Why are we not excited by Windows Mobile 7?

25 02 2011

I have read numerous articles now on Windows Phone (or Mobile) 7 which essentially say it’s a failing, dead platform. What’s more worrying is that any blogs and articles I read on Mobil 7 and the Nokia deal are often greeted with comments such as “good, I love the fact its failing”. When we read articles about the Nokia deal with Microsoft, all we read are points that essentially “want Nokia and Microsoft to fail”…Why is this?

Why people hate Microsoft

I think a lot of this is from years gone past and has nothing to do with current products and services Microsoft offers. Many hate the big corporate and as such, Microsoft will always be hated by them as a big corporate. Many claim that windows itself is poor, I still receive jokes about blue screens, which I haven’t actually seen since Windows XP was released. Others hate Microsoft simply because they aren’t Apple and aren’t Google. Then we come to those, mainly tech geeks, who claim they hate all things Microsoft because it’s not “open” or because they believe their products to be second rate, or there is some hidden agenda to bully small companies and destroy them. Finally, it seems many hate Steve Ballmer (I can see why on that one)…

So with this in mind, it makes it hard for Microsoft to launch new products with a bang and to some excitement in the consumer world these days (perhaps the exception is Windows 7).

But, how many of these reasons are actually valid? How many are actually previous experiences or how many are just based on rubbish we read online?

Well in years gone by perhaps you could argue the case for many of these reasons, but if we actually compare like for like experiences, I think most people (when not being biased) would opt for products delivered by Microsoft, and that includes Mobile 7. The issue is, at the moment, they don’t. Most of us now “presume” Apple experiences are better (because they were considerably compared to Mobile 6 or even Windows 3.11 … remember that? I think thats where the blue screen jokes are still coming from). People also presume that “Android” devices must also be cool and great, after all there are so many of them and it has such a great name, “Android”. Anything with that name must be out of this world…But Windows? Huh, we have all seen Windows, it’s nothing new…

The mobile market

It seems many consumers hate Microsoft, and within the mobile market, there are real options to not use Microsoft products. I know there are different platforms available for PCs but if you actually start to use them, it’s like being on mySpace while all your friends are on Facebook, almost pointless. However, in the mobile world, well the smart phone mobile world, we have real choice of operating systems, and because a mobile OS is “limited” compared to a real PC, the providers can really deliver good usable solutions.

I remember my Nokia N95 and I was very impressed with it. But I also remember my Windows Mobile 6 which, to be fair, wasn’t great but was an improvement on my Nokia 95 user experience. Sure it wasn’t a patch on the iPhone, but the mobile market needed a good kick in the bum at that point, and hats off to Apple for doing it…But user experience is king in many ways, and the iPhone and iOS massively outstripped the rest when it comes to usability (if not functionality). Apple here has lead the way and all are playing catch up. This coupled with the real Apple lovers (no matter what Apple delivers they claim is the best thing since the wheel was invented) makes it hard for others to compete initially, or launch with a massive bang and queues round the block.

That being said, we should throw in Android, which many hail as the greatest mobile OS around, but it really isn’t. In many ways it looks clunky and delivers a poor imitation of the iOS. Imitation is the biggest form of compliment, but it isn’t the real deal, and Android feels like it isn’t the real deal. The reason it is so popular is because its available on so many handsets, basically because it costs pennies (don’t think its because manufacturers can tailor it to their needs, they don’t want to, but they need to, to try and differentiate their devices from the competition). Android also taps into the open source bunch of consumers and lovers of Google. So where does this leave Microsoft?

Windows Mobile 7

All this leaves Microsoft launching a product into an environment where Microsoft doesn’t exist in many ways, its an environment with bloggers and tech geeks who essentially hate Microsoft and one that is dominated by the iPhone and Android. This all means it is hard for Microsoft to get real exposure of their platform. An example of this was the launch date. When Apple released the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, we had lots of ads on TV, lots of ads online and each mobile store that had hold of the iPhone made the most of it, advertising with massive window displays and billboards…What did we see with Windows Mobile 7? Nothing…O2, Organge etc in the UK didn’t even make it clear it was now available! Thats madness, and makes it hard to actually show consumers what the product is, and what it can do…

In many ways Windows Mobile 7 is the best OS on a phone out there. It delivers a unique user interface, it looks great and its performance is very good. In addition it has an app store in Marketplace which seems to be growing by the minute. All in all, it’s a great platform. When, as an end user, you compare it like for like you soon realise that it’s a big rival to the iPhone, and if anything, is far better in many areas. (Android for me just is too beta and doesn’t compete in terms of look, feel and functionality). But, it’s version 1.0 at the moment, sure there are things still to come and big improvements but that’s part of a platform evolving. Now, many people at this point will be shouting, “it doesn’t even have copy and paste” etc etc etc blah blah blah. They have a point, it doesn’t, but it’s not something I can say I have missed. Sure I want it there and I am sure it will be there very soon, but shall we just forget that the iPhone released without copy and paste, oh and without the capabilities to send MMS or even forward SMS….

