Earlier this week, Stephen and I sat down to go over our experiences with the Windows Phone 7 smart phones we’ve been sent for review, the Samsung Focus.
You can download the episode directly, subscribe to the podcast feed, or listen to the episode by clicking play below:
The experience was good and matches the “it was better than I thought it’d be” reaction most people have. We spend a lot of time detailing the problems and missing items from the phone: we wanted to see more services and apps integrated and available on the the phone. We also relate what some other folks we’ve lent the phone out to said. We’ve both gone back to using our previous phones (me, an iPhone, Stephen, a Nexus One/Android) – at the end we say what it’d take to get us to switch to WP7.
In addition to this (and the first impressions), I’m writing up a more detailed “report” (gasp!) on the Windows Phone 7. Stay tuned for that!
As usual with these un-sponsored episodes, I haven’t spent time to clean up the transcript. If you see us saying something crazy, check the original audio first. There are time-codes where there were transcription problems.
Michael Coté: Well, hello everybody! It’s the 14th of February 2011, and this is the RedMonk, our new RedMonk podcast called over around our blog GearMonk. It’s episode number one with — this is one of your co-hosts Michael Coté and I’m joined by the other co-host.
Stephen O’Grady: Stephen O’Grady.
Michael Coté: And you know after Nokia and Microsoft decided to join forces last week with their partnership, I was thinking, man, we need to get on talking about these Windows Phone 7s we’ve had for a while.
Stephen O’Grady: Exactly right.
Michael Coté: So I thought I’d round up Stephen and we just – you know I’m sure we’ll write some more and have some more stuff, and I certainly – I’ve got way too much content from friends I have lent the phone out to, to put in one podcast.
But anyways, I thought for our first episode we capture at least what are some initial takes on the Windows Phone 7.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, we should probably mention that the folks of Microsoft were kind of nice to send us samples, which you have the same monk around you, Samsung Focus?
Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah, I think we were given a choice between – I forget all of the phones. There was four that we could choose I think, and we were given a choice between the Samsung Focus and the Samsung Ultimate, and then there was — there was two other ones, but I think Steve you and I were kind of limited because they didn’t give us an unlocked phone. They gave us locked phones and we have AT&T, so we could just – those were the two that I think work on AT&T.
And if I remember the — I think the Ultimate one has like faster video playing or something, and it look like it also has like a fun little stand that you can set up the phone to watch a video, but you know and we kind of, you know I was thinking like oh, that’s kind of cool but I don’t really care.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah.
Michael Coté: About it that much.
Stephen O’Grady: The Ultimate have a physical keyword as well, I don’t even remember.
Michael Coté: It might, yeah, I don’t remember. But at least one of them that they offered did have a keyboard. And I think James — James got a different one, the Focus.
Well, I don’t know. We’ll all gotten Focuses, anyhow that’s the one that we have. And I think there is one version of Windows Phone 7 software out at the moment.
So that’s obviously the one that we’ve been using. So I mean, what’s, what’s the quick take you have to give it at the top here Stephen? What do you think of it?
Stephen O’Grady: The quick take I think is that it certainly exceeded my expectations. It’s somebody who has basically seen some of the Windows CE prices in the past, frankly my expectations for the platform were really pretty minimal.
Michael Coté: Yeah.
Stephen O’Grady: I happened to see David Young worked for Joyent had gotten Windows Phone, I don’t know, one of the last times I saw those guys out in San Francisco, so I’d seen the platform a little bit and knew enough to say, okay, we don’t kind of look reasonably you know kind of attractive, and it’s not terribly derivative, which I think is one of the nice things in the sense that they didn’t just go out and replicate either the Android or iPod or iPhone rather. They borrowed heavily certainly from those UIs, but there are — certainly twist to it, which I think are kind of unique to Microsoft.
But ultimately, as kind of interesting as a platform might be, it just didn’t work for me, and my basic objections that I have, and this is one of the things I mentioned to Scoble who had posted something basically saying that the Windows is a better platform than Android.
The most difficult part of it for me is that on a standalone basis, the hardware is excellent, the Samsung Focus is a really nice phone.
And as I said that we are — the Windows mobile is a nice platform, but what does it for me is the services. The fact that I have to plug-in a Hotmail address when I start up, and it’s tied back to a whole variety of Microsoft-centric stuff, that ultimately is the – that’s kind of the deal-breaker for me.
Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah. I mean my — it’s funny because my take is pretty similar in the — there are two people my wife and my friend Charles who I have lent the phone out to for a few days. I mean they have, they have their own subtleties.
But there is kind of — that’s the take a lot of people have is, that it is the phone — what is it, the kind of the hardware and the software is actually kind of nice and they like it and both of them described as responsive. And now I would say the same thing like even – I have an iPhone 3GS compared to that the phone is really fast, and it definitely — the software and then also the hardware does exceed your expectations coming from.
