Windows Phone 8.1–New Feature Revealed

A trusted source tipped me on an upcoming feature in Windows Phone 8.1 He mentioned that notification center hasn’t been implemented in the OS yet. Neither Cortana, Those are in active development and won’t be seen til it RTM’s. He DID however say that three other much wanted features are making their way to Windows Phone- VPN support, Screen-Mirroring(kind of like Nokia Beamer), Integrated Mobile Device Management for Enterprise.

VPN Support: This feature is a no-brainer; I am unsure how Microsoft can identify Windows Phone as enterprise-ready without this. Insanity like this is the reason why Windows Phone fails in enterprise.

Screen Mirroring: Blackberry when the announced the Z10, they touted this feature. I don’t the use case for this feature but it is good to have a full blow, screen mirroring feature baked right into the OS. I am sure, it is limited knowing Microsoft.

MDM: This one again is targeted for enterprise for easy upkeep and management of Windows Phone devices. I don’t know if Apple or Android offers something in this arena, but it will be breath of fresh air for IT support.

 

Which brings me to my point and to kind of put it in perspective about what Joe Belfiore quoted when Windows Phone 8 came out without notification center. He stated “They were running behind schedule for notification center to be added in current release” That was nearly 18 months ago. Features that are deeply engrained in competitors OS- Android and iOS. It is such an important feature, not only because it is essential but also because 97% of the people expect to having knowing the rest of the world is hooked on the mobile juggernauts. A feature like that should have made it to Windows Phone not long after Windows Phone 8 launched…and consumers shouldn’t have to wait for some major .1 release. Microsoft isn’t exactly leading. I said this before and will say it again. Android and iOS are moving targets, by the time Microsoft plugs the hole in Windows Phone with 8.1 release- Namely notification center and voice assistant. The other two would have had features in their next major version which will AGAIN make Windows Phone user wanting  more. Windows Phone has never leap-frogged Android and iOS and I feel it is high time the other two should be chasing Windows Phone in terms of feature.

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Reason for slow Windows Phone 8 growth

Recent big banner apps will make you question the title, and even it is definitely positive to see Windows Phone get some decent titles…and now that the smoke has cleared lets focus on it’s slow uptake in markets-developing and matured.

I had a conversation with a good friend whom I convinced to get a Lumia 620 in India, when he asked me about Windows Phone. When I showed him my device, I had a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7, at the time Microsoft had recently announced Windows Phone 8. So didn’t have the Lumia 920 I have now. Long story short, he got the Lumia 620 when it was available in India at a price tag of 16000 INR. He opted for Windows Phone 8, when he could have got far more powerful Android devices at cheaper price plans- likes of Xolo, Karbonn, Micromax, etc.

So, I followed up with him to check how he liked his purchase 8 months later. This guy is not tech endowed by any stretch of imagination, at the same time he isn’t tech illiterate. He knew about Amber update and upcoming Update 3 and Nokia Black update. Some of his gripes were absolutely legitimate and I took some time to reflect and rephrase. His conclusion was Nokia did excellent, Microsoft needs to do better. Windows need work to be more popular. He said more popular, he is obviously referring to Android being the more popular one, which his friends are making him green with envy with their elaborate app illustration, OS features etc.

Also, he came from Symbian. OS that was the first home of Nokia and Nokia had a firm hold in India in that era. He missed some Symbian specific features which goes to show how advanced the OS really was, even if it wasn’t touch-friendly.

