Where I Save Windows Phone

My name is Brian and I use Windows Phone.

Confession: I want Windows Phone to succeed. I want it to succeed because I believe users will benefit from Microsoft innovation and renewed market competition. I want Windows Phone to succeed because as Android increasingly takes over the computing world I am increasingly fearful of the success of an OS whose very existence is to track and record user behavior across the world.

I want Windows Phone to succeed because I want great, American companies to continue to dominate the global tech market.

I am not at all sure Windows Phone will succeed.

This has nothing to do with the silly, breathless rumors about a Nokia Android device. Rather, even given Microsoft’s money, brainpower and massive “Windows” install base — and 10+ years of fruitless R&D — the world continues to reveal that it is quite happy choosing between Android and iOS.

My hope, thus, is cruelly crushed by market reality. Must be doubly bad for Microsoft, I suspect. Therefore, I offer the following advice to help save Windows Phone.

1. Fewer Apps

Yes, this is counterintuitive, but absolutely necessary. You lost the app battle, Microsoft. It’s over. Accept defeat. We now live in a world where there are far more software applications for Apple products — and they are much easier to buy.

Stop pumping bad apps through the system in a futile attempt to make the actual numbers look not so awful. Instead, focus on offering the absolute best apps of any platform.

I have spent the past 4 years using iPhones as my go-to device. I have spent the past several weeks using the Lumia 1520 almost exclusively. In nearly every case, I’ve found an app equivalent for Windows Phone to match my iPhone. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is awful. Limited functionality, poor to no integration with web services (or iPhone apps), bad design. Indeed, the vast majority of apps in the Windows Phone store appear to me as little more than high school projects. End this anti-user behavior. Ensure that any app offered from your store is absolutely awesome and in no way a pale, brittle facsimile of what’s long been available for iOS and Android. Reject far more apps than you accept.

Fifty thousand great apps is better than 150,000 awful ones.

I also recommend you pledge every single of the many billions of dollars you receive from Android patent scofflaws to fund app projects with the very best app development houses. Bonus: offer huge cash windfalls for successful tie-ins with your very best mobile offerings (Skydrive, Bing, Office, Skype).

2. Fewer Devices

Windows Phone, the platform, will not be widely embraced by OEMs the way Windows was back in the 20th century. Android has won that war and its presence and pace throughout the world is accelerating. Your best hope is to focus on your own great devices. Luckily, you now own Nokia, which makes the most beautiful, best designed smartphones in the world.

Nokia’s problem is its insistence on offering as many variations of devices across every possible region, industry and demographic. This is no longer a viable strategy in a world where we are all connected. Worse, it increases manufacturing and marketing costs, generates user confusion and capitulates to self-serving carrier demands.

This is what you should offer:

  • Student model — for children, students, grandparents and those of lesser means.  The Lumia 520 is amazing for the price. Does the target market even know this?
  • Business model. Your premium offering. The Lumia 920 (or equivalent) with Office, Outlook, Skydrive and Skype included is a powerful combination.
  • Globetrotter model. The Lumia 1020 with 41mp camera is the baseline device for artists, photographers, creative types.
  • Gamer model. Your “gamer” phone fully leverages Xbox and the beautiful large-display Lumia 1520. Maybe offer Xbox credits with every purchase.

Next, you must give each of these devices comprehensible names. 520, for example, means absolutely nothing to absolutely no one. 920 is (obviously) less than 925, which obviously has lesser hardware than the 1020. Right? Nobody knows. Stop such nonsense.

3. Be Mobile First – Really

From this day forward, the role of Office and Windows is not to maximize shareholder value. Rather, it is to maximize profits to fund the future. The future is mobile.

You’ve bravely taken a few baby steps in this direction, and have now evolved from believing smartphones are mere satellites revolving around the PC sun to your current belief, where you appear to grudgingly accept that smartphones and PCs can be equivalents. Still wrong. The smartphone is the center of the computing world. Until you accept this your giant company will continue to flounder.

I fear this will not be an easy fix. Your Surface ads reveal that you, dear Microsoft, can’t even conceive of a “computing” device that is solely and purely touchscreen and mobile. In the second decade of the 21st century you still promote computers and “slates,” such as your Surface, as devices that work best when there is a physical keyboard attached and the user is seated. This is a profound misunderstanding of the future of everything.

Focusing on non-mobile, non-touchscreen devices is like if Android is the Death Star, iPhone is Ben Kenobi and you are Aunt Beru. Don’t be Aunt Beru, Microsoft.