I don’t really know what people’s expectations of Samsung are probably not much just because it’s an electronics dealer, it’s not really like differentiated too often. But yeah, most people don’t expect that much from the Windows Phone 7, but it is, it pretty much exceeds your expectations. And then I think — I think there is that — you have to — when you set it up as Stephen was saying, you have to set it up to a live account or a Hotmail account or an x, there is some sort of Microsoft ID that you have to use, or you have to use some sort of Microsoft ID and that is, that is a little weird that you have to do that, and then it also –
Stephen O’Grady: I don’t know that it’s weird, because in other words at least in the Android world that’s a standard. I think that the challenge is, at least from my perspective and talking to people is that my Hotmail account is effectively my spam account. I’ve had it forever and that’s the address and I know sort of on an anecdotal basis a lot of people would do the same thing.
Michael Coté: Yes.
Stephen O’Grady: Whereas Gmail is much more current for me. That’s what uses my primary –
Michael Coté: I guess it’s not that weird to connect it to A account, but to like limit it to only Microsoft accounts is kind of annoying. I mean, to be frank if Gmail wasn’t so normal and popular, it will be annoying on Android that you had to do that.
Stephen O’Grady: Absolutely.
Michael Coté: Like on the iPhone – and the iPhone doesn’t — you don’t have to connect any account, but it is — and the Windows phone is like this too, but it’s kind of — it’s a little bit MobileMe agnostic, but not that much. I mean it’s funny like looking at — I pretty much ignore the MobileMe stuff in the iPhone, but there is this weird similarity — what am I trying to say? I think the way that Microsoft is trying to force its services on you is a little bit more liberal than the way Apple was trying to force MobileMe on you. In the Apple world it doesn’t really matter, because MobileMe is so, I am trying to be diplomatic in my phrasing. But it’s so something I am not interested in that it doesn’t even annoy me that it’s there, if that makes sense.
Whereas the problem with the Microsoft stuff is it’s a little like, for example, if you use the Office apps that come with it, which is it’s kind of cool that you get Office apps because that’s kind of a nice high-value thing. Essentially, you don’t have to buy an extra thing to view Word docs, and I guess you don’t have to, but anyhow.
Like it wants to use your — I forget what it is, but the equivalent of Live.com’s Dropbox; their shared file thing.
b Yeah, the Live Mesh.
Michael Coté: Yeah, I mean it would be so much more helpful. I mean the Windows were just at the beginning, but there’s so many things were like if the Windows Phone 7 just did this one — these five just one things it would make it a much better phone, but it doesn’t do it. And like one of them for example would be like why not work with like Dropbox or like Drop I/O and also the Windows Live thing. Like work with any of these things, like be more open than the iPhone is.
I tried to get like that live, I’m forgetting what it’s called, but the sky driver or whatever and it’s just a little wonky with the way that it works especially for a Mac person.
Stephen O’Grady: Well, and that’s — I think the difficulty — Microsoft traditionally has — essentially a software firm taken this approach. They have called it Integrated Invasion, where they take a bunch of their pieces and they hook them together in an efficient manner and so on. The challenge is that when you try to do that in the context of a consumer device it’s a lot more problematic, because consumers have much more of a mishmash of different services relative to sort of enterprise folks which tend to be at least somewhat more standardized.
As you know whether it’s Dropbox or a variety of other sort of pieces like, for example, they have Facebook integration in here, but no Twitter integration, which I felt was a little odd.
Michael Coté: I’ve been reading the Tim Anderson, who’s actually the guy who did that. He is the one who demoed me a Windows Phone 7 that made me think maybe I should check it out just like you had someone. He is at Mobile World Congress and he was twitting that they announced that they will have Twitter in the next version. So there is at least that. But that’s like footnoted like digging down on that, that’s a huge thing that I missed from that integration. But go on.
Stephen O’Grady: Well, I was just going to say, I mean, in other words when you look at the integration of other services even where they’ve tried to do that, it’s confusing. So in other words, if you go into the apps, you go to try to buy an app and there is a bunch of different options in there. Okay, which one am I looking for? It’s the same with music. What is — I don’t use Zune, what am I buying or where is this?
So that’s the problem is that the tie-ins — Apple for example can sell an iPhone and be reasonably confident that somebody — maybe they are not an iTunes user, but they’ve certainly heard of it. They are familiar with it. They know kind of the ins and outs of the service, because one of their friends uses it.
Michael Coté: Yeah.
Stephen O’Grady: Much as Google can you provide Android with hooks into the Gmail, because a lot of people uses service, a lot of people regard it as sort of competitive and current and weather it’s Zune or sort of Live/Hotmail, Microsoft services at least for me personally, they’re not relevant in the same way and therefore tying a phone to those really is kind of off-putting. It just didn’t work for me.
So the funny thing is that people tend to focus on apps. A lot of the criticisms I’ve seen of the platform have been, well, they don’t have this app, they don’t have that app.
And certainly they are deal breakers for me. They don’t have the one I always joke about which is major league baseballs at bad application which is out for both iPhone and Android and it’s just an absolutely killer application if you are a baseball fan.
So there are definitely missing holes but they have a lot of the pieces that I went out and looked for, just basic things. There is for example a Twitter application that you can go out and install and so on. So you have these, a lot of the applications, kind of the basic ones, they certainly don’t have the application volumes.
The applications are there. The challenge is like as I said for me is basically what ties to the backend services because Microsoft really hasn’t been competitive in terms of the user experience for — there are online offerings whether that’s music or document storage or email; I mean, collaboration. So that’s the thing is, is that I think ultimately that’s going to be the challenge for a lot of folks.
Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah. I mean it is, I forget who came up with this metaphor but you know like I think this idea of looking at your phone or your Smartphone as like a remote control for the cloud is pretty accurate in the sense that –
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah.
Michael Coté: – and to the point of what you’re saying like any given consumer at least, any given nerdy consumer like ourselves and I would assume it’s the same for non-nerdy people. There is this variety of services that aren’t any allegiance to any particular brand and that they’ve either chosen to use or just ended up using and whether it’s email or music services, and I think — I don’t know, I mean it feels like technologically there is not really a big reason for the phone to be locked down from that respect.
It’s all about the choice of Microsoft or whoever to integrate with these other services, and I guess to some extent the other services can also make it difficult to integrate with, like I was talking with — before we were recording I was talking with my friend Charles here who I gave the phone for a few days, and he is a software developer, does a lot of UI stuff and he does a lot of IOS development as well.
He was saying, it was annoying that he couldn’t hook it up to iTunes to get his music, and I was reminding him that that may not be as easy as it seems because I remember when Palm was trying to hookup to iTunes and Apple kept doing something to mess that up so that like you couldn’t sync your Palm via iTunes, which is like that’s a whole another layer of crappiness. But still it is kind of — I think on the base of the phone is really good and it’s just like I wanted to integrate with these other services, that for the iPhone doesn’t always integrate with other services as well but it kind of, I forget what they call it but they have that thing where you can like send files, you can pull things from Dropbox or you can send things to different apps, and that stuff is kind of nice.
I mean there is all sorts of, the iPhone fails on this pretty heavily as well. But, I don’t know you at least have the sense that it’s going to work with the things that you need to, and I think the music is a huge issue like there really should be something beyond working with Zune. I mean, if they — I almost feel like if they made the Windows Phone 7 work with iTunes it would like kind of put, I’d be able to put up with a lot more stuff that I don’t like about the Windows Phone 7.
Stephen O’Grady: I think that would be huge, I mean obviously I think you are right. In a sense that, some service providers would be really in favor of those levels of integrations and others wouldn’t. So in other words I would imagine that Dropbox would certainly be in favor of being integrated in these platforms and so on and thereby extending their reach and so on. Apple on the other hand is competitive on a number of fronts.
So yeah, there probably would not be sort of open to that level of integration. So Microsoft certainly has challenges in terms of pursuing service level partnerships with some of the providers, but as I said, I mean I think the basic problem that they have is that if you look at the different devices, in other words if you look at the iPhone or if you look at the various Android devices. They have kind of something that they do well from a service background, and Apple obviously has music and video and so on and they do a great job at that.
They sold million and billions probably of tracks at this point and you know a lot of people as I said are familiar with that, that sort of primary music library, as a primary purchase vehicle and so on. So integration would add service as a plus, and on the flip-side from an Android perspective, Google certainly doesn’t have the music chops. They have tried to, they have a lightweight integration on the Android with the Amazon MP3 store but as I said, it’s very lightweight, it’s not nearly as comprehensive or it doesn’t have the just works factor that Apple’s iTunes.
Michael Coté: And then Android’s like Podcast Manager is, I don’t even understand what they are doing with it, it’s complete –
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, Google list. But on the flip-side, Android does — as I said, the integration with Gmail, Gmail is really pretty well regarded as an email system. So at least they have that going for them, but on the Microsoft side, when you look at the services what would you call out that they do really well that’s really popular, and that I think ultimately is one of the problems.
Michael Coté: No, I like this theory you have, this explanation you have built up, because it’s kind of matching like in retrospect the issue I had, it’s like, I feel like the Windows Phone 7 is like an excellent phone. There’s issues with it, but it’s like got good UI and UIX and it’s responsive, it’s like a good phone on its own, but it’s lacking like, to use another word, it’s lacking content.
Like there is not like — in the same way that like with Google there is sort of like email and the web and stuff as the content and openness, and then in the Apple world, it’s like your music and movies and stuff is your starting content.
But when I was using the Windows Phone 7, there’s not like something new that I got, that I didn’t have previous, other than a really good phone, which kind of — and I think maybe that’s also part of what makes the lack of apps be a bigger issue.
I am kind of two minds in this; on the one hand I kind of think like well Windows Phone 7 is pretty new, so it’s like a cart and a horse issue, like if it’s successful, people will write apps for it. It’s not like — it’s a different programming language and all this other stuff, but the iPhone itself is a good example of like who cares, no one wants to write in Objective C or like weird native stuff, but tons of people do because there is a market for it. So if there is a market for it, developers will write for it.
So I don’t feel like people won’t write apps for Windows Phone 7 if there is that draw. So it makes me more sympathetic I guess is what I am getting towards, towards people saying, oh, there is not apps on there.
But then on the other hand I kind of feel like, well, since there is no service or content that’s new, that’s like the thing it needs, it needs apps. Yeah, it is kind of like, I feel like there needs to be that thing that you can go it that you can’t get on other phones and I don’t really know what they would have to offer with it.
