I get a lot of worries and concerns from people wondering Why I would buy into an ecosystem that is new, unproven and lacks credibility (let’s face it, Microsoft doesn’t have the best track record in mobility). It’s almost as if the Microsoft product has an enigma attached to it, for reasons I shouldn’t get into. To certain extent the naysayers/criticizers have a point, Windows phone 7 is new, different but late to the smartphone party- missing some feature sets that iOS and Android already has. I said, “Party is not over; It’s just getting started. We are in for a ride.”
The Apple Empire
The thing that I saw was not what they saw. They saw that the smartphone party was over and that there are only two players in the platform battle iOS and Android, and that the mobile industry would go through consolidation by this time and the new era of Mac vs PC will pan out, except this time it would be iOS vs Android and for mobility. They are right in some ways but the party is just getting started; There will be consolidation (minor players will eventually die out or merge). I viewed the smartphone platform race, from the moment Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 at Mobile World Congress in 2010, as a three-horse race between Apple, Google and Microsoft. Apple has an industrial class design and they have the best looking device on the market, hands down. No hardware manufacture come close to Apple’s marksmanship. But, the “experience” is locked in. Apple walled the app-store. They decided what apps should make their way to MY phone. I can’t put anything they don’t want me to put without unlocking and jailbreaking, thereby voiding the warranty. They played the watchmen, which in ways is good, but it felt like the users were chained down and were suppose to take the Apple’s bureaucratic torture. There was always only one iPhone. I own the iPhone, but it was still Steve Jobs who decided how the phone should function. The phone was mine, but it could never be mine.
The “Open” Fragmentation of Android
Along came this green Robot, named Android, which beg to differ. It wanted to be everything that Apple couldn’t be. It decided to be the exact opposite of iPhone, meaning it wanted to be Open. Users were in charge. Sounds good in theory but in reality the model is deeply flawed. Open means everyone- manufacturers, carriers, wants a piece of Android’s “openness.” They installed manufacturer-specific, carrier-specific programs on phone to differentiate from the other pool of cheap Android phones on the market. Make sense, you want to stand-out; We get it. But, Open means I should be able uninstall the crap installed on my phone without having to root (hack) the device. If I have to root it, it’s NOT open. It is BAD. It’s a phone not a PC. Secondly, for Android to succeed, manufacturer wanted to pump out as many handsets powered by Android as they can. After all, their interest is in selling hardware which resonates with carriers, who ALSO wants to sell more hardware. As a result, Users suffered. (I don’t think most Android user realize this. They buy into flashy hardware, but 6 months down the road they regret the decision) Carriers and manufacturers has ZERO interest in providing updates to the platform. Something, which Apple did and did it right. As a result, Android is FRAGMENTED. Meaning all Android devices are running outdated OS or non-unified platform with carriers and manufacturer installed JUNK. What does that mean?- It means of the 200,000 apps in the Android Market, only 10 works on MY “supposedly” open phone and one of them is not Facebook. (OK, that was a little far fetched but chances are, you will run into apps that you can’t install because either your phone or the version of OS installed on your phone is not supported) I can get those apps and update the OS, but I would have to root the phone and I will lose all my data and then spend endless hours trying to install stuff that I need, like apps, widgets etc. I like widgets, btw fyi.
An epiphany– I used Windows mobile (old discontinued) platform. I hated it after using it. I would spend hours finding ROM (hack) to install on my phone and then backup data and install everything all over again. Android has now become that. Android is indeed a “glorified” Windows Mobile. To all the ignorant people who wants flexibility, IT IS A PHONE. Spending hours to configure to make it work like PC defeats the purpose of having a PHONE. Not to mention all the Viruses and Trojans that Android already has. I don’t want anti-virus on my Phone like I do on my PC. New Windows Phone (read below) , like iPhone, doesn’t have any of the Android-headaches.
Windows Phone: A breath of fresh air; A sigh of relief!
Microsoft relaunched their platform. They named it Windows Phone 7. It is different, It is unique and quite possibly the best user interface and experience on the market, since the iOS introduction. It is soon going to be renamed to just Windows Phone OS after the next update codenamed MANGO, because it will be a unified platform. Meaning all the phone on the market will run the same version of OS and therefore be able to use all apps and best yet Microsoft will be in-charge to keep the Phones up-to-date, just like with Apple. After all, Microsoft provides updates to tens of millions of computer worldwide, running different hardware. I think I can trust them with providing updates to my Phone, wouldn’t you?
I like to think of Windows Phone as a middle man between Apple’s and Google’s mobile strategy. In that, it is not as locked in as Apple as it can run on different hardware just like Android; but it is not as Open as Google’s Android as no one can screw with the core Windows Phone “experience”, just like Apple. Any Windows Phone you use will BE the SAME and provide the same feature sets and apps, no matter what. Different form-factor (slide-out, touch screen, qwerty) will run the CORE Windows Phone OS; No stupid Carriers/Manufacturers modification like Android. As a result two years from now, I can get a new Windows Phone with next generation hardware and my experience will still be the same.
Windows Phone, as it was late, has less apps than its competitors but all the essential apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Netflix etc. are all there already. (Note: There is still no Netflix on Android, so much for being Open, huh?) On top of that, it has Zune (like iTunes), Office (yes Microsoft office with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote), Xbox Live mobile(yes, an extension of Xbox 360 console), Bing (Number 2 search engine in US)— All of core Microsoft Intellectual property packed into a complete mobile package. I like to think of it as the most connected, or some like to call it “the cloud OS.” The magic is in the OS, as Apple would call it. iOS was the magical thing of past; Android feels like a jigsaw puzzle cobbled together. Windows Phone, well you just have to use it to know. It is superb.
After I weighed the Pros and Cons, my decision was simple. Windows Phone OS is the OS to be on. Platform is not complete, but the promise of Microsoft update and with new features coming in Mango, later this fall, will put it on par with iOS and Android features and in some cases exceed those (watch the embedded video). Patience is Virtue. The Party is just getting started.
Here is a peek at What’s coming next in Windows Phone world: http://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/Windows-Phone-7/Windows-Phone-7-Announcements–Demos-from-MIX-11-with-Joe-Belfiore