Windows Phone 7: Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

Windows Phone 7: Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

Summary: Today we see a broad spectrum of Windows Phone 7 devices revealed and it gives you a chance to see how Microsoft is applying lessons learned from the hottest mobile platforms today.

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Today is exciting for smartphone enthusiasts, Microsoft, and their global partners as the first batch of Windows Phone 7 hardware and operators launching before the holiday 2010 season was revealed. As you look across the various devices from different manufacturers you see they all have a very high baseline level for their specifications, common look and feel to the user interface, and very limited carrier and manufacturer customizations made to the operating system. Microsoft was able to bring the iPhone consistency and Apple control to Windows Phone 7 while also being able to provide an openness to applications and diversity in manufacturers and carriers that we see in Google Android platform. We won't be able to make final judgements about Windows Phone 7 until we test out retail shipping devices, but so far things are looking pretty good for a Microsoft reboot in the smartphone world.

Apple consistency, control, and gaming

When Apple entered the smartphone arena in 2007 they shook up the industry and made people think about their strategy with a single device on a single carrier. Apple has since moved on to carriers around the world, but still has limited devices that all function about the same. In the past Microsoft's Pocket PC and Windows Mobile operating systems had touch and non-touch interfaces, huge difference in hardware form factors, and specifications that varied across the board. With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has established some high baseline specifications to ensure that every device gives users a good experience. You will see 1 GHz processors, a 5 megapixel minimum camera resolution, large capacitive touchscreen displays, a hardware camera button, three consistent buttons on the front, and more that make sure the Windows Phone 7 experience is not a lame experience where a manufacturer or carrier was trying to save a few bucks.

Apple also exerted amazing control of the iPhone over AT&T (this was not always a good thing) and if you didn't know where you purchased it you wouldn't have a clue that AT&T was even the carrier of the iPhone in the US. In the past, Microsoft let carriers and manufacturers go to town with Windows Mobile and in many cases this led to poor experiences, reboots, and clunky interfaces that turned people off of Windows Mobile. Granted there were some great things that manufacturers like HTC did to push the limits, but that wasn't always the norm. With Windows Phone 7 Microsoft has tightened their grip on what customizations can be done by both manufacturers and carriers and I understand there is a five application limit of what can be loaded on shipping devices. This means you will get some carrier services and apps, but at least it will be extremely limited and Microsoft also requires they be fully working applications and not the trial crap that the US wireless carriers are known for loading up and not allowing you to remove.

Microsoft also sees that games are still the most popular applications in the App Store and with their Xbox LIVE support and Games hub they are taking Apple head on in the gaming arena. If they can launch with some compelling titles and tie Windows Phone 7 to the Xbox they have a chance to rule in the gaming department, which was always quite weak in Windows Mobile.

Google openness and diversity

The Android operating system is like the Wild West right now with several versions out and about on devices with specifications all over the spectrum. Microsoft has applied some of the openness from Android by allowing 3rd party applications to be loaded that appear to directly compete with their own Music & Videos hub. For example, the upcoming T-Mobile HTC HD7 will be loaded out of the box with the Netflix video application and Slacker Radio streaming music application. You can watch movies through titles purchased or rented through the Zune Marketplace and also stream music through the Zune media player, but Microsoft still lets competing applications be loaded on the device. TeleNav GPS Navigator will also be on the HD7 right alongside the Bing Maps application too.

Unlike Apple and RIM, Microsoft licensed their OS to manufacturers just like Google does so that buyers will have a choice in hardware to fit their tastes. More than just hardware, Microsoft is opening up Windows Phone 7 to carriers so you will eventually see Windows Phone 7 devices on all four major US wireless carriers and likely the regional carriers as well. You won't have to worry about switching to a carrier you settle with to get a Windows Phone 7 device.

Still work for Microsoft

I am by no means stating that Windows Phone 7 is yet perfect and I am sure everyone will jump on the lack of copy/paste, Flash support in the browser, WiFi tethering, and more. Keep in mind though that this is a completely new mobile operating system with a new user interface. Micrsoft knows what they need to do to compete and knows they have areas for improvement, but they have been working extremely hard to line up developers and look to have a pretty amazing launch of applications in store for buyers starting in November.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mobility, Smartphones, Software, Windows

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32 comments
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  • What Lessons?

    The UI is an utter mess....

    That phone icon - is that missed calls? Voice mails?
    The People tile - is that my phone contacts? Facebook?
    The calendar tile - nice it shows me the date, but how about upcoming events?
    Apps are mixed in with this with no way to differentiate?

    Glance and Go? More like glance and go HUH? and move on to the competitors phones.