This is the list:-

  • Absence of Truecaller. This is an app request. Telemarketing is crazy in India, as you can imagine, and a way to see who is calling helps cut down on junk calls and there is no such service as donotcall.gov. There is an app in Windows Phone Store, but it sucks at best as it doesn’t scan for calls in real-time. API limitations.
  • Proper file-manager. My kind people for some reason like to micro-manage with folders and directories. I can see cases where this could be useful to have.
  • Same key for volume and music- This is listed as the top complain for the platform. Separate controls are needed.
  • Whatsapp isn’t as advanced as Android counterpart.  Whatsapp is the de-facto messaging standard in India. It sucks apparently on Windows Phone. I can’t relate, since I haven’t used Whatsapp on android.
  • Put phone in sleep but still keep alarm active. Symbian was perfect at this. Current Windows phone behavior is stupid. If you are low on juice and still wanna wake up, it is dead meat.
  • OTG support. On-the-Go USB support which turns a USB device into host so other device can connect to it. I don’t know if Android does this.

Below is the gripe that was fixed with Update 3, that he forced on my advice using the developer program:-

  • Orientation lock. Seriously, Microsoft It takes you three years to add this basic feature in a supposedly advanced mobile Operating System? Shame on you and your world’s bigger software make status quo. Seriously, like you should drown your employees.
  • Other storage occupied 2 GB of storage on his 8 GB phone. Baffling and probably sad if your investment fills up with crap over time.’
  • Quitting apps via close button. Enough Said.

I haven’t added my gripes to the above list:-

  • Notification center. Something Android has had for years. Windows Phone will probably get it in Spring 2014.
  • Quick Toggle for controlling settings. Like it should be there.
  • Google Now like feature. Again, Cortana or likes is coming in Spring 2014. Again, waiting game
  • Better API.

Microsoft thinks Windows Phone is gaining popularity, but if it doesn’t address the problems listed above…these may be its brightest days as people who have these phones will opt for something else, Android. iOS is elite crowd only, so iPhones are out of discussion for 90% of people.

So If anyone is reading this from Redmond, If you think you have won the battle of smartphone in markets by beating Apple. Think twice before you decide to slack off for another two years. You are shooting at a moving target- Android. and by the time you get the above mentioned features, the world would have moved to the next awesome feature Android will get before Windows Phone and Windows Phone will be caught with it’s pants down, chasing to get that feature….again.

Journey with Windows Phone is that of a perpetual wait, for developers, for consumers, for manufacturers. And this is a deeper problem that Microsoft has than just getting those apps.

Nokia becomes the Samsung

Nokia takes a lot of heat for things they do and things they don’t do. By that, I mean their nefarious practice of using a “pity” ecosystem over a “grandiose” or so they say. Let’s dissect what really happened before and after their decision.

 

Android and Windows Phone:

Android was well established, had a fan following, ecosystem was thriving and it was definitely coming up to challenge iOS whether it was based on its merit or marketing push  combined with lack of alternative platform—is a matter of hot debat. People who argue about Android being open doesn’t know how it is better, so they latch onto the “openness” fruit when in reality they don’t even know what “openness” could do for them or what it means. In my view and it holds true up until ICS 4.0, Android couldn’t hold a candle against iOS in terms of user-experience, usability, app-selection, app-quality. end of discussion. period. Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, Motorola were all dying to make the “flagship” android phone to compete against iPhone in hopes to make something that could come close to competing against the juggernaut. They all tried and tried very hard, by launching so many different flagship devices in a span of year, two-year- it was hard to keep up with. I, frankly, lost track and lost interest in that. As years go by, currently in 2013. There is Samsung and then there is HTC and then there is “others”. HTC is a mixed bunch which I’ll discuss a little later.

Windows Phone launches to rave reviews, bold design, innovative approach to smartphone UI that the world has never seen before. It was different. It was fast. It was unique. Windows Phone comes at a time in smartphone history where it was fighting against a two well-established and deep-pocketed players- Android and iOS. iOS was premium, Android- not so much. Windows Phone hoped to capture the middle market. But, the gap was very small. Android was taking a huge chunk with every day that passed. It became huge making every bit that difficult for Windows to grow and thrive. Launching on a low-profile, low-hope to succeed mindset- Samsung, HTC, LG decided to make pity hardware for the platform. With Samsung becoming huge on Android, they were done innovating on Windows side. Leftover technology from Android-world trickled down to Windows Phone, despite Samsung being a Microsoft partner. HTC was that stripper of manufacturing world that would try to be a good-wife to one, but then sees a customer and ends-up stripping thereby ruining the marriage. If you think Windows Phone should have succeeded then, You are naive and short-sighted. There was less chance of it succeeding than Dane Cook becoming straight. No one was making good hardware which is essential for a “flagship” phone. HTC was fooling around. LG had down-syndrome. You get the idea. Android was the happening place and to some extent the trend still continues.

