Sep 112014
 
Lately I’m working on a collaborative book project; three authors, one editor, and a small collection of raw content contributors.  It’s an exciting prospect but have to say, when it comes to co-managing a project like this sometimes little things become surprisingly big.  Like platform preferences.  Everyone has their pet tool and trying to get consensus on one easily reduces to finding the Least Worst Overall Not-Quite-Hated solution.  We’re working through that, but…

In our first conversation, Charlene the editor she asked me something about iPhones and the conversation went

Me: I wouldn’t know; I use a Windows Phone
Charlene: Oh, I’m sorry

So many ways to go with that… but suffice to say that from my perspective it proves how much more convincing a distortion field can be than reality.  I’m in no way impugning Charlene– she’s definitely sharp or I wouldn’t have started following her in the first place.  But Apple and others have done a spectacular job at misinforming even the discerning public.

Microsoft is included in that others category.

No longer employment-bound to the Lumia product line, I can say without repercussion that Microsoft has soundly failed at properly promoting what is actually a fantastic product.  So I’m going to attempt to do their job for them, and inform the public.  Disclaimer: the following is fact laced with opinion, and I have no axe to grind with Apple or Android.  For the TL;DR crowd: everything you know is wrong.

Let’s start by exploding some silly myths.  I’ve run across every one.

Windows Phone is slow

Hogwash.  Even on older hardware it’s blazing fast and fluid… in general.  Microsoft really optimized the hell out of this OS, paring it down to just what’s needed and no more.  Sure, a poorly-written app can and will run slowly, but that’s universal.  Come on, people.  Don’t waste my time with fundamentals.

Windows Phone has no apps

I hate even addressing hyperbole, but this one started with a grain of truth.  The platform was absurdly slow gaining traction, and here I definitely hold Microsoft responsible.  They did not inspire the necessary confidence in third parties.

Having said that, the only apps missing are the few that some people can’t live without.  ~300,000, though, is plenty.  No phone can come close to holding that many, and does any user really enjoy searching through a larger marketplace?  Does any developer enjoy competing with more apps?

Windows Phone UI is difficult

Some one-time user on Twitter tried really hard to convince me of this.  Supposedly it’s too difficult to find installed apps due to the screen modes.

This one is really simple to dispel.  Windows Phone is different, not wrong.  If you try to configure and use it as you do an iPhone or Android device, then yes: you will be scrolling your fingers off through your collection of 1,000,000 apps and finding the experience exasperating.  But if you take five minutes to understand the UI/UX paradigm, you’ll get why that’s foolish in the first place… especially as of 8.1, which added nifty things like live folders.

Look, using Windows Phone is easy.  Ask my six year old step-granddaughter, who didn’t have to be told anything.  There’s a lesson in there for those adults smugly judging an OS they’ve never even tried.

Windows is full of viruses, Preciousss!!!

Oh yeah, until version 8 desktop Windows has been highly vulnerable.  It’s degree of openness (sorry, hardcore Linux friends, but there was a degree) kept the PC software anti-threat industry thriving.

Now let’s talk Windows Phone.

Microsoft wisely elected to find a sweet market spot somewhere between Apple’s captive utopia and Android’s mobile wild west.  Not every move was smart… just the target.  That included requiring a bit more diligence and hoop-jumping from developers, but other than some aspects I’ll gripe about later, nothing unreasonable.

What do statistics say about the resulting mobile experience?  Here you go:

According to a study from Kindsight Security Labs of Alcatel-Lucent, with data pulled from their sensors, 60% of the infected devices run Android operating system, and less than 1% [malware] rely on iOS, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows.

Looks like a few vendors have gotten a decent grip on the situation.

The Lumia phones are too big and heavy

No… this mobile phone is too big and heavy:

image credit: technotagplus.blogspot.com

A little perspective, people.  When we’re quibbling over fractions of a millimeter (and many of you are), we’ve lost sight of important things.  Like battery life.  Product durability.  The pleasant feedback of holding something solid.  If you can’t heft a phone weighing one ounce more than another, seek ye a gymnasium.

