Don’t bother with this blog post disaster

I had hoped to simply ignore a particularly moronic Chicken Little blog post at InfoWorld. But I’ve gotten too many emails about it, and there are actually a few issues in there I’d like to discuss.

First, the post itself. It was created and named specifically to drive hits, nothing more. Whether it reflects the true opinion of its author is almost irrelevant as a) he doesn’t have a Windows Phone (and has clearly never spent any real time with one) and b) if this really is his opinion, he’s just a knuckle dragger anyway.

For a more measured reaction to Windows Phone, I’d point you to my own Windows Phone Secrets blog, where I’ve noted (and will continue to note) the actual highs and lows of using Windows Phone. I’ve pointed out how incredible it is—and it is—to see the phone fill up with content simply by logging on to your Windows Live ID. And I’ve pointed out, repeatedly, that Windows Phone will ship this year missing some pretty obvious functionality like copy and paste, tasks support, and so on. In other words, I’m not just trying to be honest about it. I’m trying to be being reasonable and measured as well. I know this flies in the face of the way things are done in the blogosphere.

But to this blog post.

Windows Phone 7 will be a failure … Windows Phone 7 is a waste of time and money. It’s a platform that no carrier, device maker, developer, or user should bother with.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I have no opinion about whether Windows Phone will be successful in the market. Microsoft is correct to note how fast mobile is growing and that there is room for a handful of major players, and they can be one of them. We’ll see. What I’m more concerned with—and more positive of—is that Windows Phone represents a truly innovative take on the mobile space, one that does not ape the iPhone model (as Android so obviously does), but rather does it’s own thing. When Microsoft says, “the phone is not a PC,” they’re right. Apple and Google don’t seem to get that yet.

In Microsoft’s in-depth demo this week at the Mobile Beat conference, there’s no mistaking the big pig behind the gloss. Seeing the UI in action across several tasks, not just in a highly controlled presentation, shows how awkward and unsophisticated it is … Under the hood, Windows Phone 7 rests on creakingly old technology that the main competitors have all moved past.

Just to be clear about what he’s communicating here, he hasn’t used it. So his revised opinion is based on … a public demo? Did this guy assume that the iPhone 4’s Wi-Fi didn’t work because that feature failed during Steve Jobs’ demo? I mean, there are good demos and bad demos. Is this really the bar?

The “pig” thing I don’t get. There’s no creeping complexity or technological heft “behind” the Windows Phone UI, as there is on Windows Mobile. In fact, the whole thing is universally simple. If you want to level a real charge at Windows Phone, one I’ve noted in a few places, Windows Phone is, if anything, too simple, especially for power users. Unsophisticated? Hardly. It’s been engineered not to be complex. That’s what sophistication is (for an electronics device).

The bottom line is this: Windows Phone 7 is a pale imitation of the 2007-era iPhone.

No, it’s not.

And this kind of generalization betrays this guy’s own lack of sophistication, to use his term again. Yes, Windows Phone will ship with some missing features, as did Apple’s iPhone(s). But that’s like saying a cart and a car are the same because they both have an axle and wheels.

Windows Phone is not the same kind of phone, or a copy of the iPhone at all. In fact, the Windows Phone interaction model is so unique and innovative, and it’s global access to online services information so seamless, they’re not really even the same kind of device. (Or in the same league.) Yes, they both make phone calls. But the iPhone is a mini-PC, where you jump in and out of apps to get things done. You do the hard work of remembering which app does what. With Windows Phone, properly-written apps can blend seamlessly into more general experiences. So if you want to look at pictures, you tap the big Pictures tile. On the iPhone, you could have any number of apps with pictures capabilities, because on that device, pictures are siloed in whatever services you care about—local pictures on the phone, Facebook pictures, Flickr pictures, etc. They’re all over the place, each imprisoned and isolated in their own dedicated apps. (Apple calls this a “business model.”)

This is going to get tedious if I keep going, but let’s just do a few more….

Let’s start with that Zune-based UI, called Metro, as that is the first thing users will see.

Now that I’ve seen it more in action, all I can say is how clunky it is. You will scroll and scroll to find what you want, thanks to how Microsoft has oversimplified all tasks. Each tile has just a little bit of information — often just three items — and you’re supposed to scroll sideways via finger gestures to see details on each option in full, then click the one you want to get more details.

