Windows Phone – Crunch time

Windows Phone   Crunch time We’ve been bouncing around the web since 2002 and it all started thanks to Microsoft and the Orange SPV. Earlier today we carried a story about the continued growth of Android and, although iPhone 4 sales figures haven’t been included, this news story is now also appearing on major news sites like Increased coverage like this is causing people to ask for the OS by name.

Yes, I could go on. I’ve already published stories many years ago warning Microsoft that the world was moving on whilst only tiny improvements were being made with the OS. In April 2007 Microsoft Boss Steve Ballmer told the world that the iPhone would never get any significant market share. A few months later I stated that …

“Windows Mobile is a very strong OS, but for the end-user, the guy in the street, the bloke on the bus, the teenager outside the supermarket, Windows Mobile needs to improve way more than Windows Mobile 6 did on Windows Mobile 5. We need to see the back of that spinning circle thing. Speed, easy-of-use, functionality and a bit of glamour need to be added in equal measures urgently, otherwise Microsoft Windows Mobile will forever be a business OS for business users.”

That was nearly three years ago, and over a year ago we still had many Microsoft handsets lacking even 6.5. It was about this time that Android caught our attention properly and it’s shown no sign of dipping in popularity. Now, at long last, Windows Phone 7 is about to arrive. Here at we’ve not seen Windows Phone 7 on a phone since Mobile World Congress, and it’s not for want of trying. What we have heard though is the bad stuff. No copy and paste, no real multi-tasking, no custom backdrops, no predictive dial through the “call” screen, no automatic downloading of pictures in email and surprisingly a “new” Steve Ballmer telling analysts that “It’s not going to happen overnight”.

Microsoft have done something right though. We always said that updates were a pain when Windows Mobile was on lots of different phones. Now, with Android taking a similar “on every type of phone, everywhere”-approach, we’re seeing similar complaints from Android users. The HTC Hero update took a long time. The Desire update is being rolled out in stages depending on your network and, for many other Android handsets, you’ll have a similar update experience. That said, Android does at least have a big fat “update” button and there are automatic updates, so there is a system to do it and the future updates should be easier and more modular. The new Microsoft approach appears to be more iPhone-like. It’s a Microsoft Windows Phone, regardless who makes it, with minimum specs and a Microsoft-controlled experience. Despite what I’m hearing, I still doubt that operators and manufacturers will be able to customize and tweak the OS like they used to.

Microsoft have a huge hill to climb, and by hill, we actually mean a mountain. The previews we’ve seen are positive for the most part and we’re thankful that, years later, Microsoft is about to launch a totally new and fresh mobile operating system. However, they’ve lost a huge amount of ground. Their numbers are dropping, Android and iPhone users are growing and, based on Neilson figures, they’ll be buying another Android phone or iPhone next too.

Against this backdrop is the iPad. Microsoft could have done this, but now they’re trailing again. Apple are selling stacks of these, and the Android OS is already making its’ way onto cloned devices. HTC could make one tomorrow, and it would sell really very well.

I’ll be saving up for a Windows Phone 7 device. I want to see Microsoft learn from their mistakes and to come back from the Kin failure with all guns blazing. I’m confident that there’ll be many others buying a new Windows Phone too. There is a worry though. The mainstream press are talking about the success of Android and the iPhone. They’re making Android and iPhone apps – as is pretty much everyone else. “People” – not just techies, not just business users or hardcore phone geeks like me, are now fully aware of the “Android” and “iPhone” devices and it’s part of their buying decision. In a few months, when Joe Public is confronted with the “cool” iPhone inside massive Apple stores and an array of Android phones in all shapes and sizes inside every mobile shop, how many will still go for that all-new Windows Phone 7 phone?