Change your strategy. Radically improve touchscreen responsiveness. Offer a movie store. Make multitasking really work. Fix the (virtual) keyboard. Mobile first — really.

It’s not all bad, of course. Your instincts are sound. Note that the much-lauded Jony Ive continues to parrot what Windows Phone and Nokia have been doing for years: “Unapologetically” plastic devices. Bright colors. Polycarbonite-like feel. Flat design. Lots of white space. He knows.


4. Start A War With Apple

Android is good enough for most of the world. For what it offers, for its price, availability and ecosystem, you aren’t going to convince many to choose Windows Phone over Android, particularly at the low-end. You must prove your worthiness by taking on Apple. Fortunately, that’s where most of the money may be found.

Focus your marketing on a Mac vs PC-like campaign.

  • Your live tiles versus their static icons
  • Skype versus FaceTime
  • 20mp and 41mp cameras with Zeiss lenses and Nokia imaging controls versus iPhone’s 8mp camera
  • Office versus iWork
  • Outlook versus Apple Mail
  • Nokia Maps and real-time transit data versus Apple Maps
  • Xbox versus Game Center
  • Mock Siri. Belittle Touch ID.

Pay no attention to the Apple echo chamber. Ignore what people may say on Twitter. “In marketing, what looks new is new.”

A relentless assault against the iPhone earns you respect, customers, and helps focus your company. If possible, hire the “PC” guy to do the ads.


Reminder: not one moment of these ads, not one image, may include a keyboard or a person seated. Commercials advertising a “real keyboard” to do “real work” is my grandfather insisting that music used to be so much better. Probably, he’s wrong and if he’s right, it’s irrelevant.

Having spent the past month with a Nokia Lumia 1520, and having used every iPhone, several Android devices, BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian, Asha, MeeGo and others, I know that your odds are slight. Your potential remains great, however. Go forth. No excuses — you’re Microsoft. The time to line up your pawns has long since passed. These are the smartphone wars. Ball so hard.

Published by

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about mobile devices, crowdsourced entertainment, and the integration of cars and computers. His work has been published with Macworld, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, ReadWrite and numerous others. Multiple columns have been cited as "must reads" by AllThingsD and Re/Code and he has been blacklisted by some of the top editors in the industry. Brian has been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts.

82 thoughts on “Where I Save Windows Phone”

  1. “Commercials advertising a ‘real keyboard’ to do ‘real work’ is my grandfather insisting that music used to be so much better. Probably, he’s wrong and if he’s right, it’s irrelevant.”

    “Yes, but this is not your father’s Oldsmobile! Really!”

    Great comment.


    1. Right on. Saw a Surface ad yesterday where the guy, sitting, brags how he hasn’t approved purchase of a stapler in five years. What? Scrooge likes Surface? A tablet three sizes too small? Bah humbugged?

      1. Saw that commercial and said to myself, “typical IT jerk who won’t buy employees tools that they need.” Great advertisement. IT jerk finally finds a Windows device that he likes. There’s a shocker.

  2. No thanks, Microsoft has taken the IT community hostage for enough decades with their crappy products. Guess why nobody wants to buy their stuff now? Because nobody wanted to for a decade, but everyone was forced to use their junk because of the IT departments’ glacial pace adopting innovation.

    BTW: “Innovation” from M$? That would be a first then. So far all they did was copy, buy, and crush everyone else. Good riddance, bozos!!!

    1. I think you went a bit too far, but it’s true. There are many who never want to be subjugated to Microsoft’s death grip again.

  3. You’re trying to convince Microsoft that the market knows what the market needs, better than Microsoft knows what the market needs. Good luck with that.

  4. Even 50K apps are too many.
    5K is probably better.
    I find the number of Apple App store to mind-numbing.
    How many flashlight apps do you need?

    “comprehensible names” is not going to happen. Both MS and NOK have a long history of stupid nomenclature. It is a genetic defect.

    1. Now that iOS 7 has a flashlight button right in the control center, the number of flashlight apps you need has shrunk to zero.

  5. Are you shorting Microsoft stock, Mr. Hall?

    Going head to head with Android, rather than the iPhone is one of the few good moves Microsoft has made in this space. Microsoft needs volume because they’re way behind on market share. Apple is not standing still; they’ve had much tighter integration, horizontally and vertically, than anyone. They have a vision, rather than ambitions.