That’s not how it works.

On the iPhone, icons can display either one bit of information—a number badge, indicating the number of new emails, missed calls whatever—or no information at all. So we’re now done discussing the live information you can discover on an iPhone’s home screen. Imagine trying to drag that out into a full chapter for a book.

On Windows Phone, live tiles can display all kinds of information, and they animate, and change dynamically and automatically. There are simple notifications, like the number of unread mails (though that does animated, by the way) or missed calls, just like on the iPhone. There are people tiles that animate with names and pictures. A calendar tile that displays three pieces of information about your next appointment. An animated Xbox Live tile with your avatar doing funny things. A big Pictures tile customized with your favorite photo. An animated Music + Videos tile decorated with imagery of the last musical artist you listened to. And this is all just on the default Start screen. You can customize it further. (Try that on the endless grid of static icons that the iPhone provides.)

Scrolling. I’ve done some heavy customization. To get from the top to the bottom of this screen requires—wait for it—one flick of the finger. And there’s a neat little animation where the tiles all kind of slow down, compress slightly, and then spring back to their correct shape. It’s frivolous and fun. Sorry, InfoWorld.

Other charges.

One developer asked the Microsoft rep if anyone had bothered to test it with users. The answer was essentially "no" — a scary thought indeed.

I don’t know what testing Microsoft did outside of the company on this UI. But I will make two points here:

1. The Metro UI is based on several generations of UIs that came before, including the Zune HD, several versions of Windows Media Center, and the Portable Media Center interface. The “pivot” interface in Metro dates back to 2003-2004 at the latest, and is the core interface interaction model in Windows Phone. So this thing—or early versions of it—have in fact been tested in the real world—no, used in the real world—for almost a decade.

2. As a reminder, Apple never properly tests any of its hardware or software products. Ever. In fact, there’s a little press conference occurring today because of that. Exercise for the reader: Find the blog post where this guy blasted Apple for creating a grid of icons interface because it wasn’t properly tested with users and later needed to be fixed, first with multiple screens, and then with folders and background wallpaper.

Also, the big tiles quickly eat up screen real estate (about four fit),

On the lower resolution version of Windows Phone, 8 (eight) live tiles fit fully on screen, and you can see about a third of two more tiles. And these tiles are dynamic, unlike iPhone icons.

There are two ways to navigate through tiles: in panorama mode and in pivot mode. In both cases, the tile continues to the right…

This is just incorrect. The Start screen offers live tiles, and you scroll up and down. Panoramas, or hubs, are special UIs for integrated experiences. They do have sections (which I think of as columns) and scroll left to right, as the name suggests. In these columns, you can see text or thumbnails, the latter of which are shaped like live tiles (i.e. are “square”) but are not, in fact live tiles. As you drill deeper down (in, say Pictures), there are actually screen with a grid of smaller thumbnails. On these screens, you can see over 20 thumbnails at a time.

Point being that Windows Phone supports a wide variety of UI types, including of course full screen games and other apps that do not conform to specifically designed Windows Phone interfaces. Go nuts, developers. Anything is possible.

As to the rest of this silliness…

No one in the real world cares what version of IE that the IE in Windows Phone is based on. People will care that it works—or does not work—with the sites they visit. I’m sure the author of the quote post will test that in-depth as I am before rendering a verdict.

Windows Phone does not support multitasking, sort of. Actually, it has multitasking, but only for built-in apps… for now. Microsoft will fix this. As he notes.

Interapplication communication. He missed the whole point of seamless connectivity between online services and the phone and that, ideally, people aren’t manually entering individual apps in Windows Phone, as they do on the limited iPhone, but are instead doing things a different way. My god, it’s like complaining that Windows 7 doesn’t run DOS apps. Right. It’s doing things a new way. Move on.

Copy and paste. Yep, it’s missing. Yep, it should be there. But the lack of copy and paste isn’t going to doom this thing. It would be nice, and will be nice when Microsoft adds that feature. It’s coming, Chicken Little. Relax.

Anyway, you get the idea. He makes very few valid points and surrounds the whole thing in an aura of silly doom and gloom.

