Raju Vegesna

Random Thoughts

On Windows Phone 7

Last week at the GigaOm’s Mobilize conference, I got a chance to play with a Windows Phone 7 device briefly. I was looking forward to playing with the device as I was optimistic on Microsoft’s new mobile operating system. After using the device briefly, it didn’t feel right. Microsoft went for the cool factor this time and now, I seriously doubt its success in the business world.

Whenever I hear the talk about the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) demo looking great, I go back thinking about the Coke vs Pepsi taste test. As Malcolm Gladwell puts it, Pepsi won the sip test as it tastes better in smaller quantities. But Coke won in the market as it taste better when you drink the whole bottle. More info on this here.

I think we are seeing a similar behavior with WP7. The OS might be great in a demo, but if you use the device for extended periods of time, it won’t do well. Microsoft went for the cool factor with their new OS. Given Microsoft’s core audience (businesses), I am not sure if this is a good thing. It looks like this is exactly what Microsoft is shooting for. Ballmer’s interview with Seattle Times highlights this.

Q: Windows Phone 7 (a cellphone platform) is coming out this holiday season. How are you going to turn this into a billion-dollar business for Microsoft?

A: The place to start is, “Are we going to have cool phones out with our software on them this holiday season?” You put aside the questions of how you make money and blah, blah, blah. That’s all interesting in the long run. In the short run (claps his hands and rubs them together), people gotta want these phones. I think they’re going to look pretty good. … If we start the popularity chain and start kind of the buzz around these things, we’ll be able to make some money off them.

Highlights are mine above. Based on the response above, Microsoft seems to be going for the cool factor in the short term. I am not sure if this a good thing for Microsoft. But if that is what they are aiming for, I guess Microsoft achieved it with the new metro look. A look, that will not work for a majority of the audience.

The entire OS is two dimensional with shades of gray all over the place. After a while, the cool factor dries down and all you are left with is a DOS like interface on your phone. The navigation is confusing. There is horizontal navigation on the top for menus (not to mention huge font size) and then there is vertical navigation below it. Then you have several options at the bottom and coming back to where you started in an app is a pain. To keep it short, it is not easy to understand how the navigation works on the device. It might be fine for geeks, but it is going to be a challenge for mainstream audience. Microsoft recommends developers to follow the same 2D/metro look for their applications. I don’t think we will see much innovation if the developers are restricted to the retro design.

I wanted Microsoft to come up with a better mobile OS. But they disappoint. I actually think this OS might be better fit for a tablet than a phone. The phone could be a hit among students etc. But for businesses, this version/design will not work. I think Android and iPhone will continue to make inroads in the smart phone market and Windows Phone 7 will continue to lag despite Microsoft’s push.

WP7 has the cool factor. But this cool factor will die down soon. The OS is not optimized for productivity.