To summarize the past, Samsung did Android. They did Android good. It was the Galaxy brand. Premium brand for Android with ecosystem push and support that propelled it. Samsung cared about the ecosystem and invested in it. HTC was the stripper as mentioned above. Windows Phone was the bad-neighborhood that people rarely drive to  to check on to see if all is well. Windows Phone was nothing. Android was everything.

 

Nokia’s resurgence

Nokia decides to ditch Symbian. They had two options Windows Phone or Android. There was an Android ecosystem, dominated by Samsung already which as years go by becomes the juggernaut, and then the low-key, low-activity Windows phone ecosystem that was in no-way thriving but there is no, one player fighting to become the “premium” Windows Phone handset maker. Samsung was well-established and rooted in Android. Nokia would have had a tough time if they jumped on Android bandwagon if they wanted to make a name for themselves. HTC, Motorola, Sony, LG—they were all struggling- living and breathing, but almost dead example of success on Android. Why would Nokia have succeeded? What can it bring to table that other makers other than android don’t already bring? The problem was ecosystem was managed, controlled by the Samsung machine with no room for the other players to grow. Samsung kicks them out before they could grow. You have to plant a seed and nurture it before it turns into a fruit-bearing plant. Samsung was the lawn-mower. Nokia could have done Android only, but again Samsung would have killed it. They could have done half-hearted things like HTC or LG but look at where they are now. The only option and the one that sounded like a “tough-sell” at the time was to do Windows Phone. Make it the best premium ecosystem they can make by making the “best” premium hardware they can make coupled with the best service they can bring to the table. Nokia gave a push to Windows Phone brand in ways that was noticed all around the world. Something that Microsoft never got pre-Nokia boarding period. So much so that Nokia and Windows Phone was synonymous and still is and growing stronger by day. Lumia line became the galaxy. Lumia line is bigger than Windows Phone line in terms of branding. People know Lumia even if they don’t know that it has Windows Phone in its gut. Nokia became the king of the Windows Phone ecosystem just like Samsung became for Android ecosystem. Nokia became the Samsung of Windows Phone. Windows Phone is Nokia. Nokia has a long way to go before it can make money like Samsung does. But as it stands today, There is Android ; There is Windows Phone. Then, There is Samsung; There is Nokia and then Everyone else and their ecosystem with an exception of Apple.

So, if Nokia were to chose Android. There wouldn’t be a Nokia as Nokia is today. A competitor promoting an ecosystem and the best one at it just like Samsung. Nokia, chose the underdog in hopes to revitalize it and I would argue it is far better off now than it would have been have they decided not to.  To an extent where Windows Phone wouldn’t exists if it wasn’t for Nokia and Lumias. Nokia is to Windows Phone as Samsung is to Android.

Microsoft’s Tablet dilemma?

I have seen a lot of post criticizing Microsoft’s stand  on competing against the iPad. I am writing this post to reflect on why I think Microsoft is acting like the way they are and their motivation behind it.  I am bringing in my insight from past Microsoft instances and my premonition of what Microsoft is doing with the Tablet market. Here is my thought:

My whole argument is based on one term that scholars have coined and is taught about in business class a lot, “Innovator’s dilemma“. What does it mean?

Facts:

Sustaining technologies are different than disruptive technologies
The pace of progress often precedes the market’s awareness of the need
Structures of companies color the choices and investments they make

Continue reading “Microsoft’s Tablet dilemma?”