So please. Stop bugging me with this crap. And for the handful of you out there that actually think this guy made some kind of salient point, shame on you. Publication of opinion does not equal truth. That’s as true here as it is on InfoWorld. Think, then decide.

Windows Phone will or will not succeed in the market, we’ll see. But Microsoft is not regurgitating something tired and old like Google did with Android, and it’s not using the same old fashioned PC metaphor that Apple is stuck on. Instead, Windows Phone is new, and interesting, and innovative.

Obviously.

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42 Responses to Don’t bother with this blog post disaster

  1. jctierney says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I read this last night… of course, what more could you expect from Randall C Kennedy’s former editor. :)

    The entire article was pure and utter nonsense, IMO. But then I started reading the comments and some of these people were actually buying the nonsense that this guy was writing. He hadn’t even used the phone, just seen a couple of demos. How can he even make that drastic of a judgement call based on a couple of demos? And then he calls out that the media in saying great things about the phone (which, I would assume, means Paul to some degree), but get this, these people (like Paul) have actually used the phone, thus they have a say. And guess what? The people that have used the phones say they’re really good. Go figure.

    Anyways, I completely disregarded this post (InfoWorlds) as a nonissue and have decided to trust people that have actually used the phone versus those who have seen a “demo.” I liked in the end where he “quoted” the Microsoft rep in saying they had apparantly not tested the device with customers. As if. These devices have more than likely been tested by several partners already.

    I can’t say whether or not the phone will be a success either, and I further can’t relay judgement on the phone because I haven’t used one (besides the simple emulator with the Beta tools); however, from what I have seen and heard, I can guess that the phone should be somewhat successful, or at least, I wouldn’t mind owning one.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I don’t mind that people like this exist. I do mind that they feel the need to spread ignorance. I mind even more when people listen to–and believe–something like this. It’s just crap, pure and simple.

      Reading through this, it was like, “Nope.” “Nope.” “Nope.” (Repeat to end of article.) There’s so much wrong there it’s impossible to refute it without looking like you’re equally insane.

      I think there’s a happy middle ground. Windows Phone isn’t perfect. It is, however, quite innovative. And it does trigger a lot of smiling when you see your stuff just appear. It’s magical. The foundation is solid, the big picture stuff is great.

      As a v1 product, it’s also flawed. There are a lot of little things missing. By design, because of the schedule, but missing.

      It makes me think a “Things that are missing from Windows Phone 7″ post might be in order. Sort of catalog what’s not there, assign some value to each, and see what would be the best stuff to fix first. I’m sure Microsoft has such a list internally already.

      • jkimrey says:

        Paul,

        A “Things that are missing from Windows Phone 7″ post (with values assigned) would be great.

        I’d also be interested to hear which items could be ‘resolved’ (solution provided) with firmware updates, and which would more than likely require a future hardware revision. (I’d guess that most could be provided via firmware upgrade).

        – Jonathan

  2. rjohn05 says:

    Paul I am glad you responded to this guy because I want to send both articles to a friend to show him exactly what’s wrong with the tech press and their disdain for Microsoft.

    Your article and the InfoWorld piece reveal the difference between articles by someone who knows nothing or little about Microsoft and the history and its products and someone who does.

    Good stuff. Thanks!

  3. mdtauk says:

    I believe this “journalist” has taken this opportunity to try to single handedly do some damage limitation to the forthcoming disaster that will be the Apple Press Conference.

    He decides to make Apple look better by rubbishing the competition, but Paul here gives a balanced view, and has made it clear he has some admiration for Apple’s product, if not their business practice.

    I myself, am slightly leaning towards Microsoft. I sold my iPod Nano to buy a Zune HD, I have for many years disliked the way Apple conducts business, and conceives their products. They tout their App Store, but apps were never part of their plan for the iPhone. They are a closed company, who behaves in a monopolistic way. Their developers are making money, but there does seem to be a touch of the Stockholm syndrome about them.

    They are given bad development tools and environments, and they disallow anyone to provide an alternative experience. Apple has had the media eating out of their hands, and have become successful in part, because Microsoft having been deemed a monopoly has been working with one arm tied behind its back for years.

    Apple lies in advertisements, are given a free pass mostly on their mistakes, and have made the same mistake Microsoft made in the past, by being insular and believing their own hype.