    Android, meanwhile, is vulnerable. Only Microsoft/Nokia has a brand stronger than Samsung. Manufacturers are looking for an OS where they can differentiate and Windows can be that OS. At worst, Microsoft can knock off the plethora of lesser Android manufacturers and get some decent market share.

    Even Microsoft doesn’t have enough cash to buy developer mind share by way of handouts. That’s like having a single buyer health care system.

    Worse, everything you’re promoting in this “war against Apple” is precisely what Microsoft is doing wrong.

    The non-geek considers live tiles confusing. Similarly, “normal” people don’t have 15 widgets on their Android phones, so static is better for most people.

    Neither Skype nor FaceTime have tremendous US phone use in their current forms, and competing against FaceTime Audio would just anger the carriers.

    To paraphrase Steve Jobs, “it’s about the PHOTONS!” I want more megapixels too, but in practice the larger images are unwieldy. For the average user, 8 MP is enough. Having more is a niche market.

    Office and Outlook? Really now? iWork is closer to being “touch-first” than Office, by a long shot.

    Xbox is being threatened by very high quality mobile gaming, as are all console gaming systems.

    This is akin to saying that Apple should do a “cheap” phone or license OS X/iOS to other manufacturers. You’re not giving much (any) consideration to reality or Microsoft’s actual strengths.

    1. Great comment. Thanks.
      I have no stock position on this.
      I do think that Android is vulnerable — intellectual property issues *remain* a concern. It’s a huge money suck for Google and corporations don’t toss money away indefinitely. Smallish possibility, but China and Russia may very well force in-country hardware companies to make devices using only in-country OS’es. Having said all that, I think in today’s world that the OEM strategy for Microsoft is a dead end. Android is good enough, free enough, available enough, popular enough. For Windows Phone to work, Microsoft must focus on its own devices. For that strategy to work, they must be able to take on Apple.

    2. “Only Microsoft/Nokia has a brand stronger than Samsung.”
      Yes, in the USA, MS is strong brand.
      Strong, as in well known.
      But, do people like the brand? How positive do they feel about it.
      I would love to see some real data about MS and Windows as brands.

      1. Americans do tend to forget how powerful the Nokia brand remains outside of North America, especially in Europe.

        1. Agreed. Still, I’m not sure how the newly owned Nokia can remain so relevant in Asia and Africa. Maybe they should spin off the Asha line, focus on Windows Phone and high-end, developed markets.

        2. I’m with Steve here. Nokia has unrivaled fanaticism; even in the US, Nokia’s brand was exceptionally strong and has only recently begun to decline. I would dare say that, since Microsoft and Nokia are strong with different, but slightly overlapping audiences, that Microsoft/Nokia is about the only consumer electronics brand that can face off against Apple. While the Google brand is strong, the Android/Nexus brand is not. Similarly the Amazon brand is strong, but Kindle… not so much.

          1. A matter of semantics, but I wouldn’t describe Nokia’s brand as ever having been exceptionally strong in the US. They were a player here, but one of many, and not dominant. US was never the very strong market for Nokia that was generally the case in Europe and Asia. Personally, I can’t recall anyone I knew well who had a Nokia phone in the old days when Nokia was at its relative strongest here and throughout the rest of the world. Except for my brother, who lived in England. My family and I in the US all had various Motorola’s, LG’s, Sony’s, etc.

            But I second Brian in wanting to see Windows phone become a strong and credible alternative to iOS and Android. And I second Brian in having strong doubts it will do so.

          2. I am from the UK and live in Germany and in both countries Nokia was the first mobile phone king, but now…

            No-one I know who has a smartphone has a Nokia. My last Nokia was 2004. My Mum has a Nokia but its a 3310 or something, and she turns it off when she gets home, because she has a landline.

            Unfortunately that is the kind of person who loves Nokia.
            They need a miracle or a genius right now, and I haven’t seen evidence of either at Microsoft for quite a while.

    3. The problem here is that the window of opportunity to attack Google Android is closing. As Google is tightening their control of Android, leaving Open Source Android a broken shell that will be used in refrigerators, soap dispensers and other things that require an OS rather than a lot of human interaction.

