I was quite excited when I found out that Microsoft would be showing off Windows Phone 7 at BlogHer ’10. I was even more thrilled when I was able to get a personal walk though of the device at a time when nobody else was around. I felt a bit more comfortable that I would get some complete answers rather than the typical marketing speak that you usually hear at such events.
Most of that worked out, I did get a fairly complete look at the new metro interface that graces Windows Phone 7, but I couldn’t get past the marketing speak, which I found somewhat condescending when they trying to use terms like “the myth of multi-tasking” to try and cover up some of the known flaws of this phone.
If you are paying attention to the SmartPhone market at all over the past couple of years, there are some obvious things going on. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are presently running away with the market. Palm has a decent contender in the WebOS, however some lousy hardware, a terrible marketing campaign (seriously what was up with the creepy, pasty white woman in their ads?), and pockets not deep enough, combined to keep WebOS from competing (though we will see what happens now that HP picked up Palm). And Microsoft. Poor, poor Microsoft was left holding the bag with the severely outdated and difficult to use Mobile OS that shed marketshare the way the winner sheds pounds on the Biggest Loser.
After finally acknowledging (after an simply abysmal launch of Windows Mobile 6.5) that they needed to go back to the drawing board, that is exactly what they did. They opted to try and mimic the model that worked so well for Apple. They took back control of the OS, the specs, the set requirements of what the phone must have in order to be allowed to put Windows Phone 7 on a device.
Except, they may have gone a bit too far in copying Apple. Major features like Cut and Paste and Multi-tasking, two huge issues for the iPhone for a long time (and finally included in iOS 4) will be missing from Windows Phone 7. Microsoft, while having a fairly strong hold on the Corporate market opted to go after the “fun and games” crowd, and tightly integrated this phone with both the Zune Marketplace and the Xbox. Which is fine if you are 16 to early 20s, but is going to do nothing endear them to corporate users or IT Departments.
The front screen shows the “social” face of the phone, the “hip” that Microsoft is going after (and failed to acquire with their aborted Kin product earlier this year). It is a cutesy interface, the sort that many Android phones sport, and most power users immediately take off the phone as soon as they get it home. Except you can’t do that with Windows Phone 7. The tile interface is broken down into what Microsoft calls “hubs” There are hubs for games, for apps, for social, etc. It looks fairly clean on a new device, but as each application adds itself to a hub and creates a tile for itself, I see this interface becoming cumbersome and unwieldly for most people to use.
People that are using devices like the Blackberry Bold, the Palm Pre or (heaven forbid) Windows Mobile 6.x devices might be able to be swayed over to Windows Phone 7, but at first glance I see nothing in Windows Phone 7 that could pull an iPhone or Android user over to the Microsoft camp. Honestly though, having been a developer dependent on Microsoft technologies for more years than I care to admit, if you look at Windows Phone 7 as a version 1.0 product (which really that is what it is since there is no legacy for older apps from Windows Mobile 6.x and earlier), then this might be fully flushed out, fixed and ready for prime time in Windows Phone 8 or 9. Considering that would mean 2 or more years down the road, based on this first look, I’d say look elsewhere for now, and then revisit Windows Phone X when your contract is us in a couple of years. There is no sense in bogging yourself down with this until they work everything out… unless you spend most of your life listening to music and playing your Xbox… if that is the case… then it might be worth waiting to see when the Windows Phone 7 Series phones hit the market and see if it is for you. But if you want to actually be productive and are still missing Microsoft, get an Android device and load the Bing app and Bing Maps… it will be like having a Microsoft device without the limitations of Windows Phone 7.