    Microsoft always seems to get a bad press due to their past arrogance, and the same will happen to Apple, and both companies deserved this, and perhaps it will allow Apple to change, and start having respect for the developers on their platform, and their overcharged customers, who really deserve better for the money they spend on crippled, but gorgeous hardware and devices.

  4. crball says:

    That blogpost is typical Apple fanboi playbook like they did with Vista. Trash with uninformed comments and Apple will win. Sorry Charlie, that is pathetic drivel and the Apple lies don’t work anymore. People are on to the BS. And the Windows Phone is too good. The tired fanboi has come out because of the relentless failures of the iPhone 4, Apple’s supposedly wonderful flagship, a sinking anchor more like it. They lash out in a silly attempt to make themselves feel better about buying the thing.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Which reminds me. According to Apple’s press conference today, I take their response to mean that I and other journalists need to apologize for pointing out problems with the iPhone 4 because Apple would apparently prefer for that to have been a more positive experience for everyone. So, sorry world. I didn’t get the memo.

      • mdtauk says:

        Apple wants the world to apologise for their bad words and negative reports.
        Customers want an apology for phones which have a faulty design.

        Apple makes profits, and Customers pay money, so…

        Who deserves the apology more?

      • gpsarakis says:

        That’s Ok Paul, we all know you’ve been too busy with WP7 and your book to check the mail. heh

  5. TJ says:

    For some reason, all of your words are gray after the first time you quote InfoWorld. Great post, though, otherwise.

  6. gonehiking says:

    This is an awesome piece Paul. I’m so happy to find a tech journalist that hasn’t written MS off and provide a truly level headed view. I’m excited for WP7, just wish it could arrive sooner.

  7. bascule says:

    Is this article a troll? Seriously, I can’t tell. It certainly reads like a troll.

  8. mjanssen777 says:

    I absolutely love the interface on my Zune HD. It looks like Windows Phone 7 improves it in leaps and bounds. Not only that, but the Zune software is an absolute joy to use.

    Other Zune HD software that adopts the Metro UI, like the Facebook and Twitter applications are awesome too. So easy to get to what you want to quickly. Microsoft really thought it through and invented something awesome.

    I recently bought an iPad (I had general gadget lust and iPad was the new thing at the time) and using iTunes to manage it is a major chore after being accustomed to things in the Zune software like a little icon next to each item in your libraries telling you whether that item is synced to the currently attached device or not, etc. And don’t get me started on how difficult it is to get tracks to play randomly on iPad.

    The hubs in Windows Phone 7 are a brilliant idea. There is nothing out there today that aggregates all the things I care about in such an ingenious way. When I use my iPad or even my PC, it is close out one thing, open another, close out that thing, reopen the previous thing, etc.

    I can’t wait to go to the people hub and see everything from Contacts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. all in one place and can’t wait to see how brilliant developers hook other things in to it.

    It is all about the data. It’s like the internet is a giant relational database and Microsoft is finding great ways to make it all pop in in a meaningful and in highly usable fashion.

    Someone should invent a hub architecture for the PC. Maybe not the entire PC OS, but an app that has similar functionality. Seriously.

  9. ericjonesdotcom says:

    Thanks for the response to that crazy blog post. Also thanks for owning up to the incorrect statement you made about Microsoft will never see the billions they invested in the R&D for the XBOX. I listen to Windows Weekly :)

  10. steveymacjr says:

    Psst Paul,
    Before you go off on the InforWorld article you might want to update your WindowsITPro.com WinINfo article where you state that XP will be available til 2020… Ed Bott did the calculations here: XP in 2020? Not even close. Read the fine print… | ZDNet http://bit.ly/9Q8sO8 and XP will be available til 2015.. which as he points out, is actually one year past XP SP3s support date meaning you can downgrade to XP for a year and not have access to updates, as he states “feeling lucky?”
    Don’t be like ComputerWorld and not update your article ;-)

    OMG i just thought of a Good Windows Weekly podcast, have the Author on with you and Leo to discuss the article;-) but be sure to emphasize that he is a Former MacWorld Magazine Editor(in Chief?)

