When does Windows Phone stop being Windows Phone?

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I’m not switching from Windows Phone. This is not one of those articles, Windows Phone fits my needs at this point in time. What were talking about here is “Windows Phone.”
What is Windows Phone to you?
For me, the idea of a Windows Phone entered my head when I wandered into a phone store, hellbent on an Xperia phone but captivated by a photo of a Lumia 900 on the walls. I was spellbound by the different look of the OS, its beauty for lack of a better word and then went to the internet to find out more.
Later, I used a Windows Phone and was blown away by it. How it worked, how it felt. Previously, my only smartphone experience had been with an iPhone, a Galaxy and another random Android Phone which I could never get my head around. When using a Lumia, everything about it felt smart, well thought out, and generally polished. I then got my first Windows Phone (off-contract with the money from my first Listverse articles). It was brilliant. The People hub, the Music hub, Office, everything on the phone felt fantastic.
Then came Windows Phone 8.1 and much of these were removed with one fell swoop. The Photos hub had its soul ripped out, the Music app…no, the Windows Phone music experience was destroyed. Messaging, the Me tile, the games hub etc, were other casualties of the move to 8.1.

Let’s keep a scoreboard here. For me, the main attractors to Windows Phone were the messaging hub, the metro UI, the media hubs and social integration.

In Windows Phone 8.1, the social and messaging integration was removed. Whether to please Facebook or to prep users for their incoming Skype implementation or some combination of the two, it does not matter. It was gone and there was nothing to replace it.

Next was social integration. Microsoft removed native, baked in Facebook and Twitter integration into the OS. Gone was the usefulness of the Me tile, browsing the Facebook images of your contacts, or being able to post to multiple social networks at will. It was framed by some as a way to improve the platform by allowing other app developers to plug into the OS, but only someone who had not seen Microsoft’s treatment by app developers would believe that it would work. The result was the same as above, we would be once again left with a pale shadow of what once was.

The most egregious were the Music and Games hubs which, for many users are now far removed from what they used to be. The new music app still struggles with my music library, often removing whole artists at random, and the games app is beter left to itself (Microsoft certainly thinks so).

The photos app still works and works well, its just a purely Spartan experience, now a purely telemetry data-driven experience. It can only be described as soulless.
The next major update to Windows Phone is Windows 10, which strips much of what was remaining of Windows Phone from the OS. The metro UI is gone, there are no more hubs, nothing of the original Windows Phone remains. In essence, it is a new alien OS.  An OS that has yet to sell me on its merits.

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Do I fear change? Hardly. Microsoft is free to change whatever they want in their OS to attract as many users as they want. Metro apparently wasn’t working out for them. They have the data and studies after all. Metro is clearly the issue with Windows Phone – (of course the Start Menu was the reason for Windows 7 not killing every other OS- the data said so). So were the hubs. Perhaps next year, it will be live tiles that are the barrier to adoption. Maybe the buttons on the phone are too harsh and need to be replaced with a single button that does everything, or geometrical buttons. I don’t know, and I’m not interested.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is pushing Windows Phone away to bring back Windows Mobile. As I said, I -and I suspect, many other Windows Phone users are not afraid of change. There are some individuals that do, they argue that it is for the growth of the Windows Phone ecosystem. The real question to be asked here is if “Windows Phone fans” can discard hubs, built in integration of services and even the Metro UI – what exactly do these people like about Windows Phone in the first place? When everything special about it is stripped away, can it still be Windows Phone? When does Windows Phone stop being Windows Phone?

I am not judging Windows 10 preliminarily. I will do that when it comes out. But Windows 10 Mobile will be a new OS, one that rides on the coattails of another, which is ostensibly much better suited to mobile at this stage of development. Whether it lives up to its predecessor is yet to be seen.

Mary Jo Foley asked a question earlier, “With a Platform Neutral Microsoft, why go Windows(and Windows Phone)?” , I thought I had the answer. But apparently not. If anything, this morning has shown us that Microsoft don’t either.

I am not switching away from Windows Phone, it’s leaving me- and other people who liked Windows Phone behind. By September, Windows Phone will be dead, killed by Windows 10, and there’s no saving it.

But that’s my opinion. What do you guys think? What makes Windows Phone stand out to you that can still be preserved in Windows 10? Let us know in the comments below


 

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