There are too many more myths to destroy, really, so I’ll wrap up with a few more of my own observations, in bullet points for the business-minded:

  • Microsoft screwed up the transition from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8.  Pure and simple.  Not allowing some degree of upgrade was stupid and cruel.  I can’t be any kinder.
  • They initially held up barriers to developers, like a $99 registration fee (later reduced) and a requirement to develop on a Windows 8 device for Windows Phone 8.  Sure, I get why the latter was attractive to Microsoft, but it stupidly excluded a large swath of devoted (mostly independent) developers stuck on Windows 7 for whatever reason.
  • Keeping the Windows brand when charting a largely new course was dumb.  Microsoft had options (Tile OS?  Surface OS?  Threshold OS?  You get the idea) and chose to kowtow to former Chairman Gates’ longstanding Windows-first edict.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  That plodding stone has gathered a ton of gunk.  The cumulative stigma now attached to the Windows brand is more than new products can bear.  It’s not too late still to completely rebrand, and better late than never, but a lot of avoidable damage has been done.

Okay, I know this was a torturous read.  For those few who survived it, congratulations, and hopefully you’ve come away a little more knowledgeable about Windows Phone.  If you want to know more, don’t succumb to snarky pundits with an anti-Microsoft agenda– read Ed Bott and Mary Jo Foley for clear, unvarnished fact.

Regardless, cut the Redmond dinosaur some slack.  If you don’t actually care about a company’s products, don’t contribute to the FUD.  Surely Microsoft has been kicked around enough… and like Brad Reed I’m confident they’re taking the right steps out of the Jurassic.  Finally.

  • J Wright

    Bravo!

  • You know why this article is a waste of your time?? The very same people it was meant to educate would have stopped reading simply because the article dared to criticize their smug superiority regarding their beloved Android/iPhone.
    Its hysterical when I get commentary from people who wouldn’t know a Snapdragon from a Tegra 4, yet they criticize me for using Windows Phone (it’s especially hysterical when said person is sporting the latest Beats headphones) and not the popular choice.

    • If I got one person to shed their prejudice then it wasn’t a waste. Besides, I’m gonna write regardless… might as well be a public service. ;)

  • Oot

    The first Windows phone I got was a Nokia 900. I loved it. My family was impressed by how it looked and what it could do right out of the box. Hell even jy mom was amazed at how easy it seemed to her…a complete non-techie.

    Not even two days later…like 40 hours, Microsoft announced Wp8 and the fact that I would not be able to upgrade. Thank god I had 2 weeks to return with no questions asked or I would have gone ballistic. Obsolete in less than two days would have killed me. In the end I went back to my N8 and waited for the first WP8 phone and have never looked back. It is THAT good for me. Already on my second one.

    • Yeah, the WP 7 to WP 8 debacle hurt my work severely. I had just started getting developers interested when that news came out, setting my efforts back big-time. It didn’t help that the Dallas area is largely an iPhone user, Android developer market when it comes to mobile.

  • andy

    Could not disagree with you more.

    Not sure how you can say that Microsoft has failed to promote Windows Phone. You cannot walk into a phone shop without seeing about 1/4 of the models running Windows Phone. You go to the cinema or watch TV, Lumia or Microsoft adverts are common place. Developers have been more courted than other platforms whether it’s paying small developer or big developers up to 6 figure sums to port apps for WP. Billions of dollars have now been pumped into Windows Phone, so Microsoft have certainly backed up words with cash.

    The problem with Windows Phone is actually a lot simpler – the platform has delivered too little, too late without delivering any USP of its own. When you compare the Lumia 930 with the latest Samsung S5 or iPhone – it’s simply not as good. Sure, WP has Instagram, but the mobile world doesn’t stand still, now it’s Snapchat or the ESPN app that are missing. WP is always trying to play catch up and consumers are not going to tolerate this.

    If Microsoft want to turn WP around, then they need to do something drastic. My suggestion would be to add compatibility for Android apps. My daily phone is a Jolla and it has this feature and as long as the app doesn’t need Google services, the apps run perfectly. Of course, this feature would hurt native development, but let’s be honest here, I don’t think WP will ever catch up unless it does something to allow developers to easily port existing Android apps.

    • I stand by everything I wrote, but to be clear, I said that Microsoft did a poor job of promoting Windows Phone, not that it failed to try. Of course they tried, but their methods were obviously ineffective. Apple has managed to create the legendary reality distortion field that convinces consumers, inaccurately, that they are first to market with many features. If Microsoft was even a fraction as effective this article would have been unnecessary.

      I disagree that the WP problem was as simple as you claim. As a Nokia developer evangelist, I was on the front lines of the product from day one and know very well that there were many negative factors involved. I didn’t even touch on all of them.

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