Windows Phone – What Should Microsoft Do?

I’ve been intrigued by Windows Phone as a platform. I’ve never owned one, and while I considered getting one, the dearth of apps led me to an Android instead. I really tried to get down to a list of core apps that I needed, which was 12 or 15 at the time. However 3 or 4 weren’t in the Windows App Store and I decided against Windows phone.

My daughter really wanted a Windows Phone and got one a few years ago. She loved it at first and almost made it a year before she got annoyed by missing apps and moved to Android (which she loves).

I have been hoping that WP would continue to improve, not only in it’s internal quality, but also with more apps and users. I read a piece about the issues with Windows Phone (The End of Windows Phone?) and while I’m not sure I think it is dying, the author brings up some good points that I worry about.

Apps

Apps are critical. I know plenty of people think that a couple calculator apps, and a few password apps, etc. are good enough. People can choose from a few. However that’s missing the point.

People like diversity. They like choice. They like looking for apps. There are a few places I get news from that publish new and cool apps, or apps that are free for a limited time every week.

Every week I get a list of 5 or 10 apps, some new, some old. Periodically I’ll download one. Sometimes I’ll buy a paid version. The point is, I’m interacting with the app store and my phone, changing it to my liking on a regular basis.

My phone is something I’m always tweaking a bit, like my early PCs. However Microsoft seems to almost want to treat the phone like a network router. I set it up and forget about it, just using it. That’s not what’s going to grow the store.

I checked this week and there isn’t a native Starbucks app. That particular app has become somewhat a strong desire for me, so no Windows Phone for me. There are others, and I think that’s an issue.

As I’ve noted to many people before, I think the big failure from MS here is not just building more apps. Certainly it takes third parties to provide some diversity, but spending $10mm on developers as salary to build apps, and not as incentives, would be better. Paying interns to work with Starbucks and MLB and many other places to build native apps, would be a wise move.

Windows Everywhere

I had a Windows 6 phone. I was excited about the idea of Windows everywhere. Over time I realize that model doesn’t work. The whole way I work on a desktop or laptop, with it’s semi-designed interfaced (it’s more evolved) isn’t how I want to work on a tablet or phone. It just isn’t. The idea of Windows everywhere, with apps running on all platforms without being rebuilt doesn’t make sense. The buttons, flows, controls, actions, etc. on a desktop aren’t practical elsewhere.

The reverse is also true. The way I use a tablet doesn’t work on a desktop. I’d have hoped Windows 8 taught you that.

I really want my data everywhere, not my apps. Stop fighting this. Make native Office apps for iOS, Android, WP8, separate from those on Windows. Don’t try to force things to work well and be highly engineered. We saw that fail with the CORBA architectures, with OS/2, etc. You’re better off worrying about data, not apps.

The Future

Windows 10 doesn’t really excite me on the desktop, except for one thing: Copy/paste in the command prompt. That’s it. What else do I need Windows to do? A better Start menu? Please, I spend seconds a day in the start menu. Even on a laptop, it’s very few interactions. Perhaps more on a tablet, but to get me to move to a Windows Phone or tablet, I need something compelling over the iPad.  What will Windows Phone 10 do?

Cortana is interesting, but I still hesitate to speak to my devices. I’m in too many public places and it’s not an interaction I’m looking for. I’ve seen some people that use speech to text heavily, and successfully, even in louder environments. However it still feels silly, and an interruption on life for me. Perhaps if Cortana does more reminders, prediction, and analysis of my interactions on the device, I’ll try it.

The movement towards limiting switching between apps is good, especially for messaging. The quick respond on iOS hasn’t caught on for me, for some reason, and switching apps is annoying. The link to my desktop makes some sense, but if that’s going to happen, then one thing better be ready:

Undo.

I make mistakes all the time. I will continue to do so, and any actions I take better have an easy, quick, and intuitive way to "undo" things.

I don’t have great hopes for Windows Phone unless the app situation is resolved. If it is, then perhaps there’s a low enough bar to just switch to try a new OS on the phones. However I’m not sure any other features you could build into a phone would overcome the app deficiency.

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One Response to Windows Phone – What Should Microsoft Do?

  1. Tim Mitchell says:

    I’ve been a Windows phone user for 2 years now, and I’m ditching it when my contract ends this month. While I think the platform itself is stable and user-friendly, the lack of apps has made it far less valuable to me.

    The final straw for me was when American Airlines killed the Windows Phone app. I know there are some things Microsoft can’t directly control, such as vendors killing (or simply not developing) apps. But a stable OS isn’t worth a lot if the necessary apps aren’t available.

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