Stephen O’Grady: Well, that’s the thing, I mean, ultimately I think, going back to the point about market writing apps and so on, Microsoft was at a very difficult position prior to the Nokia deal. In the sense that they didn’t have — their market share effectively has been miniscule where Apple on the one hand has the advantage, they were first to market with this style of device. It was so impressive that everybody had to have what everybody had to develop for one and had to have apps on them and so on and the marketplace is sold, I don’t know whatever two billion applications or something to that effect. So they were out early.
Android on the other hand was kind of a fast follower, came afterwards and has had the benefit of working with a ton of partners. So they have been able to get to the point where they are now, the last figure I saw was their shipping 300,000 of these devices a day. So again, from a developer perspective you have that incentive, look, even if you don’t like the platform as much as you like iOS, you have really the volume incentive.
And from Microsoft perspective, prior to Nokia deal, you had a nice set of tools, the developer experience is really pretty solid, as it always is with Microsoft products, but on the flip-side what was your incentive from a marketplace perspective, it was really difficult.
Now, Nokia gives them at least a potential to reach a massive market, simply because Nokia is everywhere. I mean, particularly as you go down market from the Smartphone category into sort of basic feature phones and so on, they have really quite substantial market share on a global basis.
So to the extent that Windows is able to tap into that, that’s a plus. The challenge after that however is the timeframe. In other words, even with this deal, when are we going to start seeing these phones emerge, and the answer is months and months and months.
So again, that’s a problem, do you want to develop for a platform that’s really not going to be widely distributed until the back half of this year? It’s a tough call.
Michael Coté: Yeah. I mean, I think the Smartphone area is where there is a strong first and second mover advantage and then after that — I mean, like you have webOS and HP had a — I mean, they showed some impressive stuff last week as well. So there is all sorts of platforms out there to target. I don’t know, it’s difficult to figure out how as a developer you — I guess this is the app argument, but how you figure out where you deploy these apps, or where you spend your time to integrate a service with these other phones and it’s sort of like, I mean this is a problem of the Web.
It is like — the web is inherently like very open and flexible and technologically you can do anything but you’re constrained by the time you have. So you only integrate with so many different services and if all these different services use the same standard then you would just write the code for one to integrate with them but that doesn’t happen, and it’s certainly not going to happen in the mobile space.
So yeah, I mean it is — it’s almost as if – it’s funny like, like listen you go through the — sort of the history of the Apple led Smartphone renaissance or whatever there, but it’s almost like now Microsoft actually has to compete on functionality, not just arrival time of market, whereas, like Apple and Android they had to have a compelling experience and features but there was just nothing else out there. So there were no other choices, but now that there are many other choices Microsoft actually has to like compete on having killer features and good stuff, not just being the only option.
Michael Coté: Yeah, and the tough thing too is that I mean I think they have, for example, the potential differentiators if you are Microsoft, so you mentioned Office earlier. So in other words it is pretty sweet to have Office access and so on in the phone, and you can open Word documents on — and even spreadsheets I believe on platforms like Android, and iPhone, but it’s not going to be the same as, sort of you’ve experienced that Microsoft is able to provide On the flipside, how compelling is that to consumers. Right?
Stephen O’Grady: Right, in another words, nobody that I know anyhow is going to buy phone for that feature. I mean that’s potentially attracted to businesses and certainly that’s a market that I’m sure Microsoft will look at to tap into, but from a consumer’s perspective it’s not terrible compelling. And then the other thing and I’m interested here, what Kim’s experiences have been, but when I gave the phone to Kate, the challenges is that some of the user interface decisions that Microsoft has made are very intuitive from an Android perspective. So for example, you have the notion of a Back button and a Menu button at the bottom of the phone factor, that’s very similar to what Android uses, Android has a Back button, Android has a Menu button and so on. So those were relatively intuitive, but for Kate who is an iPhone user, those weren’t intuitive at all.
So there was kind of the challenge of adapting to a new environment and where I think a lot of people get by — get around that and I know a bunch of people have done that iPhone-Android switch to get around it because it mostly looks, there is a lot add up to Apple’s credit. They have done a great job of kind of setting the expectations from a user experience perspective and a UI perspective to the extent that lot of people have been critical of Android because they have adhered pretty closely to that model and it looks a lot like what you’d see in Android or an iPhone look like.
So you have that similarity of experience, or even if the buttons are a little different, well it kind of looks like an iPhone where for the Windows platform, the buttons are different and the UI is very different.
The tiling and so on and even the way that the animations run, very laterally and so on, it’s aesthetically pleasing. On of the flipside I think for users who really have only used an iPhone, I think it will be a tough sale.
Michael Coté: Now, Kim had a similar experience with the Back button where it was, it got confusing to use between the apps and then navigating between the phones. Like she was telling me, she would be an Internet Explorer IE on the phone, the Web Browser and she would want to use the Back button to go back in IE but every now and then, or often she would end up back at the Home screen.
Like you would exit Internet Explorer and so they’re like, that was one of the issues that she had with navigating the buttons and — the other thing with the button is like I swear I went to that Bing search like probably 50 times I’m exaggerating, but I ended up hitting that Search button by accident, which like opens up a Bing thing and like, so the other guy gave the phone to Charles, he liked the idea that you have this Search button you can use anywhere which I didn’t want to tell him that from what I read the search doesn’t actually work in every app.