      And Google is doing this at a pace that should worry Microsoft. Hangouts is quickly becoming a rival to Skype. Especially for video calls with several participants, Hangouts is better. Google’s Docs is touch friendly and works like a charm. Search engines aren’t even the same ball park. Bing is the kid with absent, rich parents trying to buy friends to hang with him in the big, empty house, where Google is the funny, street smart kid who charms both peers, teachers and their parents. IE vs Chrome is even worse. And as for smart/virtual assistants – Siri and Google Now are in the boxing ring, Microsoft is the toddler crawling around in that ring waiting to get crushed.

  6. Be Mobile First: Good news on this front. MS moved the people in charge of Windows phone (Terry Myserson, Joe Belfiore, and more) in charge of all OS development from Windows, Tablet, Phone, and Xbox. That is a strong statement on how they view the mobile market.

    1. Would have been a more interesting story if they embraced Be Mobile First back when the Courier was under development.

  7. Microsoft has a bad reputation as a company in the consumer world. The word “Windows” has become synonymous with mediocre product that needs iterations and tweaks until things become all right. This is assuming there is no competition and there is no other choice for the consumers. Unfortunately now they do. When Apple makes something, 99% of the time things work. Things are kept simple and user experience is given the maximum importance. People are willing to pay the price for an Apple product. Windows based systems attract by how cheap the price can be. And low price is looked at as tantamount to cheap quality in consumers’ minds. The youth market is under the spell of Apple and Android magic. Some might like Windows because of XBox connectivity. Other than that, Microsoft has to change its appearance completely and come up with an earnest effort to offer consumers the very best in the first attempt. They still are living in a Microsoft-centric world, where they decide what the consumers need and do a poor job of it. Apple does the same too, but when they make something, the consumer wants it. Going after Apple will be a good idea, but it won’t work through negative ads and mimicry (Windows stores is a joke). They have to adopt Apple’s core philosophy of creating great products that every consumer will want to have and go to any length to make it happen. Only then Microsoft has any chance of taking on Apple in its game. Apple is a hardware-software company right from the start. If Microsoft adopted that policy, they will have to let go off all the OEMs who make PCs as cheap as soap. Microsoft still thinks only in terms of PCs with keyboards, mouse and USB ports. They need to come out of that closet first. May be they can hire executives from retail industries to make the needed changes. Microsoft might have a lot of money in their pocket. But that money came not by their talent, but by getting into the field first and entrenching themselves deep and preventing anyone else from coming close. Now they have to compete the way others do and they have never done that before. Therein lies the problem. They have to weed out a lot of old fashioned executives who think the traditional way and replace them with new ones who have different ideas. I do not see that happening much in the near future.

    1. I, for the life of me, don’t understand why MS thinks the name ‘Windows’ gives people the warm fuzzies. I think for most people “Windows” brings up connotations that are at best neutral, negative for anyone who’s had to wrestle with the dang OS’s register. I don’t even no if the current version still has a register but the bad taste in my mouth that was brought about by having to disturb those hives lasts a lifetime. GM, Ford & Chrysler lost a generation of customers and had to fight tooth and nail to win the generation of customers after that. Microsoft, I’m afraid is on the verge or may have already lost a generation.

    2. Exactly this. I’ve used iPhone since the first one, but I’ve tried to make the switch to both Android (Samsung/HTC One) and Windows Phone (Lumia 920). I actually liked the Lumia 920 a lot. The flat interface was great and intuitive. I loved the hardware. But it lacked the tight, frictionless experience of the iPhone. Even the HTC One was running in circles around it.

      Where Apple deliver exactly what they promise, overpromise/underdelivery seems to be modus operandi for Microsoft. The camera app that allowed you to take a photo and “rewind” a part of it? Awesome idea. Worthless implementation. Remote controlling the phone with the buttons on the headphones? Nope, didn’t work. And back then, the Facebook app (designed by Microsoft) was one of the worst cases of screen real estate waste I’ve seen. And that app was not approved by Microsoft, it was _designed_ by Microsoft.

      Were I Microsoft, I’d take you on board as the devils advocate – the truth sayer from outside who says all the uncomfortable truths Microsoft needs to hear, but don’t in their Microsoft-y bubble. I think you understand what @brianshall:disqus doesn’t: why people (not techies like us, but regular users) pay premium for Apple. It’s not because Apple is first with new technology (they never are). It’s because Apple waits until the technology is mature, easy to use and integrate and then make sure that it works when they use it. Touch-ID is brilliant. The almost non-existing friction and higher security is very Apple-y. Microsoft are trying to fight on EVERY front. They fight Google with Bing, Office, Outlook.com, Skype (vs Hangouts) and except maybe for Outlook.com, Google does all the other things better (including Hangouts). The fight Apple on every front too. They can’t win every one of those wars. They should pull out now so they can focus on awesomeness in the few, select wars they must win.