    I won't even discuss how FUGLY the rest of the phone is: Hint MS: Metro is FUGLY and cutting titles off and using huge fonts is not "HIP" even on a small screen.

    Epic fail by MS. This POS is even worse than KIN.
    itguy08
    • People tile is everything

      @itguy08

      If you had watched the keynot, the people tile is a mix of everything. WP7 pulls in your contacts off of Facebook and Windows Live and adds them to the contacts page. If you don't want to do that, you can also add them manually.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

        @Cylon Centurion 0005

        And you're supposed to know this at a quick glance how?

        At least with Android you have a Contacts app. With iPhone you have Address Book. You know what they are because of the label.

        What about the rest of the UI mess? Phone icon - missed calls, voice mails? both?

        The whole thing is a cluttered mess. But then again MS doesn't really know how to do UI's right. There are numerous things wrong with Office 2007/2010 and Windows 7.
        itguy08
      • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 : if this integration works as well as Windows Live version, beware.

        My Windows Live account shows status changes for people that haven't even accepted my friendship.

        Then there's the new Windows Live Spaces migration to WordPress. I've tried that and once inside WordPress, there's no way of linking to your Spaces account. So Spaces insists that you should migrate, and WordPress has no way of doing that.

        Short story. Micrososft has a long way to go, although I will give an opinion on WP7 when I try one, which btw Mathew is definitely NOT "a completely new mobile operating system with a new user interface"... Windows CE has been with us since 1996 and Silverlight is been here since 2007.
        cosuna
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @itguy08 IMHO the demo shots mostly suck, as they are focused on the start screen (tiles) which roughly equals the "main menu" screen in iOS/Android. I'll go ahead and try to answer your Qs, for convenience's sake.

      [i]That phone icon - is that missed calls? Voice mails?[/i]
      If I'm not mistaken, it shows both separately.

      [i]The People tile - is that my phone contacts? Facebook?[/i]
      Both. In WP7, phone contacts are Facebook contacts are phone contacts. Get it? Do note that you can forego Facebook integration and just have phone contacts in there.

      [i]The calendar tile - nice it shows me the date, but how about upcoming events?[/i]
      Upcoming events are shown on the stand-by screen. The start screen (the tiles) are a bunch of links, just like the iPhone/Android menu, neither of which show upcoming events throughout the menu system. iPhone doesn't even show upcoming events on the stand-by screen.

      [i]Apps are mixed in with this with no way to differentiate?[/i]
      That's the whole point of WP7 - instead of an apps-list [i]per se[/i], you are instead presented with "hubs". Social stuff and contact management are handled by the "People" hub, so all the social network clients and publishers and stuff will be running under that hub, along with the contacts themselves. Same thing for multimedia, same thing for games, same thing for all the other stuff. You can still "pin" app shortcuts on the start menu, and the traditional app-list is also accessible from there with a swipe.

      [i]Metro is FUGLY and cutting titles off and using huge fonts is not "HIP" even on a small screen.[/i]
      If you've seen any of the marketing/demo stuff where an entire "hub" is shown unfolded along with the phone in the center, you'll see that while there is some cutting going around, the whole thing flows rather logically. I admit it is confusing at times on a phone display, but if MS folds under the pressure and does come up with a WP7 slate (and it probably will), it'll be just right.
      Stormbringer_57th
      • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

        @Stormbringer_57th : Excellent post.<br><br>Agreed with you on the slate stuff, but the problem here is that MS is pushing Windows 7 slates (sans Phone) and even the name itself of the new OS doesn't bind well with slates. So even though Metro UI slates would be an excellent complement, I bet that Microsoft will go the route of releasing a "Windows Slate 7" OS later on 2011, probably based on W7 rather than WP7.<br><br>Yep, all this mess (along with the mixture inside the OS) might very well cripple the whole WP7 initiative against a unified Apple and a--"I can careless"--Google.
        cosuna
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @itguy08

      It's always difficult when a new UI comes along and as an advocate of 1990s software (whether it be BSD or Linux) I understand it's hard for you to change. It was the same with OOP, the non-flexible (Hi Rudy) just couldn't see the benefits.

      I think WP7 looks designed, rather than the crowded icons to application silos that iPhone and Android are stuck with. It's slick, it's fast, it's based on research and design and it's Windows. The Windows that more than 90% of the world use. It's a trusted brand outside these blogs and that's what will sell it as well.

      There's one good indication of how successful WP7 will be - how scared the trolls are getting - and boy they seem scared.
      tonymcs@...
  • I just saw ...