It only works in contacts and a few other apps, like hit the Search button to do a search. But I mean the hardware buttons are kind of — I don’t know I’m personally, I think I like them. I don’t know. I feel like what I was just complaining about the search like, if the search was actually like in every application it goes to the search then I think it will be worth having the button there, but it’s not quite like that and the Back button is a little weird to have because it does jump between the two but it does take some getting used to.
Like on that note, I was talking with someone else about the Windows Phone 7 stuff and they were saying that it’s a little easier for Android people to understand the navigation in the Windows Phone than for iPhone people.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, I think that’s definitely true.
Michael Coté: The other thing that’s slightly Androidish is, I don’t know what they call it, but there is like the Home screen of apps and then there is what I would call the Junk Drawer, there is like everything else, and it’s divided into two columns essentially that you swipe through.
And it is — I don’t know like I guess all of this is based on like years of iPhone usage, but I am kind of used to — and Charles complained about this too, I am kind of used to being able to arrange the apps that I have across many different screens. I think I kind of like that better than the Windows Phone thing.
The flipside of that, I think the Windows Phone 7 ad campaign they have at least — I don’t know if they have it outside of the U.S. market, but is all about like, it’s kind of like it’s one of these — it’s good and bad, it’s one of these things like spend less time on your phone, because it’s more productive and effective of what you are doing
And on that side I feel like maybe I don’t need to have all these apps, like I don’t really need to be interacting with my phone that much and I am wasting my time and all that. Like walking across the field, like in the commercial where my kid is playing soccer, but then on the other side maybe I do want all those apps and this limited interface isn’t really working out for me.
So I have to make it like how hard core I want to be about phone usage. Like if I just wanted to be a casual phone user and I wasn’t on it all the time, like I feel like that choice on the Windows Phone 7 wouldn’t be great. But it’s not, I don’t know, it’s not –
Stephen O’Grady: That’s the thing though. I mean, in other words, and I would have to see sort of more hard data on this, but I know lot of folks that have — well, I mean, you can judge this by the number of applications that are consumed on either the Android market but certainly the iTunes App market, which is, people buy a ton of apps and all those two billion apps aren’t just bought by kind of geeky people that want to use your phone, because people use all kinds of things.
They have apps that basically bring up their favorite comics or they use things like Shazam or whatever. So I think that the point is, is that there is a lot of applications out there that are being consumed everyday by sort of ordinary consumers and so on. The whole, there is an app for that cliché, which is super-entertaining.
But that’s the problem, it’s says that I would agree, I think the user interface for the Windows platform is not oriented properly towards lots of apps. That single screen rather than multiple screens, which certainly the iPhone started and Android has replicated is just I think an easier way to navigate it where otherwise you are going over, as you refer to, kind of looking through the juncture of where are all these things that I put.
I think a lot of that too is also the out of the box experience, which goes back to what we were talking about before in terms of the services. Because you boot up the phone the first time and you have a whole bunch of icons for AT&T U-verse and Xbox LIVE and IE and Zune, and so on, and these are, with the exception of Xbox, which is obviously popular from a consumer brand perspective, lot of these services are basically things that consumers have not shown attraction for.
In other words, Bing is a perfect example. Bing from a market share perspective is in the single digits and yet that’s the sort of basis for the phone.
That’s the problem, I think ultimately what I am curious about for a lot of the manufacturers, and this is not just Microsoft, but I think it’s very pertinent in this case is, are they going to make the same mistakes the Sony did with essentially missing the iPod market, right?
Michael Coté: Oh, right.
Stephen O’Grady: Because Sony obviously came up with the first walkman, so they were in a position to really dominate the — Sony came up with the market for sort of portable audio and so on. now what happened is, about the time that MP3 players began to be popular, Sony Music began to dictate the requirements of the Sony hardware device, such that if you wanted to put your music onto a Sony’s equivalent of the iPod, you had to convert it to their proprietary DRM format and so on, and in that process they basically killed that device and they killed the possibility for Sony to own that category.
So I am curious for Microsoft here, in terms of letting or basically force feeding this platform with a bunch of brands, from Bing to Zune to whatever, that have not shown a lot of consumer attraction, who is dictating the requirements, right? What’s the purpose? Is the purpose to make a device that is successful on a standalone basis and popular or is the purpose to send other services?
And that’s ultimately that’s what I’ve said. I said that the biggest question for me – there’s a lot of questions around at the platform. I think that the volume of applications available I think is one. The browser which we haven’t even talked about I think is another. IE was not running a lot of sites that I use properly. So I think there are a lot of issues — those and user interfaces and so on. But at the end of the day, I think it comes down — comes back to services. It comes back to, this is advantaging of a bunch of Microsoft services that at least for the public metrics that we can see are not terribly popular.
Michael Coté: Yeah, and then there is this little crap where apps that come on there. Like you said U-verse and other things, I mean it’s funny like one of the things that Kim mentions every time I ask what she thought about it is there — Samsung, one of their little crap apps is like this Now application that shows you like Reuters news and weather. She really liked that.
