Oct 10

Windows Phone 7 has its day

Can Windows Phone 7 really carve out a piece of the smartphone market? Can it save Ballmer’s job? Unknown. But it has given me a couple days’ worth of blog fodder, and that’s the important thing.

Some random thoughts from yesterday’s WP7 launch event:

Getting the press. The WP7 launch coverage was surprisingly low-key. By evening, the front pages of CNN, NY Times and MSNBC had no top-level story about Ballmer’s event. A bit of a contrast from the front-page headlines and photos Apple gets for its launches.

A different kind of phone. Those are the words with which Ballmer began his presentation of WP7. Lame. Google “a different kind of” and you get over 20,000,000 results. Maybe the phrase is more unique on Bing.

Was the writer on vacation? Following those opening words came something far more horrifying. The WP7 overview: Always delightful … wonderfully mine. Following the launch, perhaps they can sell the line to Chanel No. 5.

Missing the memo. Apparently Microsoft didn’t notice that Apple was slammed for three years over iPhone’s lack of copy-and-paste. With all of its software skills, Microsoft couldn’t get copy-and-paste into its 1.0 product? Coming “some time in 2011.” Stunning.

Multitasking. Gee, look at that. No multitasking either. When “pressed” by Engadget, WP7 head Joe Belfiore wouldn’t say when multitasking was coming. Which leads one to believe it’s even farther off than cut-and-paste.

Flash. Et tu, Microsoft? No Flash in WP7. Not even Silverlight. Add that to the list of future enhancements. I’m not hearing a lot of complaining about this. In fact, you really have to search the reviews to find any mention of the lack of Flash. Bias!

Verizon MIA. Welcome to the good ship AT&T, Microsoft, where you will find Apple as your fellow passenger. True, there’s a plan to expand to multiple carriers by next year, but early adopters face the same sad choice that iPhone users face: AT&T or AT&T.

The Microsoft App Store. Oops, there isn’t one. But there will be. Current status: “working with developers.” The idea of being one of the first on a new platform will appeal to some developers. Most, however, are already deciding between two big, established money-makers — iPhone and Android — or spreading out their resources to support two platforms. Adding a third to the mix? That’s one very large hump to get over.

The TV spot. The final version of the ad appeared on launch day. Definitely more polished than the one I commented on last week. View the finished spot here. Again, I congratulate the creatives on a nicely done commercial. Fun to watch. Much better ending now. Strategically, however, I stand by my initial reaction. People are absorbed in their smartphones because they can use them for a zillion different things, and go as deep as they wish to go. That’s easy to laugh at, but it’s not a negative. Good news for WP7 users: with the lack of any real app library, you’ll be able to get in and out of a WP7 phone real fast.

The message. The commercial now ends with the line, “Designed to get you in … and out … and back to life.” (Note to editing team: the word “designed” is totally lost in the music.) This is a valid message to those who don’t already own an iPhone or Android phone. They’re the ones who might laugh heartily at those who are so absorbed by their phones. It’s a silly message to those who already own an iPhone or Android. The ability to go as deep as they wish is the reason they love their phones, not the reason they care to ditch them.

Top secret. In an interview, one of the Microsoft people mentioned that versions of the commercial had leaked out on YouTube prior to launch. Whether you do the editing at an editing house or in an on-premises edit room, it’s hard to imagine a near-finished version of your spot “leaking out.” If it did, you’d have a really good idea of who did the leaking. In the Apple world, you’d be executed for this offense. Major scandal. In Windows-land, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. (At least publicly.) No commentary, just an observation.

WP7 by the numbers. According to Engadget, “By specs alone, WP7 is slightly behind the edge that Android and Apple’s offerings are riding.” One would think that the company joining the revolution-in-progress would arrive with features that at least achieve parity with those driving the revolution.

Quote of the day. Joe Belfiore said in an interview with Wired: “The success of the iPhone certainly had an impact on the industry and an impact on us. And we said there were a lot of things we could do to deliver a solution that’s different from the iPhone but have some of its benefits.” Only some? Guess it’s a good idea to set reasonable goals…

Final take: Windows Phone 7 is a product that isn’t quite ready to do battle with iPhone and Android. It’s missing too many key features. It can’t make up for those features with an interface that “gets you in and out” faster. Personal opinion: Microsoft launched WP7 because they couldn’t afford not to. It had to be available for the holiday season or face certain death. With a $500 million marketing campaign and lots of partners, it gets an upgrade to uncertain death. We’ll be watching!

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  • sarumbear

    Microsoft: Really?

  • I don’t think that WP7 should have a similar amount of features to Android and iOS from day one. Said that, the list of missing ones looks a bit too much!

    Microsoft can already count on technologies which will help them in the run (WPF, Silverlight, .NET, Azure etc…). I am just starting questioning the peculiarity of their UI, how much it will be scalable and how much won’t be boring at some point. A bit dangerous trying too much to be cool, you need to promote good design principles for the third party apps which will last.

  • ChuckO

    Here’s a little quote from the head of Verizon:

    “Microsoft is not at the forefront of our mind.”

    “I can’t really say which phones we’ll offer yet. We like our relationship with Microsoft. But clearly in the U.S. there are three major mobile operating systems: RIM, Google and Apple.”

  • mikeP

    I love the respective PR headlines for launch of the iPhone and the launch of WP7.

    Apple said: “Apple Reinvents the Phone with iPhone”.

    Microsoft said: “Windows Phone 7: A Fresh Start for the Smartphone: The Phone Delivers a New User Experience by Integrating the Things Users Really Want to Do, Creating a Balance Between Getting Work Done and Having Fun.”

  • Maybe I am a Microsoft fanboy. Maybe you are an Apple fanboy. It does not matter.

    Whatever the case, Microsoft should read you because you make a lot of sense.

  • I HATE THOSE MICROSOFT COMMERCIALS, they preach dis-involvement, I want to be involved with my phone.