      1. Do techies like you use Apple Configurator to manage dozens of iPads? Cause if you do you would realize how wrong your statement is. Apple might make personal devices that people like to use, or think are cool to use, but managing their crap is atrocious. It’s literally 7 levels of hell bad in schools right now with iPads. The worst part is Apple will not help to fix the problems.
        We can lock the app store, but then it requires an administrator to install district approved apps. If we try OTA, they don’t always show up. If we don’t lock down the app store, kids sign on with their own id’s and download whatever they want. Teachers, rather than waiting for their techs, instruct students to download apps to the devices and we no longer have a reasonable idea of what we are supposed to support.
        We ask Apple for help and they respond with a question, “Why would we limit peoples ability to get to our own app store?”.
        If work was a rock, Apple would be the hard place on the other side of me.

          1. Schools in general would be a lot better off if they were less obsessed with trying to lock everything down. Especially when dealing with a reasonably well curated source like the App Store, everyone would be better off if schools–horrors–let kids discover interesting stuff on their own.

          2. That sounds good in theory but does not work in the real world. From my experience dealing with this issue first hand, schools are simply not using iPads (or are severely underusing them) because of a lack of control and management.

            Look, it would be great if every student could be given a device to explore
            and discover with, but when you are dealing with limitations (both money
            and time) and parents (who might want a say in how their kids use the devices), you need to be able to manage and lock down devices.

          3. Schools have been making terrible use of personal computing technology since its birth, and one important reason for this is the demand that everything be locked down. I fully understand the motivations for this, but as in so many other things, I think educators fail to consider the opportunity cost: What they lose by not giving the students to explore. Schools are run on an extreme version of the precautionary principle–anything that can go wrong will and it is or duty always to prevent that–that produces terrible educational sclerosis.

          4. There is a difference between locking down a device and making it manageable. I have worked with a number of schools and their requirements are more related to manageability than outright restriction. No sane organization, school or other, would deploy a large number of devices that could not be managed. iOS devices simply can not be managed as easily as other devices and this is something Apple should address.

          5. I agree that Apple should do more to make iPads more manageable, especially better deployment tools (and the Android situation is far worse.)

            However, the truth is that unless you are trying to lock the device down, there isn;t a whole lot to manage on an iPad after initial deployment. With iOS 7, you set it up for automatic updates and it pretty much takes care of itself.

            There are lots of third-party mobile device management tools. But their focus is overwhelmingly on data security for the enterprise. That just is not an issue for schools on student systems (administrative systems, of course, are another matter.)

          6. If your school has 300 students, but only the resources for 50 iPads, you will want to share devices. And you probably don’t want, for example, the grade 2 students accessing all the grade 8 material. Despite its Unix roots, iOS is essentially a single user OS. There are work-arounds and many MDM packages have features to support this. Still, its not easily, especially when you consider how easy it is with PC’s or Macs.

            That is just one example and I could list dozens.

          7. The iPad is what, three years old? I say we cut Apple a little slack. I’m quite sure they’re working on improving device sharing and device management.

          8. I don’t think Apple intends to add multi-user capability to the iPad. If they wanted to, it would be easy enough. But I think they believe strongly that the iPad is a personal device–one person, one iPad.

          9. Perhaps it’s as simple as hardly anyone asking for multi-user capability. You’d need a lot more on board storage before you could even consider it, probably 256 GB minimum. My kids all have 64 GB iPad 2s, and they’re all basically full. And iCloud isn’t large enough, but I understand why. I want a couple TB of space on iCloud, for next to nothing, so Apple has to figure out how to do that for a billion users at a reasonable price. Yikes.

          10. Would you be comfortable if you had a high school aged daughter who went to a school where every student had ipads? I can guess your answer would probably be yes. So my next question is this, What would you do when some other girl who does not like your daughter takes an indecent picture of her in the locker room or bathroom with snap-chat and sends it to a bunch of boys in the school? Would you demand that she be disciplined, because we cant – snapchat erases those images so it becomes a he said she said argument. Would you be for locking down these devices then? Do you think schools should be relieved of the responsibility of protecting children from abusive material and bullying? I really don’t think anyone understands fully the reasons for why we demand things be locked down. Try working in a school for a while, you would be surprised at how many little things we have to do for great reasons that can and usually are interpreted as being harsh or unnecessary….

