So a rugged PDA Windows Phone 7 device is not going to be seen for while with the recent announcement of WM being moved into the Embedded Business Unit at Microsoft but I can’t let the launch of WP7 go by without a mention and some opinion!
Windows Phone 7 – The main points
OK, OK, I will be the first to admit I had lost a lot little bit of faith in Microsoft to come up with anything that will carry them into the next phase of the Mobile OS war and it was hard to not get caught up in the politics of the division as well as WM6.5 not really doing the brand any good at all in the mobile phone space. However after seeing a device and doing my WP7 sales certification course I have to admit I am really quite excited about it now. WP7 has not only gained ground, but it actually surprised me in a few areas that are totally new and unique and, whilst not remarkable in description, are very remarkable in practise. Some of them even put the iPhone to shame (yes I did say that!!)
Lets go through a few areas here that I think are pretty great.
The good stuff
The First thing you notice about WP7 is how its organised and how different it is. On the face of it you see all these demo videos and it all looks a bit confusing but after using it for a while it becomes quite natural. WP7 doesn’t take the “There’s an App For That” view, it takes the stance that important stuff should be where you need it already. This means that you get a live homescreen where the icons are actually conveying live information to you. Whilst we’ve all seen Mail, Text and call in for, this time this is extended into all kinds of social media, calendaring and “people” focussed active icons. These icons are a window into the various hubs.
Instead of say wanting to go to Facebook and launching the Facebook app, WP7 actually integrates all of your most common task into Hubs. Now some work better than others and the hibs are set out for you as People, Office, Pictures, Music & Video, Marketplace and Games, but you get a very integrated experience. For example the people hub allows you to centre everything you do with a person, whether its calls, pictures, Facebook etc and its all integrated. You simply do not have to launch an app for everything you want to do with that person and you can also add an icon on your homescreen for that person to be alerted of anything that they change whether its social media or a calendar event with you. It’s really slick and its leading users into a new experience. After using it a while, it does make the iPhone and Blackberry in particular start to feel a bit old.
The Office hub is also very impressive with the ability to just link to your Sharepoint server and have seamless editing access to a growing list of Office documents. Again its all integrated, its familiar but in a good mobile kind of way this time and it works really well.
Xbox Live users will love this device too. It’s fully integrated with your live account and you can play games as well as keeping in touch with your live community right from your handset. I really do think this is an area that Microsoft can and should be leading in and this is a good first step into doing it really well.
I think WP7 could really be the centre of a very powerful way of working for some people.
The catch up stuff
The App marketplace and integration with it is pretty good now and I don’t think anyone can argue about that. Yes its very Microsoft looking and nothing will ever compare to the glorious Apple App Store in terms of look and feel but it is not something that will stop people buying the device.
The device is truly finger operable now, no stylus needed anymore and the apps you’re going to use 80% of the time are all far nicer to use. You can really tell that this OS was designed with capacitive screens, sensors and the new generation of users in mind. It’s also quick, the phone clarity seemed very good and I think what I am trying to say is that all the basics are there and mean there are no quirky Windows Mobile things lurking about!
The bad stuff
The Music hub was always going to be a catch up and the Zune platform is just not going to compete with iTunes. This could be an issue with the device for some but I am sure that there will be an answer to this quite soon. The Zune player is simply not as good to use and the Zune market place is just not the same as iTunes. I just think this is an area that is very hard to compete with these days.
The active icons and hubs won’t be to everyone’s taste and their power can also leads to a confusing experience for some. For instance I know I can give my iPhone to my Mum and she’ll pretty much be able to get it. You click here to email, click on that for Facebook and I will put them all in the “Mum” folder on the home screen for you!! WP7, I don’t think she’d cope with. The icons on the homescreen can be confusing and there is the argument to say that all this data is overload. I couldn’t seem to change the colour of individual icons either as I would love to have separate colour coded people icons for my work and personal contacts.
Maybe its me but I don’t like the way it puts apps and games in the pre-defined folder. I love the integration with the people and office areas but I think I’d just like a place where I can manually place and arrange my applications and games. Whether I got this part of the device I’m not sure but it seemed very WM6.5 on this aspect.
Lets not forget
That you have a choice of device here, which has its pro’s and cons for the manufacturer but can only be a pro for the consumer. I do still pander after the days where I could have my £400 phone for daily/business use and use my trusty old £100 SPV C600 for when I go to concerts or pubs with the same info synced on it. Don’t forget that Android uses the same principle here and its doing rather well. WP7 will always put a more powerful piece of hardware in your hand because of the sheer numbers and demand. Just ask any Apple person what sits at the heart of their Mac’s now and why they did that!
Also no matter what you say, Microsoft are still the big desktop and server player they always were and the integration of this device with your front and back office is unparalleled. I guess you can’t really write them off just yet!!
WP7 hasn’t just caught up, it also hasn’t just run past its rivals, it’s actually surprised me with where it has gone and this means it’s leading once again in some areas. OK not in all areas and some still need some work but I think if they get the whole proposition right then WP7 will be reborn and Microsoft with it in the Mobile space. It’s just a shame that its unlikely we’ll be seeing it in the Rugged PDA space and it’ll be especially interesting to see how semi-rugged PDA’s adopt the WM or WP strategy.
I would love to hear your opinions, Microsoft always creates great debates! I’ll be getting a WP7 phone very soon and will be sharing how it is to live with as soon as I get it.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.