Oct 10

Windows Phone 7: super or superficial?

They’re bubbling with excitement in Redmond, as Microsoft prepares to release Windows Phone 7 into the wild.

Happily, we can start our own celebration early — as two commercials have already popped up on YouTube. One of which I’ve posted here.

Just in case it gets yanked (which seems to have happened to similar links already), here’s your executive summary:

In a series of clips, we see a variety of people so consumed by their phones that they are oblivious to the world around them — often with amusingly tragic results. It all builds to the ending, when Mr. Voiceover says:

It’s time for a phone … to save us from our phone. New Windows Phone. The first phone designed to bring you the stuff you need — and get you back to what matters.

What matters, of course, is the traditional family dinner we see at the end.

As always, it’s important to note that there are two ways one can react to commercials — as an innocent member of the mass market, or as the technology-obsessed types we are.

For the innocents — it’s a pretty good spot. Nicely produced. Fun soundtrack. The better commercials somehow capture a human truth, and this one does. We can all nod our heads as we see people glued to their phones. So the line It’s time for a phone to save us from our phone will resonate. It’s a nice piece of writing.

Like I said, that’s for the innocents.

For those who look one level deeper, well … it’s a spectacular display of wishful thinking.

The reason people are absorbed by their iPhones and Androids is that they’re actually getting all the stuff they’ve been craving. They’re being more productive, better informed and better entertained. The ability to do these things is the very essence of the smartphone revolution. It’s the reason why the phones that can are killing off the phones that can’t.

So, after years of watching the revolution from the sidelines, Microsoft’s big contribution is a phone that allows us to just “glance and go”? That bit of superficiality is delivered by Ms. Voiceover at the end of the second commercial.

Hate to burst their bubble, but if glancing and going is your thing, there’s an app for that. With iPhone’s 250,000 apps and Android’s 80,000 apps, you can be absorbed to whatever degree you wish.

It’s condescending for Microsoft to tell us we’re spending too much time with our phones, or suggest that we’re missing what’s really important in life. Many of us use our phones precisely to stay on top of what’s really important — including getting closer to our families.

The real problem is that Microsoft has missed what’s important in the phone market. Had they joined the fun in any meaningful way two or three years ago, they wouldn’t have to dream their way into the party today.

The odds don’t look good.

Just yesterday, the tech stocks took a beating because a Goldman Sachs analyst lowered MSFT from buy to neutral, citing “concerns about the company’s mobile-device business.” Not exactly a vote of confidence on the eve of the Windows Phone 7 launch.

So, now that the engineers have had their way with Windows Phone 7, the marketers will take over. If these commercials represent the official company line, it won’t be surprising if most consumers take one glance … and just go.

[Thanks to Nate for the tip.]

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  • To be honest the fact that I can only read 1 sms in the iphone screensaver forces me to unlock the phone too often than I would like. This is a step backward (probably the only one) Apple did comparing to the competitors. It would be nice to have a more customizable screensaver but of course people wouldn’t switch (today) to WM7 because of that.

  • I knew you’d have something interesting to say about that ad, Ken.

    And, Christian, your comment is interesting as well.
    You say “people wouldn’t switch to W[P]7…” and I agree.

    But I don’t have an iPhone (yet) and there are lots of people who don’t either. In my family there are two iPhones, one android and 8 dumb-phones.

    I think the market is huge, I’m excited to see what happens.

  • rd


    Windows 7 have the same message.
    Bing commercials have the same message.

    So of course Microsoft will try the same angle,
    they don’t have any choice. other then
    backward compatibility and office & exchange
    There is no other differentiation. They can’t be
    google and they can’t be Apple, so they have
    to try childish ways to get attention.

  • Henry

    No one, not even to best market annalists could predict a sure out come. Yes it seems to be uncertain for MS, but lets face it, 10 months ago Iphone was a household name. Android was barely known- (G1 did nothing, Verizon’s Droid put it on the map). But what took three years for Apple to achieve Android is achieving in a third of the time and is starting to kick Apples ass. No one would have believed it, certainly not an Apple person. Just about every review of WinMo 7 has been overwhelmingly positive and exciting. Not one of these OS’s or handsets have been perfect. At their start the iphone was a polished phone with many missing features but continues to build while Android started with many more features but lacked polish, and continues to improve as well . From what I can see MS is releasing an OS thats right in the middle. Its a DIFFERENT, FRESH original OS. (iOS and Android have more similarities than differences, deal with it.) I love my little Android G1 and envy all who have the latest and greatest handsets. I also have a Zune HD. Since the first day I had it people took noticed and asked me “What phone is that?” After explaining they often replied, ” It should be a phone!”, even people with iphones concurred. WinMo 7 is launching with better hardware, polish and functionality than iOS or Android at their launches. So really, why are you tearing it down before it hits the starting gate? Now who’s the cry baby?

  • Tim W.

    The “tile/hub” UI is the only thing that really makes WP7 stand out from the rest. So it’s kind of natural they focus their campaigns on that. It’s their only USP.

  • I’ve been beating on this drum for years, which is why I’m pretty excited about WP7. (and webOS)

    Apple’s poor notifications and lack of a dashboard is a pretty big problem, experience-wise. WP7 really does do a better job at saying “here’s what’s relevant, click here to learn more”.

    I don’t think the ads mean “stop liking your phone”, they mean “stop having to work so hard to dig out the data you want.”

    If I want to see what’s going on with my friends, I have to go into SMS, Mail, a Twitter App, and a Facebook app. I can’t understand why it can’t be collected into a single customizable unlock screen, and I think that’s what MS is going for here.

  • F.Y.I. The ad is up in it’s final, official form.