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  12. aldo says:

    Well said Paul! It always gets to me when people with such blatant bias, ignorance, and well, everything else bad, write such things. Then there are those who will spread something like this as if it were true, getting those who are unaware of the truth to believe this as fact. That’s where you get products like Vista. People spread lies (not saying Vista never had its bad days, but it is much better now, but of course, once Windows 7 came along, I dropped it like a hot brick ;-)) and destroy the reputation of something that never had a chance because people never do any research themselves.

    Anyways, as I have seen people point out in the comments in the linked-to article, the guy used to be an executive or something of that sort on the Macworld site… That should explain something, but of course, excuse nothing. If only people would have the common decency to choose not to write about a topic which they know they have a major bias towards or against. But of course, people like that don’t think they are biased, they just think they are speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    What a sad, sad world.

  13. dalewisefaq says:

    First comment on this I’ve seen from a Microsoft blogger:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/johnalioto/archive/2010/07/16/10039343.aspx

  14. pawdog says:

    Paul, you were really being kind by calling this a Chicken Little post. It’s really more like a search and destroy mission post. I read his post with my mouth open thinking some people will believe this stuff and spread it around.

    I’m glad there is someone like you that can communicate from a position of I know vs. I heard.

    Thanks for ripping that guy a new one.

  15. jwcoxnw says:

    Gruman’s InfoWorld column was unsettling, mainly because it was so unsatisfactory, for the many of the reasons you set out here. I had hoped, when I started reading it, the conclusion — “disaster” — would be substantiated with substantive critique.

    I’m going to blog on it at Network World, and will link to your post here.

    The other frustrating Windows Phone 7 criticism (moving outside the purely technical evaluation of the OS) that I’m seeing offered repeatedly — a sign it’s already reached “Conventional Wisdom” status — is the assertion that the new mobile OS is “too late” because the market dominance of iOS, Android, and possible BlackBerry OS is already set in concrete. @JoeWilcox makes this a mantra.

    The problem with this belief is that I can’t see anyway in which it can be either proved or disproved.

    So, as you say with regard to the ultimate success of Windows Phone 7…we’ll see.

    Thanks for the post.

    PS: I will add that I seriously doubt Gruman thought something like this: “How can I create a lot of page views? I know! I’ll call something a disaster. But what? Hey, I’ve got it: Windows Phone 7!”

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Fair enough. :)

      I think there is a weird trend these days, in the tech news/blogosphere worlds, to just dump on Microsoft, whether it’s necessary or not. Microsoft does plenty of things wrong. Windows Phone is not one of them.

  16. macademianut says:

    In 2007, you said on the iPhone:

    “And what’s up with the lack of cut/copy and paste? This is a basic OS feature that Apple included in the first Mac OS almost 25 years ago. It’s inexplicably missing from the iPhone, unavailable in any application or the wider system itself. Unreal.”

    and now for Windows 7 missing copy/paste.

    “Copy and paste. Yep, it’s missing. Yep, it should be there. But the lack of copy and paste isn’t going to doom this thing. It would be nice, and will be nice when Microsoft adds that feature. It’s coming, Chicken Little. Relax.”

    By the time Windows 7 hits the market, it will be almost 3.5 years since the original iPhone hit the market (or approx. 4 months since they announced).

    What’s the reason for this enlightened take on Win7?

    • roteague says:

      The difference is that Microsoft has already announce that it would include that functionality later. Apple never said anything until it came out. Paul already knows WP7 is getting it; that’s why he can write about it, without getting upset. Nice try….

  17. waethorn says:

    Didn’t you know, Paul? Galen Gruman is a pseudonym for Craig Barth.

  18. Your first instinct was right, why bother, it’s Infoworld.

  19. bazilc says:

    Apple’s to use to dealing with fan boys that would put up with the crap. Apple’s is doing a real good job becoming the screen on that 1984 commercial.

    MS does its best work when their back is against the wall.

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  21. cannon11 says:

    I agree with Galen that the WP7 is not a step forward. Sure, it’s different from the iPhone interface. That alone means nothing. Different is not necessarily better Sure, the iPhone interface has not changed a ton. Again, that’s not necessarily bad. Last time I checked, we haven’t changed the alphabet. Do we need a new one every few years?

    The WP7 interface wastes space. The elements are simply too big. Panning around to find things simply does not seem like an improvement over simple pages.