It’s like looks up the weather and news and everything. So I guess that app is not so bad, but I actually liked it a little bit, but it was to your point it was limited in what it would integrate with. Like it would only show me the weather and Reuters’ news feeds. I think this kind of gets into one of the things — I don’t know whether it’s called the hubs or whatever, but one of the things that they try to do in the Windows Phone 7 and that’s kind of like have these – like the people app. Like have these integrations of a bunch of services to one app, and by a bunch at the moment it’s just I guess one, Facebook essentially.
But like if you go to the — that’s one of the things that I actually liked about the phone is, if you go to; they call it the People App, but it’s like your contact, your address book essentially. If you give it your Facebook credentials, it will pull in people’s status updates and their photos and it’s basically like a Facebook browser, which I don’t really spend a lot of time browsing on Facebook as much as other people do, but I did find myself actually getting value out of using Facebook in that interface.
For example, because like when you call someone you can immediately go to look at what their Facebook status is. I think that kind of integration if they added in other services would be actually pretty handy to have on your phone. Like there’s this service called Gist, Gist.com, which it has a lot of potential, I try to use it every now and then I just find it not helpful. So maybe this is a bad idea, but it plugs into your email and it looks at — you’re emailing this person, here’s like other emails you’ve sent and their most recent Twitter stuff or something like that.
I can see how that would be helpful if I used email in a different kind of way, but on the phone it does — I don’t know there is something a little more interesting about. I just called this person or I am about to call them. Let me look at their Facebook stuff, and it’s just right there.
I think I really like the people thing and interesting — Kim said she didn’t really understand what was going on there and then Charles didn’t mention anything about it, but I think if they — like I said, they announced there is going to be Twitter integration there, but I could find myself using that all the time for just looking at people’s Twitter in Facebook stuff.
I mean that service, the way that service is technically integrated there is good. They just — to your point they need to have more services in there and definitely — this is like everyone’s dream for decades, I was going to say centuries to exaggerate, but it’s just like. I just don’t want that weird carrier and handset crap shipped on my phone.
Stephen O’Grady: No, no, no.
Michael Coté: Right? I was talking with Charles about that and he was like, you know on my iPhone I have like AT&T’s myWireless app, because I chose to go install it and I look at it like I look at my bill and my usage, it’s fine, but like I don’t want them forcing that on me, like I don’t need the U-verse thing and all that.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, you know what, I think that’s one of the things that I think a lot of the both software and hardware manufacturers and carriers for that matter kind of mess, which is the success of the iPhone, I take is largely attributable, I mean there is obviously lots of factors that go into it, but I think largely attributable to the fact that is not designed by committee.
The most important factor in determining what’s going to go on in iPhone and how things are designed is the customer. I think the challenge with — Microsoft certainly here in this case and phones are shipped to particular carriers and so on is you’re trying to service things that have nothing to do with the customer. Because you have the odd example here and there where somebody would like the Reuters app, or hey, maybe I am a U-verse customer, that’s great. But everyone of those people there is probably nine or ten or more that find it irritating.
So try to be prescriptive in terms of what you put on there is really — it’s a long-term challenge. We’ve seen it on the desktop, the PC manufacturers have typically shipped their machines with tons of stuff and users generally speaking hate it.
So that’s the challenge is that people kind of wonder why Apple is successful and on some level it’s basically just that they prioritize the user, they prioritize the user over the experience, because yeah, for example, Apple has MobileMe and it’s certainly a precedence on, but you are not required to sign-up for that to activate it in iPhone and most things have radically changed.
Michael Coté: Now you only have to sign-up for it if you want the Locate My iPhone feature, which is now free.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, so in other words, that’s the kind of a thing that — I mean for example, in this case, you have to have essentially a Hotmail or Live account to basically start using this phone.
Michael Coté: Yeah. Well just – I wanted to talk about the browser before we wrap up, but you did remind me that there is one nice thing, well no, there are many nice things.
But one of the nicer things that Charles reminded me when I was talking with him, is despite the fact that you have to have a Microsoft account to sign-up, it is nice that you don’t have to hook the machine up to your computer and then clone up your computer to get up and running.
Like when you set up an iPhone you have to like hook it up into iTunes to get it registered, but it is like — you kind of don’t even notice it with this phone, that’s how nice it is, is that you basically turn the phone on, give it your Microsoft account or sign-out for one, and there is probably some other thing. You have to agree to a shrink-wrap of course or whatever.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah.
Michael Coté: But then like you can just start using it. Like you don’t have to hook it up to your computer, which makes you realize how stupid that is, that the iPhone does.
Stephen O’Grady: Well, and that’s the thing, I mean up in U-verse you can see kind of how Apple handles are moving forward, because it was funny. I was talking on Twitter with one of the technical guys the other day about Tablets, and frankly, as you know Coté I’ve been kind of in the market for Tablet for travel and sort of demoing applications and so on.
And you know that the real challenge from my perspective with an iPad is that I don’t use a Mac on a day-to-day basis. I have one if I need to run applications and so on, but I don’t have one, I don’t use it, I also don’t have a Windows machine handy. So a device that’s explicitly tied to a desktop, just really doesn’t work for me.
Michael Coté: Yeah.