So what does Microsoft have to do? Well unfortunately the Microsoft “brand” in the eyes of many consumers is the real issue, so much so that the carriers in the UK I believe are nervous of making a big thing of the Windows Mobile 7 launch and platform, rather trying to see what happens…

Microsoft hatred in many ways has spread opinions about Microsoft products and services without people actually experiencing them for themselves, or even making informed decisions. So much so, that they just presume windows mobile 7 is poor, or they heard it was poor (probably from an Android or iOS lover), and haven’t actually bothered to look at the platform or a device running it. So when people say Windows Mobile 7 is dead, I’m not sure it is, rather they are trying to kill it off. Why? Because they hate Mircrosoft. It has nothing to do with the platform at all…

Nokia deal

Nokia traditionally has a good brand name in the mobile world; it still does, being the biggest player in the mobile industry. However, in the world of smart phones Nokia doesn’t exist it seems. I have to say I believe Nokia has a strong brand loyalty, almost everyone I know who used to have a Nokia would swap back to a Nokia, if they delivered a smart phone that competes with those iPhones and Android devices….For me, this points to the Nokia Microsoft deal as a good thing…

Its a shame that Windows Mobile 7 was called Windows. Let’s face it, it isn’t a sexy name now, its fine for the PC because we expect that to be the name, especially as everything is delivered in a window environment. However, on the mobile device it isn’t Windows. I think Microsoft missed a trick here and should have opted for a different name, shame Android was already taken….

Nokia Windows Phone 7

Nokia and Windows Mobile 7 could be a great match

With Nokia, Microsoft though have the chance to showcase their Windows Mobile 7 platform to more and more consumers. Once consumers start to see that platform and use it, then more and more people will start to say it’s a good platform (rather than forming opinions based on old Microsoft mobile experiences or here say from others). Why? Because it is. Just spend a small amount of time using it, using the live tiles and you will start to like it.  Its also great for business, linking Outlook to exchange, synchronisation with my desktop and working environment and on top of that, the option to store, utilise and share content via the cloud.

We also can expect with Nokias clout to see Windows Mobile devices being rolled out on cheaper contracts, hopefully being able to compete with Android devices, but on superior hardware. Then throw in to the mix that, Nokia has a strong brand loyalty, and you may well find that Nokia and Windows Mobile 7 aren’t dead at all; rather they are a sleeping giant waiting to reclaim the mobile marketplace…

Conclusion

We really should judge solutions based on merit, as opposed to perceptions of a company or particular brand look. It seems Mobile 7 is being reviewed by the masses based on misconceptions of Microsoft, of Windows and previous Windows Mobile experiences…Hopefully with Nokia, we will see more and more people judging based on merit…

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iPhone still leading the way?

12 02 2010

A lot of friends of mine quickly jumped on board the iPhone when it was first released, only for all of them to quickly jump ship complaining of the lack of features, slow internet connection etc etc. Don’t get me wrong, they all said they loved the look, the feel, and how the iPhone works, it was just that the phone did a lot less than other phones…It was truly, look and feel over substance (something I often get to witness in IT a lot)…

However, even with the early iPhone there were the usual die hard apple fans that claimed it revolutionised the mobile world, claimed this and that, but they did have a point. The iPhone set the new standard for how a phone should look and feel and how we should interact with it…Nothing else….

So is the iPhone still the market leader here?

Function, function, function…

We have got used to phones doing more and more, which can now be said of the iPhone too. Originally it gave us less, but now the iPhone has a proper internet connection, can allow you to actually forward a text message, and has a half decent camera…So function wise it’s now up there…Or is it…If you’re a business user you more than likely have been advised not to go near an iPhone..Why is that? Well like other Apple devices think connectivity and synchronisation. Other phones are a lot better at it, especially from a business point of view. For starters, I would suggest pretty much any Blackberry phone is going to suite your needs more. In addition, though not overly popular with bloggers and phone reviewers, Windows Mobile 6.5 operated phones are also more in line with business user needs and there is still a wealth of them out there…

Look, feel and touch?

Ok we all want to go to touch don’t we? Well maybe not all, for some of us it is quite impractical, I know many business users that will choose a qwerty keypad over a qwerty touch, and that’s because with touch it is easier to hit the wrong key (I’m sure backspace is a very popular key – well it is with me on my own touch phone).  But touch phones do have a lot going for them, the size of the screen, the ability to interact with various media in a friendly fashion, and also a nice big screen to allow us to use mobile applications (think Google Maps, Live etc).

So is the iPhone still ahead in this area…Well until recently I would have said Yes for sure. The iPhone touch screen is impressive, and the interface for writing messages also pretty good. My own Samsung Omnia (which I have had a long time now) is ok, but the touch on the iPhone just feels and works better it seems. However, HTC HD Touch 2 has that same feel about its touch screen. It also boasts a big 4.3”, all in all, I think I prefer it…..

Applications and extras…

Ok here the iPhone is still miles ahead, nothing can really touch it. The iPhone app store is a pretty impressive place, however, again if you are a business user there isn’t that much there for you. Friends of mine who own the new iPhone 3GS have lots of apps on it, however, I don’t think one is of any use other than amusement – don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with that, I am just not a big games user on my phone…Also, I know there are some good iPhone based applications that are of use, look at the NatWest banking app for example…

So why is the iPhone ahead here, well it’s because of the open SDK that allows developers to make iPhone based applications. That is how iPhone got ahead here, until recently, it wasn’t that easy to dev mobile apps. However, other phones have caught up here, again let’s look at the HTC Touch 2. Windows Mobile 6.5 can support applications, however many of us just don’t go and get them. A popular app though is Facebook…One of the big things is using facebook on your phone, twitter and YouTube. On many phones this still isn’t a great experience, but with Windows 6.5, Android and the touch phones that use these systems (lets keep on track with the HTC HD Touch 2) the experience is just as good as the iPhone (if not a little better)…

So will things change…Well I can’t see Windows based phones, or Android based phones catching the iPhone any time soon with regards to applications. I believe in terms of functions and features, they are probably ahead now (well a few of the phones). But things may well change with Windows Mobile 7 – which could be out at the end of this year…Please note could be out…If Windows Mobile 7 supports Silverlight 4, then a very large community of developers instantly get access to delivering mobile phone applications. This means that potentially, Windows based mobile phones will almost overnight be able to provide an app store that can compete with the iPhone…Now that would be interesting…