Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

Summary: The first wave of hands-on previews of Windows Phone 7 are out. If Microsoft is smart, they're going through those first looks with a fine-tooth comb and planning a series of updates. But can they deliver those improvements fast enough?


I'm awaiting my Windows Phone 7 review unit, which I'm told is on a truck and should be here any time now. Meanwhile, I've been reading some detailed previews from some very sharp commentators, including ZDNet's own Matt Miller and Engadget's Joshua Topolsky, which stand out from the pack. Manan Kakkar has an excellent roundup of all these first looks. (It's worth noting these are not reviews, because this is prototype hardware that will never ship.)

If Microsoft is smart, they're doing the same thing I've just done, which is to go through all those previews with a fine-tooth comb. They need to identify what critics are pointing out as hits and misses and then prioritize those issues for the initial shipping release and preferably several updates.

And they need to iterate at a pace that would be unthinkably fast for the Windows or Office division. Microsoft is far behind when it comes to phones, so they have to get the hardware right on Day 1 and then ship improvements at a steady clip.

The first and most important missing piece is Clipboard support, a feature that every preview I read identified as a negative. According to Long Zheng, the Windows Phone 7 team "knows exactly how they will be implementing copy & paste … but did not believe it could be implemented without affecting the release schedule." There's no question is will be included in an update (Long says "soon after initial release"), but there's no firm date, which leaves Microsoft open to accusations that it's announcing vaporware.

The second flaw is a lack of multitasking support, where Microsft has to at least pass the Pandora test - allowing you to listen to music via Pandora while doing something (anything) else.

And the third is the lack of support for HTML5 or Flash or Silverlight in the mobile browser. As Engadget correctly notes, the inability to play back video in the browser is a serious shortfall: "There's not even a YouTube app on the phone! Microsoft -- you've got to step it up on the video front if you want to play this game." (It's worth noting that many of the WP7 previews include video clips that would be unwatchable on the device itself.)

The good news is that all of those issues can be fixed with software updates. The question is, when? I've heard several people (including my friend Dwight Silverman) suggest that Microsoft should delay shipping until that feature is in. Dwight argues that this is a must feature in this competitive climate.

Personally, I don't mind if those features are not in the first release. Microsoft can and should ship in the fall with a polished product where every feature works and works well. That gives early adopters a chance to shake out issues in performance and functionality, which can be cleaned up in an update that also incrementally delivers those missing features. And it gives developers a chance to write apps and test them on shipping hardware, with the expectation that updates will be available soon.

The big question is, how soon? Dribbling out those fixes and improvements over a full year is unacceptable. Even six months is probably too long. If phones are on sale in October, that point-one update with cut/copy/paste support should appear within 90 days, and Microsoft should release a Windows Phone 7 version of IE with HTML5 support shortly after IE9 is released for desktop platforms.

The biggest missing piece of all is the value proposition: what is this phone going to deliver that makes it worth choosing over an iPhone or an Android device? I'll have a better idea of how to answer that question after I've spent some hands-on time with the device.

Now pardon me while I go wait by the door for the FedEx guy.

Topics: Telcos, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • What's missing in Windows Phone 7 for you?

    And do you think Microsoft can deliver at this pace?
    Ed Bott
    • Thanks Ed, looking forward to your thoughts!

      @Ed Bott
      [i]The good news is that all of those issues can be fixed with software updates.[/i]

      Yeah, but as you raised yourself, will these software updates happen quickly? My personal guess is no, it will be at least a year before we see a WP7.x phone that is competitive with the iPhone 4. At that point, I'll be more than happy to switch but I don't see why I should have to put up with missing features in the mean time. It is why I've stuck with WM6.x while Apple figured out how to finally build a good phone. I could have switched to iPhone instead of getting my HTC Touch Diamond but I saw no reason to suffer with the ridiculously lousy iPhone 1, 2, or 3 when I could just get a better phone (HTC Touch Diamond) and then switch later on. Luckily for me, there are a [b]lot[/b] of idiots who bought iPhone 1, 2, and 3, giving Apple time and money to finally come out with a good phone.