Stephen O’Grady: Based on the fact that with my desktop usages, and that was I think you’re right, an interesting choice in the part of Microsoft, a good choice in that part.
Michael Coté: Yeah.
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, there are exceptions in other words, if you want to load a music, you have to connect to a PC and so on and so forth, at least that tells you that you do.
But they have been good in the sense that they have not tied the activation process and the on-boarding process to a physical machine, much in the same way that Android works the same. You basically feed your credentials fired up and you are off to the races. There is no connecting back to PC.
So it would be interesting to see how Apple handles that longer-term, because that’s something that, if people, even Mac fans, if they complain about one thing related to the iPhone and the iPad that’s it, which is that, like I am sick of this and it takes 30 minutes to back up my phone and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So I’ll be interested to see how to handle that.
Michael Coté: Yeah, I mean they definitely need to keep that — the computer-less use. I mean it really feeds into that fantasy idea of like living off of your phone. You don’t even need a desktop, but –
Stephen O’Grady: Yeah, yeah.
Michael Coté: But you mentioned the Web Browser, so it comes with IE on it, and you’re saying that some sites didn’t load and — I thought that, I don’t know it’s just the fonts. I mean I always think different web browsers look a little weird, but I thought it’s interesting, I don’t really have any big complaints about the Web Browser other than just some sites looked a little strange.
And so when I talked with Charles, the app developer guy, he actually, he was funny, he said that in his opinion after looking through sites as a Ajax kind of guy, like the phone, the IE on the phone that was much better than the desktop IE as far as rendering. What was your experience?
Stephen O’Grady: Well, I am trying to remember, unfortunately, I don’t have listed the sites, and it was only, it wasn’t like a ton. A lot of them did look weird, because the difference is that obviously if you are using Android or if you are using the iPhone, you are using different branches, but you’re using essentially the same technologies using WebKit-based browsers.
Michael Coté: Yeah.
Stephen O’Grady: Rather Mobile Safari or the browser that ships with Android. So you get some consistency in terms of rendering things generally speaking work, the same way and so on, where with the version of IE that ships with the phone it’s just — I think you put it best.
It can look — certain things look weird, the fonts are little off and I did have a couple of sites, and I really wish I can remember what they were, it just didn’t render. It just got appeared to get confused and say, I don’t know what this is and I can’t handle it.
So the browser I think is going to be an issue, because in terms of designing — obviously a lot of the sites are doing mobile detection now and a lot of the mobile detection is optimized for essentially WebKit browsers, because that’s between Android and iPhone, that’s the majority of the mobile market.
So when you look at IE, which is shipping on a real small percentage of machines at this point or devices at this point, I think it will be interesting to watch at least how web developers handle making sure that their sites and their content renders properly in that Browser, or more to the point, if in fact they care.
Michael Coté: Yeah, I mean, that’s making me remember, that was one of the bigger problems I had with the phone in general is, a lot of the mobile websites I normally go to, they were giving me, I guess like the WAP or the feature phone interface or something, the ones where like options will be like 0, 1-9, and then a pound sign to like jump to those things, and like the Evernote Mobile version look like this and the Google Reader Mobile version, which I use a lot on my iPhone, looks like that.
It’s the kind of thing where it’s like I really — if you could just send a different agent header and fake it out to make Google Reader think it was an iPhone, it would probably work just fine. But it’s kind of like another — it’s another phase of the service issue of just getting these people to work with the phone, but it did lessen my experience.
I mean, I think that that kind of gets to the last thing I was going to say, so if you could choose like two or three things, like what are the two or three things that the Windows Phone 7 would do that would make you start using it instead of, you use an iPhone now, right, like what would make you switch to using it?
Stephen O’Grady: Well, I am actually – I am on Android, but the –
Michael Coté: Oh, that’s right, you have that gigantic screen that I am always envious of.
Stephen O’Grady: Well the Nexus One actually I think is pretty comparable, but we also have the Dell Streak, which we’ll have to review at some point.
Michael Coté: Oh yeah, that’s right.
Stephen O’Grady: Which is the 5-inch phone, it’s a ginormous phone. But I think the things honestly that would make me switch would be basically a cut of the ties to a lot of the Microsoft services.
I mean, in other words, the phone lets me connect to Google Mail accounts. So in other words, I can retrieve my mail and that worked fine. They have that set up and that’s to their credit. But at the same time, I don’t want to have to have the primary account for the phone be a Hotmail address or Live or whatever.
So cut the ties for that, and then I would like ties back to other independent services. So for example, give Dropbox sort of front and center position on the phone. Integrate that as effectively the de facto file system for the phone.
Give me the option to integrate with sort of music, MP3s that I have around and let me kind of suck those into the phone, whether that’s something like, what’s the, there is an Android music application and I am blanking on the name of it, that’s by Jon Lech Johansen, the DVD Jon guy, it’s for Android and it does essentially over the air syncing of music desktop to the phone. So it’s really pretty neat. It only works on Windows or Mac.
But those are the kinds of features that are great. The challenge is, is that if Microsoft rolls those out, it’s going to be attached to Zune, and Zune doesn’t interests me at all.