    ... <a href=http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/windowsphone/>the presentation</a>; and WP7 looks as if it will blow the iphone and Android phones out of the water! It is so much richer and slicker than its competition. And they said that the race was over. Hah!
    P. Douglas
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @P. Douglas <br><br>Really? Slicker? I dunno about that. I wonder what MS's reasoning was behind the, "Let's put a small icon on the right side, instead of at the top and out of the way, so we can waste a bunch of retail space with a large empty gap -- and in doing so, we'll make the whole screen look off-center."<br><br>I haven't even looked at one in person yet, and it's already getting on my nerves. Call me a conformist, if you will, but I like my content in the <i>center</i> of my screen. Not displaced by a small arrow and a bar of empty pixels.
      WarhavenSC
      • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

        @WarhavenSC <br><br>I'm with you. From what I've seen, content being off centered (left), and hint of cut-out text taking up the right corner is an annoyance to me. It's an acquired taste imo. <br><br>Personally I don't think it's really needed. People are smart enough to understand if they want more info they can swipe to the right. Off centering the home screen and having a single arrow to indicate there is more if you swipe is also dumb. Again, people are smart enough to understand such with smart phones today, you don't need to have an arrow indicating there is more, with a large unnecessary gap.
        dave95.
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @P. Douglas

      "...looks as if it will blow the iPhone and Android phones out of the water!"

      I LOL'ed.
      Playdrv4me
  • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

    You need to update with copy and paste coming in early 2011.
    Zedox
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @Zedox At least you don't have to buy another device for that.
      Stormbringer_57th
  • "Microsoft was able to bring the iPhone (...) Apple control to Windows"

    Excellent!

    Now bring on the Apple quality too.
    OS Reload
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @OS Reload
      Yes apple quality...like
      antenagate, scratch/cracks in the back of the phone, bluetooth connection lost and proximity sensor mess...
      josephvba@...
      • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

        @josephvba@... Wow, look who's been drinking the kool aid... But let me refute your trollish claims here...

        [b]antenagate,[/b]
        Oh you mean that completely overblown issue that affected a few iPhone 4 devices and was not as widespread as you Apple Haters like to claim. That one?[b]

        scratch/cracks in the back of the phone[/b]
        This one could potentially be a major issue - Apple should have used a more durable glass or just forwent the glass on the back of the iPhone 4... this one I'll give you.[b]

        bluetooth connection lost and proximity sensor mess...[/b]
        Where is this coming from? Up until now I haven't heard much about these issues - which is surprising the number of Apple Haters here on ZDNet... or is this another issue that affected a tiny sampling of users that you are making an attempt to have overblown.

        And I'm noting that these issues are with the iPhone 4 - one model of iPhone... NONE of these issues have affected the iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS, or iPad... or anything on their iPod, Apple TV, Macintosh based desktop or laptop lines... So you say "Apple Quality" like it's something bad.
        athynz
      • Simple question

        Do you know this first hand? Didn't think so.

        @josephvba@...
        GoPower
  • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

    I for one welcome our Redmond overlords to the mobile fray.

    May the Force be with you... you're gonna need It!!!
    AirmanChairman
  • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

    I will say that WP7 managed to impress me with one thing: [b]With Windows Phone 7 Microsoft has tightened their grip on what customizations can be done by both manufacturers and carriers and I understand there is a five application limit of what can be loaded on shipping devices. This means you will get some carrier services and apps, but at least it will be extremely limited and Microsoft also requires they be fully working applications and not the trial crap that the US wireless carriers are known for loading up and not allowing you to remove.[/b]

    I like Microsoft's approach to this - granted it's not as good IMHO as Apple's "no carrier crapware at all" policy but IF users are to be exposed to the carrier crapware it is limited and they are all full working versions. Good call there, one that Google should have made with Android.

    I'm not too crazy about the UI but hopefully WP7 will allow enough user customization to tweak the UI...
    athynz
    • RE: Windows Phone 7; Microsoft applies lessons learned from Apple and Google

      @athynz Google decided to make Android free. You can't have a system that's perfectly open and free, but with a five app carrier limit.

      What Google can and should do is promote the "Google Experience" (or "with Google", or whatever branding they like), which means No Carrier Crap, Period. This is how my original Droid came. I could get any of the Verizon add-ons I wanted, quickly and easily from the Market app, but nothing imposed, and most importantly, nothing locked into ROM that I can't delete -- that's the worst of crimes on some of the Android phones these days.

      This is the price of real freedom. My ability to download and customize Android, if I so choose, means Verizon, HTC, Motorola, AT&T, etc. can as well. That's still a reasonable price, particularly if enough of the buying public is smart enough about these issues to reject poorly modified phones.
      Hazydave