Give my increasingly strenuous and passionate pleas public and private to Microsoft, the Windows Phone team, and its PR people over the past year, I think a central message is being lost here. I see it in the curiously critical comments on other blogs and from a minority of commenters here on this blog. Surely, if I was the proponent of Windows Phone I claim to be, I wouldn’t be so frequently criticizing the company and people who make and sell this product.
I don’t see it that way, of course, but then I also don’t feel the need to justify my actions and reactions I’ve had to the the events of the past year. Please, have your own opinions about this. But even more important, please come into this with some sense of context and awareness.
Anyway, I’ve gotten an increasingly sad number of emails from people with the same themes: Knowing what I know now, would I still buy and use Windows Phone? Would I still recommend Windows Phone? etc.
I love Windows Phone
I am using Windows Phone, and while I must focus in part on successful mobile platforms for professional reasons, Windows Phone is still my choice. It’s the superior platform, period. (It’s not the superior ecosystem, not even close, but that’s another story.) Yes, Microsoft has bungled and mismanaged this product, and badly, and this isn’t something that just happened since the launch, they were busy doing nothing to promote this thing or answer press queries throughout all of 2010. The silliness around the software update(s) has only made public what I’ve known all along. They just can’t get out of their own way.
And it doesn’t matter. Every time I pick up an iPhone or an Android device and then return to Windows Phone, it just feels better. The Focus, in particular, is a wonderful device, lighter and faster than any iPhone, and with a gorgeous, bigger screen. There’s no comparison. And while Android is getting better—I have any even bigger Droid X which is quite nice—it’s still lacking in some crucial areas and is, if anything, even more fragmented than Windows Phone.
Sometimes preferences don’t boil down to logic, they boil down to emotion. And Windows Phone is like that. It’s right for me, and I love it, and I want Microsoft to love it as much as I do and feel the same alacrity about getting it right, and fast. But they don’t, and I don’t care. Because this is about something more than logic. It’s about a deep caring for a technical product, a feeling that is harder and harder to summon as one ages. Young people are like wind-up toys: Watch ‘em blog! I’m more a slow boil. But with Windows Phone, I feel it. Don’t discount the importance of this. Trust me, these things are few and far between.
But can I recommend Windows Phone?
Recommending Windows Phone is another thing, of course. I’m not going to say, don’t buy a Windows Phone. But then I’m not going to suggest buying one without caveat either. Right now, there are two mobile platforms that make a heck of a lot of sense, and they are, in order, iPhone (iOS) and Android. Recommending Windows Phone in the face of these far more logical choices requires a lot of explanation. You either want it or you don’t. If you don’t, explaining it won’t make a difference.
But I’m here because I love Windows Phone. So yes, you know where my heart lies. I can’t look you in the face and tell you to make this journey with me, like we’re Frodo and Sam trudging up Mount Doom or something. But I can tell you that I’m in it for the long haul. And maybe you’ll want to come along.
When I wrote Windows Phone Secrets I did so knowing that about 16 people would buy the thing, and I’m happy to report it’s barely exceeded my expectations. But I did it because I really cared, and wanted an excuse to get to know something deeply again in this age of surface knowledge and inane blogger influences. I see the future of computing as mobile and connected, and within this world, Windows Phone is my vehicle of choice. I prefer it. Most of you are on board, if you’re reading this. You evangelize it or you don’t. I think it evangelizes itself, assuming people don’t know too much about Microsoft’s deer-in-the-headlamps update strategy.
IDC’s silly (and incorrect, as deftly explained by the very credible Matt Rostoff) prediction that Windows Phone will somehow defeat the iPhone and become the number two smart phone platform is, of course, science fiction. But there are signs of hope for Windows Phone. I’m getting some signals from friends at Microsoft—not officially, no, that would break the veil of silence under which Windows Phone must be squirreled out into the world—that the company is actually considering speeding up the pace of development.
One of the big questions is whether there will be any update between NoDo (March) and Mango (Fall 2011), for example. And when Eric Hautala posted his first, mostly awful update on the phone update situation three weeks ago, he mentioned that he had been brought on board to head the team responsible for “sending software updates with new features and improvements to your phone.” This is rather vague, and while I playfully imagine the guy who preceded him bouncing around a padded room because of the team’s inability to ship a single update in five months, let’s just take him at his word.
Too, Microsoft’s Greg Sullivan spoke this week on the record about the update situation, noting (finally) that the company had to move more quickly. “We certainly understand that it is a fast-moving market and we will be able to accelerate the delivery of new capability and innovation on our platform,” he said. Sure, you’re saying, you could only move more quickly than you have. But another small public hint at what I’d heard privately.
Windows Phone has a lot of problems: Bugs, missing features, and so on. NoDo solves only a tiny percentage of these. Mango (or RTM+1, or Windows Phone 7.1 or 7.5), even, will only solve some of them. I have and will continue to argue that more needs to be done. Maybe it will happen. Maybe that’s Hautala’s primary focus. Maybe he’ll start blogging proactively instead of reactively once they get their act together. I can’t wait.
And then there’s Apollo, the RTM+2 version of Windows Phone, or what we might think of as Windows Phone 8. Is this product just Windows 8? Is it an evolution of WP7.x? Will today’s apps move over seamlessly either way, or will they need to be recompiled? There are lots of questions. Lots.
But that’s the far future, relative to what most Windows Phone are now waiting on. There’s a lot to be done before then. From my perspective, the first step is going to be moving on from this update silliness. And that can’t happen, of course, until Microsoft simply fixes it. Like many of you, I await that happy day.