      My biggest fear is that people who buy MS products are usually smarter than people who buy Apple products and we don't tolerate inferiority like Apple consumers do. If no one buys WP7, no one will write apps for WP7 and the platform will die. :(
      • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

        @NonZealot The best thing currently to answer these questions is getting the emulator and play with it. I did a simple test that was revelatory. Most Fridays I go to the movies with friends. Since I'm the most IT literate, they ask me to look for movies. So in WP7 emulator I press search, put 'movies zipcode'. Shows me a quick list of movies, really fast because this first page was XML. Then I click to see more and I'm taken to the web browser. I select the movie, I select the theater. Then it comes the fun part. Before going to the movies, there is always the question where are we going to eat, and it needs to be a place near the selected theater. In Android, you would have to copy the theater address, and do another search for restaurants near that address. In WP7, just click in the smart sense detected theater address and it takes you to the maps app, then click on the theater and right there it shows nearby restaurants, parking, etc.along with reviews, hours of operation and you can SMS the address to your friend from that same page so you can meet them there. This is what I was looking for in a SMART phone. There are many other details like this that show MS has done their research, so I trust them, they listen to customer feedback, they research and respond. As for developers, everybody knows that IPhone is cumbersome to develop for with the archaic Objective C, while WP7 uses .net, C#, silverlight and XNA which are the easiest tools to develop apps. MS needs good marketing to break pass the bleak minds that will try to compare it to the iphone and android even though it doesn't look at all like it, and to break pass the initial shock at the apparent simplicity of the interface.
    • Put it under Scott Guthrie. Silverlight's been firing on all cylinders

      release-wise And with great quality and features leaps in each version. They went from nothing to light years ahead of flash in just a couple years. That MS chose SL as the foundation for WP7's dev platform gives me great hope for the pace of innovation for it.
      Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

        @Johnny Vegas But nothing uses it. So it doesnt matter how good it is, if nobody uses it.
    • Microsoft can deliver a phone

      @Ed Bott ... that nobody will buy, just like Kin.
      • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

        @HollywoodDog WOW! at least your consistent.
      • And nobody buys your statements

        so you and MS are exactlly the same, is that what you're saying?

        LOL! :)
        John Zern
      • I do

        @John Zern
        Right now, we just see the usual M$ vaporware.<br><br> Where's the beef?
        ahh so
    • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

      Let's assume Microsoft gets WP7 right with the final version. If that will happen, this will be a great day for all Microsoft competitors. Why? Microsoft lost with each sold Kin phone 68,000 USD. So how much Microsoft will loose with WP7? Where is the business model which will bring Ballmer & Co. profit? Microsoft doesn't control the whole product chain (like Apple) and is light-years away from earning money like Google. These are the bad news for all Microsoft shareholders. The cloud computing and the smart-phone battle-field are territories where Microsoft is burning billions without being able to show a satisfying business model. For sure Microsoft can still buy market-share. But for how long the shareholders will tolerate a never ending stream of subsidiaries for non-profitable adventures in market-places where Microsoft has zero clue and experience to make money? So if you like Microsoft don't buy a WP7 phone, if you are a Microsoft hater you should hail the arrival of WP7 ion the market-place.
      • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

        @hengels I don't get it. Which part of the ecosystem do they not control with WP7? They have the App Store, the Zune Marketplace, and Zune Pass.

        Tell me again?
    • There is the problem...

      @Ed Bott
      "That gives early adopters a chance to shake out issues in performance and functionality, which can be cleaned up in an update that also incrementally delivers those missing features. " Isn't this exactly what Apple did on all 4 versions of its phone....??? Deliver great hardware and then give software updates as problems were fixed and new options became available.???

      And with Microsoft starting 2-3 years late,,,, what is going to make WM 7 phone different, better, newer than the competition??

      Now MS usually makes its products work better with MS Windows than its competition can.... but how is this going to work with a "PHONE"???

      Sorry, MS missed the phone/mobile market. 10 years to develop a tablet and all they could do is make a small, less capable laptop... MS powered cell phones and they never exceeded what everyone else was offering.

      Just a thought here, but the MS boat is pretty leaky and starting to lose the race with the rising water. They could not do any of the things you suggested in the last 10 years.... Why do you think they can do them now???

      Hmmmm, maybe the wild success of the Zune??

      • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

        @eldernorm WM6 and WM6.5 have been "wildly successful" in the markets that MS specifically targets. Which means the business market.<br><br>WP7 is MS' first real attempt at capturing the consumer market, and IMHO, a very good attempt. I'm a previous iPhone user, and currrently an Android person (HTC Desire). If MS actually manages to create a compelling developer story for the WP7 stack, which it seems like they're well on their way to doing, my guess is that they will surpass at least Google's installed base in a couple of years.<br><br>And on a sidenote : the (un)success of Zune mainly depens on them not marketing it outside the U.S.
  • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

    Windows Phone 7 is starting off as a more advanced mobile device than any mobile system started from including their where they currently are, that by itself is a plus. Then if you happen to see the WP7 enterprise roadmap you MUST realize that all other mobile devices out there will have a problem because not only is it targeted at the consumer, it also has deep enterprise integration planned for release and thereafter. Here, watch this Microsoft presentation video mainly for the WP7 enterprise roadmap (fast forward to 34:50minute, 49:48minute also talks about new marketplace policies); http://www.msteched.com/2010/NorthAmerica/WPH201

    Here is the Windows Phone 7 Enterprise Roadmap summary:
    At Release (Fall 2010):
    Exchange Server
    SharePoint Server
    Windows Azure
    SQL Azure
    MS Office
    Microsoft Online Services - Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)

    Later (2011+):
    System Center
    Office Communications Server
    Windows Server
    SQL Server

    Now, you need to think deeply about which mobile device brings both consumer-centric features and enterprise features of this sort together besides its more intuitive user interface, then further think about what threat WP7 and all this means for other mobile devices. And please save what you think you know or hear randomly and let it all play out starting this Fall.
    • Indeed


      SharePoint and Exchange are very, very high on my list of things to test thoroughly.
      Ed Bott
    • The problem with Microsoft v.s. Apple

      The problem on Microsoft's part is the "you will see" syndrome.

      When Apple comes out with a new product, there was never a promise that such and such a product would come out.

      They launch, have good marketing (relative to the features offered), solve issues with time and offer the public a good product. They even change the landscape of how the rest of the industry will enter a market.

      With Microsoft, they tell you months if not years ahead (remember how many years people have waited to finally get Vista... 6, 7 years... Longhorne anyone?... promised features still lacking today)

      Microsoft does its marketing before a product is on the shelves, Apple, after.

      Microsoft should shut its mouth, concoct a good product and have people judge them on merit.

      The way they are doing it now leaves a lot of space for very harsh criticism if they fail, as was the case with the Kin phone and the Courrier tablet.

      I think people are fed up with the "you will see" syndrome. "You will see, it will be superior to... it will trash so and so, it will put others behind for such and such number of yerars..."

      Like the old hamburger commercial said... "Where's the beef?"

      If they were a serious company, they would just produce good stuff and ride the wave of their succes. In the last ten years, they have awfully missed that goal.
  • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

    Seriously, you think a youtube app is a must have? My phone can go to youtube but I never have done it. Viewing streaming videos on a 3" screen isn't exactly ideal. You actually sound slightly angry because Microsoft isn't giving you all the information you want. Like you said they can fix these minor issues with software updates in due time. I believe Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is going to offer quite a bit over its competitors. Its UI is very slick as well as its integration with other Microsoft products. If they can get the gaming community on board they will have a winner. Put your mind at ease.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

      @Loverock Davidson that's like old school Linux people saying that the GUI isn't important because they can use the command line.Remeber that Moble 7 will have to now offer features that are so good a user will be willing to buy out their spanking new iPhone or Blackberry contract to use it. MS would have been better getting the features in there and then waiting one and a half years from the iPhone4's release date to catch all the new subscribers.
    • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

      @Loverock Davidson

      Use the YouTube app all the time. Usually at the gym when riding the bike I'll flip on some live concert footage.

      My wife dances and they share a lot of their choreographs via YouTube and a smartphone is great way to practice and learn them.

      I know Apple is getting gaming community going as well but don't we have enough opportunities to waste our lives playing video games. Do we need to do it now in front of a phone. How sad.
      • RE: Where's the roadmap for Windows Phone 7?

        @maskman01 I don't really waste time playing games on my phone, but I do use youtube and other video viewing stuff, especially if I get emailed videos from people that find funny things.
        @Loverock Davidson What will they offer over their competitors? Because at the moment they are behind on all fronts other than Integration with MS products.