What do I think of Windows Phone 7

This is a response to a local Microsoft representative – Jeff Blankenburg from his blog:

Hostility Towards Windows Phone 7

I would like to state that the hostility toward you as an individual was at best childish.  Frankly some people in our trade need to grow up.  I enjoy the good hearted jabs that we often share with regard to our platform(s) of choice but what you described goes beyond the pale.

First off let me make it clear that I want Microsoft to succeed with Windows Phone 7 (WP7).  I think the mobile ecosystem will be better off if Microsoft is a viable player.  Second – I think Windows Phone 7 is interesting – from what I’ve been able to see.  I think the UI and UX are huge improvements over the Windows Mobile make-it-look-like-WindowsXP approach.  And providing modern tooling (.Net, XNA and Silverlight) for application creation are huge wins for developers and users.

I think Microsoft has a good technology platform in WP7, but as we have seen in the past that hasn’t been good enough to make it viable.  OK, so what do I think Microsoft would need to do to make WP7 viable?

  1. Developer tools – The tooling and frameworks must be at least at par with the competition.  Currently that is not the case.  Example – Microsoft is not providing local database support on the device.  This is a critical need, data often needs to be local, anyone who tells you to depend on the cloud is at best uninformed.
  2. Native code – I like C# and .Net.  I think they are great platforms and that they can do great things on WP7.  But I don’t think they can address all of the needs of developers on mobile platforms.  With mobile platforms you still need to eek out every last bit of performance at times and not having the option to go native is a problem.
  3. Marketing – Don’t use the approach/company who does the current marketing.  It works well selling into the enterprise but frankly they have demonstrated their abilities when it comes to consumers.  Mobile is about consumers!
  4. Distribution (part A) – Partner – There is only one way Microsoft can come close to the market that Apple enjoys with iTunes, and that is to partner with an existing market leader.  The obvious choice is Amazon as they have a huge base of consumers who already have their credit card information on file and are “one click” away from purchasing goods.
  5. Distribution (part B) – Create a great store for WP7 applications.  The existing stores are at best lacking (even Apple’s AppStore).  Make the experience for users and developers first class.  Make it easy for users to find applications and easy for indie developers to sell applications.
  6. Tablets – Windows 7 is not a fit for consumer tablets, get over it.  I don’t care what Steve Ballmer says, Windows 7 on tablets will not succeed in the consumer market but Windows Phone 7 could.  An operating system made for a mobile device is better suited at providing a better UX than a desktop/server operating system.  This is important not just for creating a tablet market but also to allow WP7 developers to have a tablet platform target for their applications.
  7. Focus on consumers – If Microsoft want’s to compete with Apple it needs to focus on the consumer market.
  8. OEMs and Carriers – Apple has shown what can happen when mobile devices are’t hobbled by carriers (yes, yes, I know AT&T still has some control such as the debacle with tethering).  Microsoft needs to control the operating system updates, base set of applications, the distribution of 3rd party applications and not allow carriers and OEMs to degrade the UX as they have done in the past (if you don’t know what I’m getting at here ask someone with a Samsung Blackjack II to turn the device on or off for you).
  9. Focus – Focus on mobile like it really matters.  Don’t allow other products to pull down the efforts of the mobile team, they are starting from a very tough place.

I think Microsoft could succeed in mobile, but I wouldn’t put money on it.  I doubt they will do any of the above and make many of the same mistakes they have made in the past.  This is sad because I think WP7 has promise and I’ve had the great fortune to meet some of the amazing engineers on their mobile team and I believe those folks could do great things given the right situation.

So to sum up, what is my opinion of Windows Phone 7?  For me the “Blue Monster” says it all –

“Change the world or go home.”

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