          11. As I said, schools operate on an extreme precautionary principle.

            Let’s consider the example you gave. If you want kids to not use Snapchat in school, you block it on the school network. You don;t need to touch the device. (I think schools are far too aggressive about blocking sites, but that’s another argument for another day.)

            Back to your specific case, it’s pretty hard to take a picture surreptitiously using an iPad. If kids want to do this, they’ll do it with their own phones, and there is really nothing the school can do to stop it. This is a typical case of conjuring a worst case out of thin air and then using it as justification for an action.

            You’re right, I haven’t worked in a school. But my wife has been a teach for over 40 years and I am a father and a grandfather and have kept a close eye on schools for decades. I have watched school systems spend many billions of dollars on technology and derive little benefit from it because they never really knew what they wanted to do with it.

            I think tablets, particularly the iPad, have the potentially to be the first educational technology that can really be of benefit. And I hate to see schools putting a vastly disproportionate amount of their money and energy into worrying about the possibility that some student somewhere might use an tablet for something they don’t like.

          12. “As I said, schools operate on an extreme precautionary principle.”

            Right or wrong, that is not likely to change. I would rather students have a locked down and managed iPad than no iPad at all.

          13. Agreed. And the clever students, at least in high school, will figure out how to get around whatever you do to lock them down.

          14. We didn’t give them the smartphone. If they did it with a smartphone we would not legally be liable. If we gave them a device that could do this and set up no protection against this type of behavior, we are liable.

          15. Apple has made some improvements in device manageability, but they really have a long way to go. Simple things like alerting staff when the battery is running low or storage is filling up, or preventing students from changing the data and time are difficult to impossible. I work with a school that had about 30 iPads. Before iOS7, one of the biggest complaints was how long it took to update apps on all the devices.

            As I said, Apple has made some improvements over time, but is light years behind what a lot of people are used to with other platforms. Its all well and good to believe this kind of control is not needed, but I know no one who has been responsible for a fleet of devices who has not pined for more manageability.

  8. Microsoft hasn’t got a chance. They just aren’t good enough. It’s like expecting a guy who runs 100m in 12 seconds to medal at the Olympics.

      1. I doubt it, he’ll trip at the starting line, and to make matters worse the bobsled will be poorly built, resulting in a last place finish. That’s Microsoft. Mediocre and crummy, almost all the time. Which is fine if you’ve got a market that cares mostly about price and is willing to put up with crap. But Android has that market sewn up now. Microsoft has to be better, but they’ve never even been good.

  9. I’m fully on board with your goal (I run the reasonably successful NH Windows Phone Users Group), but I disagree at least somewhat on almost every point as to how to get there. 🙂 1) I agree that more quality apps are needed, but you never know where that’s going to come from. Further, MS needs someone to invent a killer app for it… the Lotus 1-2-3 of Windows Phone, and that’s not going to happen if you limit the ecosystem like Apple has. 2) Ever walked down a cereal isle at a grocery store? every cereal maker has five different variations on every one of it’s fifty brands… why? because it increases the odds of hooking a customer. If you walk into a mobile retailer in the US, there’s a wall of distinct Apple products, several walls of distinct Android products, and a small corner in the back dedicated to two different Lumia models and maybe an HTC 8x for the fun of it. Consumers clearly see what folks are selling, and it’s not a Windows Phone. The more models, the more shelf space we get, and we need visibility (shelf space). 3) what my kids (and I) want is a tablet that is also a PC. I won’t waste money on anything less. I want to dock my tablet with a full size set of HID’s, and be able to produce as much content as I consume from the same device. MS is on track with this, except that the costs of viable devices are prohibitive. This has little to do with Windows Phone except that it would be nice if Windows Phone integrated better (e.g. let me drag my xap’s from my phone onto my PC/tablet device and run it!) (That said, the Dell Venue series of tablets almost has me ready to buy… $299 for a tablet capable of running full desktop apps is very compelling. It lacks horsepower & effective dockability in my book, but it’s very close.) 4) Every technology has it’s shelf life, and the forerunner hits it first. Apple’s not truly the forerunner, but the general consumer perception is that it is, and it’s magic is starting to wear thin. Apple’s iPhone will eventually become the Mac of the desktop market. I say go for the top… hit Android hard especially by picking apart the lower priced offerings… It should be an easy target for all the same reasons Linux was (because Android came from Linux roots). Samsung already starts to wish folks didn’t know the Galaxy was Android based.