So ultimately, if they are going to do one thing, it would be, if you want to include those as optional, that’s fine, because clearly you are in business and you want to allow integration between your different properties, but give me choices, like don’t make me use Bing; I am used to using Google. I don’t want to have to use Microsoft services strictly because I got this phone. But what about you?
Michael Coté: Yeah, I think my issues are pretty similar. I mean, I think — these are more or less in order, but I feel like the thing that I miss the most on the phone, like I really like the phone more or less, but there is a few things that I miss that –and one of them was music and podcast.
Like I actually found, I am a Mac user, and I actually found they have like a Zune download thing that you can put on your Mac, which I didn’t find — it’s funny how difficult they make to find it. So it looked like that would be solvable, if you will, but it’s like I don’t really love iTunes or anything — like in fact, I think iTunes is a terrible piece of software, given the way I think it should be working. So I would be happy to switch to something else.
Like if there was like — like I need to go look at that Songbird thing, if that’s what it’s called again. But if there was like a real multi-platform music and podcast management thing that work, that sync to phones, like I would love that. That I could use on, that I could have my core music and podcast collection on any machine that I have access to and blah, blah, blah, that would sync with my phones, it would be nice. And like I think if they solve that problem on the Windows, I don’t know what that solution would look like, whether it — even if it’s just like stole a stuff from iTunes, that would be fine, but I didn’t really even mess with any of that.
But I mean having podcast and music is important to be on a phone and then the other thing is just like there is lots of apps that I use all the time that just were not available and even the mobile version like I was talking about like forever note Google Reader were just not really usable.
So at the very least if for some reason if they could fix the mobile web versions, that would be good, but even better would be if the apps were released at the same frequency in Cadence says the iPhone, because that’s a nice thing about apps on the iPhone. It’s sort of like — it feels like it’s the first mobile platform that developers release functionally to.
So like I started using Posterous a while ago and the Posterous app on the iPhone is actually pretty fully, is functional enough, it could be a little better. But I don’t really feel like by being on the iPhone I am going to miss out on functionality on apps because they’re released on another platform.
So I know I will get access to new functionality on apps right-away, and then I think the third thing a little more abstract is kind of like what you’re saying, is like, I wish it was a bit more open in the services that it would use and for example like I said they are announcing they’re coming out with this, but I wish it would use Twitter and the People app in addition to Facebook, and I wish like instead of having to use the SkyDrive thing I could hook it up to maybe any WebDAV thing or any Dropbox thing.
There is like storage things that will be great, like one thing that it does that’s interesting that the iPhone doesn’t do is it will automatically sync your photos to your SkyDrive if you turn that on, and that’s an interesting prospect, like it would be nice if it would automatically sync to Flickr like already like if I told it to like building in notes integration I think would be good.
And those are just — there is no standard like I was talking about before, but I think there are some like your top five photo-sharing sites and it would be nice for them just to work with that, because I think ultimately that’s like the whole punch-line for me for all, this is like I feel like Android, I haven’t used Android as much as you have but I feel like Android is kind of like, I don’t know, to be frank kind of an ugly user experience, like I always feel like I am using a Google product.
I mean, that is like a Mac guy, right? It’s like, it’s key functional, it works really well, it’s effective, it’s productive but it’s just like, it’s like shopping at IKEA, like I know I am going to get what I wanted. If I had more money and time I could get something much better, right?
So I feel like if Microsoft took like the openness of Android with their really great — that they have on Windows Phone 7, they would definitely have a phone that was better than the iPhone. But it’s getting that openness, that they don’t quite seem to want to do.
But anyway, I mean that’s my three things there. But yeah like I was saying at the beginning, dear listeners, thanks for listening to the first episode and we are over at redmonk.com/gearmonk, all one word of course because we don’t want to have percent 20s in our URL. And we’ll probably write up some more stuff, I want to write up a more formal sort of overview of Windows Phone 7 of my use and Steven’s use and a couple of other — but you know, that’s overall it was a nice thing and definitely when that new version of the software comes out I am going to try using it again because I do, man! I keep coming back to this but I really like that People app.
I think they are on to something. I forget what they call it, but they’re on to something with that like that hub idea where it’s like here’s the collection of tasks that span the apps and we have it concentrated in one application. I like that. I guess it’s a vertical service to be all fancy as what it is and I like that idea, there’s these vertical services whether it’s social networking or pictures would be another vertical service and I don’t know what they are doing there is very interesting but if you have any wrap-up comments you wanted to make there, Steven?
Stephen O’Grady: The only wrap-up comment I think — I would make would be the Android application that I mentioned that does over the years syncing to your phone that’s called doubleTwist, so if anybody is interested, I will check that up. But, no I mean I think my general takeaway would be I think Microsoft has done a really incredible job of delivering something that isn’t just a clone of one of the products, but to be successful I think they will have to kind of put the user first more than there right now.
Michael Coté: Yeah, and you know maybe with Nokia Ubiquity we’ll get more people developing apps for it. If any app developers out there listening, if you want to make me happy, just deliver apps to the Windows Phone 7, that’s what I do.
Stephen O’Grady: There you go!
Michael Coté: All right, well we’ll see everyone next time.
Disclosure: Microsoft is a client and sent us these phones.