    Nor is it a replacement for apps. You still need separate apps, they’ll just be spread around some giant single page that won’t be entirely visible on the screen. Again, how is this better that pages of apps? You can put related apps on a page in iPhone OS, or in folders.

    Now everyone is entitled to their opinion. I agree with Galen’s. Paul doesn’t. But Paul apparently also thinks opinions at odds with his are invalid. Particularly here, that seems unjustified. WP7 is unproven. Even Paul concedes it may not succeed.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Opinions are fine. I disagree with yours, and Galen’s, which is not so much opinion as polemic.

      The iPhone is tired, like DOS was when Windows took off. Using your arguments, Apple should never have even released the iPhone. After all, we had the smart phone. Why reinvent the alphabet? Or whatever your point is.

      Windows Phone is quite innovative and excellent, sorry. It’s clear you don’t understand how the system works and are uninterested in finding out. So let’s just move on.

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  25. All this time I am hearing Steve Ballmer always says whether it’s a smart phone, tablet, netbook or desktop they are all just PCs. Only in different form factors. He does not even agree if there’s something that Jobs says as ‘Post PC’ era.
    Now you are saying that Google and Apple don’t seem to get that yet (while Microsoft gets it). It’s a bit weird. Ant it’s getting weirder after Kin issue still you said that Microsoft gets it. So I can’t agree with you, Paul.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Actually, Steve Ballmer (and various other Microsoft executives) have repeatedly said, this year at least, that the phone is not a PC. That’s the mantra on Windows Phone, from Microsoft.

      From a marketing perspective, Microsoft does want to push the notion that a tablet-type device is basically a PC at heart and that the company will be there with solutions soon. They have nothing to offer at the moment, of course. But they’re trying to establish the notion that they’ve been successful in the PC market, so they’ll be fine in tablets too.

      When Jobs refers to the post-PC era, he’s referring to the rise of non-traditional form factors and devices like phones and tablets. Which makes sense, since that’s what Apple sells.

      When I say that the iPhone is using a PC-type app model, I mean that it provides individual apps for different purposes, not integrated experiences as you get on Windows Phone. I’ve explained this many times, so there’s no reason to go over it again here. But the point is simple: On iPhone, you go in and out of apps all day long. On Windows Phone, this won’t be as necessary.

      So you can disagree, of course. But these things are not connected in any way, though you’ve tried to make some connection around the notion of “PC” for some reason. Let’s not get bogged down in semantics.

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  27. ‘Jkimrey’ makes the same sort of point, but I’ll restate it because I think it’s VERY important :-

    Never mind what’s ‘missing’ at the launch (such as copy/paste, multitasking, etc). What will matter is: Will any hardware be upgradable?

    If I like what I see in the first Windows 7 phones, I’ll forgive shortcomings if I know they can be fixed within the phone I have with a simple download. In other words, if I knew my phone had a future beyond the next product launch.

    If Microsoft does this, I would happily abandon the closed, mysterious world of iPhone.

    (I’m late to commenting, I didn’t see this post until Scobleizer’s tweet today, sorry.)

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I guess it depends on what you mean by hardware upgrades.

      If you mean… Can the connectivity behavior we’ve been discussing here be changed, then yes. (Will it be changed? I don’t know.)

      If you mean, will it be possible to add to the storage capacity of a Windows Phone at a later date, or replace the camera with a higher-end model or whatever, then no. But this is pretty much common across smart phones. (With the exception of storage, I guess; WP does things the iPhone way.) You can replace the battery. But hat’s not an upgrade per se.

      • Paul, sorry, I meant firmware/software/OS upgrades. As with the iPhone upgrade from iOS3 to iOS4.

        If I knew at the very least of a ‘road map’, that would give me huge reassurance when asked to sign away two years of my life to a phone contract.

        Mind you, I’m in the UK, and we’ve not even had a *scent* of Zune yet, over 3 years after its launch, so who knows if Windows Phone will ever be launched here either.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        Yes, that’s the plan: Microsoft will regularly update the Windows Phone OS firmware over time, regardless of where you get the phone.

        There is at least a scent of Zune coming your way, btw. :)

  28. Praise be, I can’t wait to be free of ******* iTunes!

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