    1. Very useful comment. Thanks.
      That’s a good point re having many apps. My concern, though, is that Microsoft wants to show that they are in the same ballpark as Apple and Google in number of apps and they are just pushing through poor quality apps.
      I think for many people, a $299 tablet capable of running full desktop apps is a absolutely great value. My point isn’t to suggest otherwise. Rather, Microsoft seems only able to envision “computers” as having a keyboard and running “full desktop apps” and this is ultimately very limiting.

      1. “Rather, Microsoft seems only able to envision “computers” as having a keyboard and running “full desktop apps” and this is ultimately very limiting.”
        To me, it’s what differentiates them.
        Up front I’ll say I’m not a fan of Windows Phone and how no interest in getting a Surface. However, the ONLY thing Microsoft currently has that gets me to raise an eyebrow is the Surface’s ability to run “real” software and be able to really create content. Take those things away and what’s left? An expensive tablet with a relatively empty ecosystem missing a lot of features that their competitors are sporting.
        I think they have to advertise their tablets as “computers” with “full desktop apps”, otherwise why would anyone bother with their products?
        Well written article though… I enjoyed it.

    2. ” Further, MS needs someone to invent a killer app for it… the Lotus 1-2-3 of Windows Phone, and that’s not going to happen if you limit the ecosystem like Apple has.”

      Fantastic point! When the curse called the “App Approval Process” flat out forbids features that “duplicate functionality”, by definition they block features that “improve functionality”.
      Even DOS, the abomination that it was, fostered far more innovation in PC’s than anything on iOS. Why? Anyone could develop anything, hardware or software, on it.

  10. “I want Windows Phone to succeed because as Android increasingly takes over the computing world I am increasingly fearful of the success of an OS whose very existence is to track and record user behavior across the world.”

    It’s this very ability to track / record user behavior that innovative contextual services like Google Now can materialize. I always hear and read about you tech heads harping about the coming contextual age and how excited you are but you’re paranoid about giving up your privacy. That’s very contradictory. Innovative contextual services & privacy don’t go hand-in-hand.

    1. Delicate balance, no doubt. But with Google search, Google maps, Google voice, Youtube and Android, one company knows where you are, what you are looking for, what you are watching and what you want. Far too much information in my view.

      1. So instead of AT&T and Comcast, or Verizon and Verizon, it’s AT&T and Google or Comcast and Google, or T-Mobile and Google (my favorite). The only difference I see is that Google services improve my life by anticipating and serving my every desire to justify their intrusion, while the others do their best to thwart my every move to channel me into their profitable legacy businesses that I would like to be free of.

        1. Would your life be improved if your next job depended on not having screwed up your Google Spy ™ data profile?

    2. True, what we’d want is a device/company to track us so as to provide us with evermore useful capabilities, and not sell that information to others so as to bombard us with ads. That is possible, but that is not what Google/Android does.

      1. Google does not sell your information to others, it sells ad placement. It keeps the information for itself to use with its algorithms for targeted marketing. If you don’t want ads, go for alternative paid services. It’s that simple.

  11. Disclosure – I work for Microsoft.

    Good points in #1 and #2 Brian. I think you lose your way in #3 and only slightly regain your footing in #4.

    #3 – According to many analysts, Microsoft has made a too-serious commitment to touch that the market has yet to validate. Buyers are passing over PCs with touch screens for the cheaper, non-touch versions. And the Idea that everyone is going to be walking around doing work all day and never sitting down is unrealistic. It will never happen, and people who think it will have put technology trending in front of common sense. Sitting down to work did not begin the day people started using computers for work. It’s been going on for centuries. If you don’t understand this, try this experiment. Go stand up in the middle of your house with your tablet (Windows 8, Android, or iPad, it doesn’t matter). Stand right next to your desk with your nice keyboard and ergonomically placed monitor. And then start to write your next article. Write the whole thing standing up with your tablet. When you’re done, the pain between your shoulder blades can give you direct measure of the incorrectness of your argument #2.

