I am not much of an external blogger, but when my passions lead me to blog, I do, from time to time. The absolutely most popular and heavily viewed blog post I ever wrote was called “Confessions of a Microsoft-guy turned to iPhone” and its follow up, Part II post.
Well, I have been using an iPhone for a long time now. Actually I stopped using it yesterday. Yesterday was the day Microsoft sent me a prototype Windows Phone 7 to use until Windows Phone 7 launches in time for the Christmas season. Check out my phone in Figure 1.
The big news as I write this today is that Microsoft officially announced the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Phone 7: “While the final integration of Windows Phone 7 with our partners’ hardware, software, and networks is underway, the work of our internal engineering team is largely complete.” said VP Terry Meyerson of the Windows Phone Team. I worked on a large server product team in the Windows Division a few years back and I can tell you an RTM is a big deal. Historically the term RTM at Microsoft meant shipping the bits to the manufacturing company that produced the disks. Now, since Microsoft ships on so many different forms of media and platforms it generally means “the software is ready to go and unless something catastrophic happens in the bits we are going with this build.”
"The work that's still to be done with our partners means we're close, but we're not quite there," Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager in Microsoft's Mobile Communication Group, told seattlepi.com. "This means that we are on track to launch Windows Phone 7 for the holidays, and we're pretty stoked." On time? I don’t think there was ever an option for this phone device to not ship on time for the holiday season….which I assume means available in stores in November: Multiple devices available over multiple carriers.
Now Windows Phone 7 devices are not new to me. At my company we have used loaners from Microsoft to demo some of the amazing Silverlight work we have done for customers on the Windows Phone 7. And over the last six months it has basically taken an “Act of God” to get those loaners. So, getting this Windows Phone 7 device to use as my primary phone comes with a little bit of chagrin on my part. The best news is that I can finally make good on the promise of casting my iPhone into the ocean, cussing at it and flipping it off on the way in. As I said in those now infamous blog posts, “I am not the target market for an iPhone”. I have to type emails constantly and as good as the iPhone user experience is, it’s just an awful textual input device. The Windows Phone 7 I received not only has the magical fidelity of touch you’d expect, but it also has a slide out tactile keyboard (like a Blackberry). Thank god. This means I can actually type on it. To be honest using the experience of using virtual keyboard on this Windows Phone 7 is just as lousy as it is on the iPhone.
I also have to use my phone….as a phone. And all of us iPhone users are painfully aware of how poor the phone experience is on the iPhone. Again, I have the older version of the iPhone, and I always blamed it on AT&T. But, I can tell you this: I took my SIM chip out of my iPhone and put it into my Windows Phone 7 and I am ecstatic that I can talk on the phone again in crystal clear fidelity. So, my bad for blaming the phone issues of iPhone solely on AT&T. The iPhone is not a phone; it’s a lifestyle device.
So let me be totally honest and tell you that after switching to a Windows Phone 7 device and now using it for 24 hours, I miss my iPhone apps. I miss ESPN ScoreCenter; I miss the iPhone TomTom GPS software; I miss Flick Fishing. The Windows Phone 7 I received is pretty bare bones. Over the next few days I will be stuffing it with all the Silverlight applications that we have built, and they are quite compelling, but there are not many applications available to this phone other than what you’d expect and have already read about. On the Windows Phone 7, I do love the seamless integration with Exchange, Windows Live and Facebook. I also adore free HD radio and the Zune experience and integration with my Windows 7 notebook. I am positive that the RTM bits (which I imagine will be automatically pushed to my Windows Phone 7) will have a ton of shipping applications and a fully functional MarketPlace where hundreds of apps (including a couple of ours) are available at launch.
As for the iPhone, I don’t miss typing on the damn thing and I certainly don’t miss the ~60 second process it takes to navigate/search through the 10 gazillion contacts I have (which it pulled over from Exchange) just to make a phone call. Now, to the iPhone’s credit I do need to tell you I have the old one—the 3G. I’m told the experience is dramatically better in the new iPhone device.
Now, many are calling the Windows Phone 7 a “game changer.” I’m not totally drinking the Kool-Aid because there is no way to pry the pink iPhone out of my teenage daughter’s hands. Apple has a dominating curse on the youth consumer market with their magical brilliance of marketing, brand identity, and brand awareness. And even InterKnowlogy CTO Rodney Guzman just walked in my office, shoved his Android in my face and said, “Can it do this?” as he proceeded to show me the free live streaming on the NFL network. And I sighed. The Android does seem to be attaining the same type of stranglehold on the technology elite as the iPhone has on the consumer.
But, I truly do believe the Windows Phone 7 has a shot to be a “game changer” in the enterprise, where the Blackberry dominates, for this simple reason: Silverlight. I just wish the Windows Phone 7 team would stop targeting consumer with their advertising and focus on enterprise where it seems so clear to me the market where they could do the most damage. But, what the heck do I know? The Windows Phone 7 team isn’t classic Microsoft—it lives in that Xbox group at Microsoft which is a totally “separate company.” And those folks most surely know how to put a dent in a market. Time will tell.