I had written this editorial 3 months ago for TechSuplex on what I considered the key factors that would benefit and instigate the much needed growth of the Windows Phone 8 platform. Although it has only been three months since it was launched and barely 2 months since phones were made available, one can argue that Windows Phone has finally begun to gain traction and garner mind share needed to boost the platform.
My Hopes For Windows Phone 8
The official launch of Windows Phone 8 takes place in a few Minutes. Not too long ago, my colleague on the Suplex put up a post regarding his fears about the soon to be announced windows phone 8 platform. I had seen a notification about this post and I was hit with a conundrum; do I read and then respond to his points? Do I just read and keep those points until the right time comes in a few months to analyze his views? I opted for neither, hence the title of this post. I have chosen to list out what I consider the hopes for windows phone 8. The key observations that make the platform a guaranteed 3rd ecosystem and a breakout success to the general public.
The infancy factor
For one to get a better understanding of what this means, it is important to look at the lifecycle of the current powerhouse smartphone OS’s on the market; iOS from Apple and Android from Google. History tells us that both these platforms had relatively slow adoption rates in their first two years of launch. I was careful to use the words “relatively slow” and this is primarily because Apple for example has come a long way from selling some 300,000 iPhones in its first weekend to selling 2 million devices on the first day. Similarly, many of us that watched keenly the launch of the T-Mobile G1 using Android know that this is a far cry from the 5 million Galaxy S3 pre-order numbers we see 4yrs later. Like with all major platforms, being new is not just enough. Constantly nurturing a product, especially one that is new and innovative will almost always guarantee its success especially in the dynamic world of mobile phones.
The Apple Factor (Dare to be different)
We all know what happened when apple announced the first iPhone. We heard from Nokia, we heard from Palm, we heard from Microsoft. They all sang in one accord: THIS DEVICE WILL FAIL. Wall Street Analysts felt the same way. A few years, the death of Palm, the death of Windows Mobile and Nokia on life support later, nobody can question Apples supremacy in the smartphone wars. The biggest attribute to the success of Apple was its redefining two things; the user interface and the ease at which people got and consumed content in the form of Apps etc. This section will focus on the former; user interface. I was one of those that argued for Nokia’s Symbian approach back then. I used a Sony Ericsson P910 and I loved my resistive touchscreen and the presence of my keypad. What Apple was able to accomplish with touch is unprecedented and one cannot question this. Good change is great. This is what Windows Phone 8 has done with metro.
If I am permitted to use my own observation; what Apple did with tap (i.e. touching a screen and getting a response), Microsoft has done with swipe. Microsoft’s new interface emphasizes an aspect of user interaction on a screen that reduces clicks and puts more in front of you by the way of its live tiles. Many had issues with the current iteration of live tiles in Windows Ohone 7 but the improvements seen in Windows Phone 8 makes it a lot more robust and a lot more immersive. The user interface becomes truly yours and it brings a level of personality unseen in smartphone devices. It might not be a generational leap but Windows Phone 8 serves as a breath of fresh air for most people that are overwhelmed with countless android devices (think Nokia and the Symbian Group) and a Palm interface that has gotten boring over the years (Think iOS on the iphone). Of course in this generation of phones and devices, it goes beyond UI into the most talked about aspect of mobile computing; Ecosystems.
The Microsoft Effect (Ecosystem, Enterprise and Excess funds)
What do I mean by ecosystems? Like biology, a tech ecosystem emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between different devices and their corresponding parts (hardware, software and accessories). The two largest mobile phone platforms sport what would seem like the most robust ecosystem of the lot but what Microsoft brings to the table is unseen and this is what brings tremendous hope for Windows Phone 8. Last Thursday, Micrsoft launched Window 8 for tablets and computers. Many of us that own Xboxes have had the most recent update to the Xbox that shares this “Metro” ideology.
Today Microsoft brings in the last piece of the puzzle, which also happens to be the first piece of the puzzle to unifying all the company’s efforts. That similar interface that will be shared by over 400M people on their PC’s; That programming environment that permits apps to be developed for PC and Phone interchangeably is that major push that Windows Phone desperately needed and is getting with this unification of all of Microsofts core strengths. Similarly, Microsofts strong presence in the Enterprise and a lot of new enterprise grade features that will be unveiled with Windows Phone 8 is bound to have a major effect as the exodus from using RIM’s veteran services has pushed business to consider other alternatives.
The Nokia Effect (Value added services to the Platform)
All pundits, tech and finance alike, have all agreed that the presence of Nokia in developing the platform is a huge plus for it, be it in the form of a strong brand backing or Nokia’s decades of expertise in the tech industry. Like Nokia noted earlier today, prior to jumping on board, Windows Phone 7 was primarily a Microsoft project but with Tango (a Windows Phone 7 update), where the platform was given a new low cost market and now Windows Phone 8, there has been a joint expertise and improved collaboration put into developing the platform.
Some of the benefits of this relationship include the unrivaled camera of the Lumia 920, Nokia Maps powering mapping services in Windows Phone 8 which now includes offline navigation that is the industry’s standard. Nokia’s relationship with App developers over the years and its global reach has expanded the Windows phone Store to 190 countries (no other platform, except Symbian has such a reach).
Factoring these nuances that make Windows phone Unique also make it appeal to new customers and Nokia apologists. This effect can only result in the success of the platform in my humble opinion. It would be shocking to see Windows Phone 8 fail at being the breakthrough Windows Phone version in the coming months.
Although I had included many more points, for the sake of time, I chopped it down to 4 major ones. Do leave your comments if you agree with my opinions and share your thoughts.