    #3 – Microsoft marketing has been attacking Apple since the iPhone became a success. Microsoft is usually the worse for it, because it feels mean to the many Apple fans who are emotionally attached to the company. A more effective approach seems to be emerging, where ads focus on how Microsoft products fulfill the modern needs of pc users. For example, this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OqzxB-cSW8 is better than this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE7AQY5Xk9w. Although it’s an informal measure, the first has a thumbs-up to thumbs-down ratio of 33.4, while the second has a ratio of 1.6. The dude wearing a t-shirt and scarf indoors might help in the first instance, but still.
    So the Apple battle is one that has to be fought for Microsoft to be successful, but the strategy you recommend has been done for many years unsuccessfully.

    1. Great comment. Thanks! I think the problem with Microsoft’s current focus on “touch” and ads against Apple are that they focus on keyboards, being seated and touch as a secondary means of input. They are trying to force touch to adhere to the 20th century model of computing and that will fail forever, in my view.

      1. There’s no such thing as a “20th century model of computing,” there is simply what is most ergonomic in any given instance. The point westwave was making is that computing devices are used mostly when stationary. When that is the case, having more ergonomic methods of input, such as keyboards and mice, is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. This notion that keyboards and mice are “your father’s Oldsmobile” is simplistic. Questioning whether Microsoft’s approach for mobile is correct is reasonable but questioning the value of tactile controls really isn’t.

        1. Perhaps, though I am less questioning of “tactile controls” and more of Microsoft’s approach, which I believe is to try and force all new modes, such as voice and touch, to become secondary add-ons to the one mode they are best at, mouse and keyboard.

          1. Yeah, it is kind of bone-headed. I don’t think people want a tablet because it is great with a keyboard and mouse.

          2. “I don’t think people want a tablet because it is great with a keyboard and mouse.”

            This was my point with the Oldsmobile remark. Not that I believe keyboards and mice are your father’s Oldsmobile, but that, as BH put it and I quoted, “Commercials advertising a ‘real keyboard’ to do ‘real work’ is my grandfather insisting that music used to be so much better. Probably, he’s wrong and if he’s right, it’s irrelevant.”

            Just as GM missed the reason for Oldsmobile’s decline (it had nothing to do with the past), MS is missing the reason for mobile’s rise. That marketing campaign did not work for Oldsmobile and it won’t work for MS, either. My comment was about positioning, not the validity of keyboard and mouse.


  12. Opinions are like A**holes, and apparently you are one. Jesus man, there has been no news about Windows phone numbers in a long time that would suggest that it’s doing anything but growing. Windows has lost the app race? Are you seriously saying that? They are about to combine the Phone, RT and x86 store where developers can write once and play on any Windows device including XBox. Where in your mind do you think this fight ended? Any developer who’s interested in making money will start with windows within the next 2 years and port to Android/iOS because of that. And wait till MS releases a plugin for 7 that will allow you to run apps from the Windows store on your Windows 7 machine (Thus letting every business desktop/laptop in on the whole app thing). No one, ABSOLUTELY no one is in better position right now for the future of computing than MS.
    Over the past 2 years tech journalists have been preaching about the eventual demise of MS. Now they are talking about what MS needs to stay alive even though they are growing market share. If Windows not growing fast enough is a cause for thinking MS is going to fail, what should we think about the collapse in market share for iOS? You guys in the press are pretty bad at this IMO.
    Finally, MS created an OS for touch friendly devices and sent it out while supporting it’s last 2 OS’s (XP and 7). I find it absolutly hilarious that no one in the media has realized that they were getting people used to the touch interface and slowly add in the old desktop functionality as they drew XP to a close. Now when we hear that the start buttons coming back everyones like “Microsft is backtracking due to user distaste for the Modern UI”. Did anyone think MS was going to abandon the desktop or start screen totally, or is it just me – they guy who works on servers and knows either they have to come out with a whole new server product or make a simmilar UI to the old OS’s so that I could do my job! It was the plan to add that back since the beginning and had they done it from the inital release, everybody would have treated it like a skin on Media Player, just fluff. Again, bet big on MS.

    1. Even Microsoft cannot believe the fantasy that it will be possible to create write once, run anywhere apps for phones, tablets, and traditional PCs. It will be useful to developers to have a more unified code base between the OSes and greater commonality of APIs, but different screen sizes and different input technologies require different–and not just scaled–user interfaces. I would think that Microsoft has learned enough from the troubles of Windows 8 that it won’t double down on that approach.

    2. The absolute numbers of people with/buying Android devices, and the relatively high value (in terms of their demonstrated purchasing power) of the people with/buying iOS devices, makes it hard to envision that within the next two years developers will start with window devices, as you say.

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