Microsoft is making a run at the mobile market – again. Yes, the same mobile market that the company ran headlong into with Windows Mobile on the Pocket PC in 2000, which was the first to use the Windows Mobile OS, even before Apple and Google thought about their iOS and Android operating systems. Windows Phone 7 is the company’s latest iteration of the Windows Mobile platform and, finally, the company is releasing it on a series of smartphones after months of hype. Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft, said that Microsoft had, “screwed up with Windows Mobile” in September of 2009. So we must ask, “Did they get it right this time?”
No, they did not. Well, to be fair, Windows Phone 7 might qualify as a promising “Beta” version, but the OS is certainly not yet ready for prime time. Considering Balmer’s comment, it is hard to be fair with WP7 (Windows Phone 7) when Microsoft’s software and operating system history is considered. This overview would essentially come down to how the OS compares to Android and iOS. The short of it is that Windows Phone 7 does not compete well with Android or iOS at all, at least not yet. We all drooled over the sneak preview of the Microsoft Courier, but the Windows Phone 7 is nowhere near that product’s hype.
User Interface: The Good News
First, the good news, Windows Phone 7 has a nice UI. The Metro User Interface is well done and if it were a UI over top of the Android OS, it would get a lot of attention-as a Beta. In fact, there is a Metro UI Beta for Android. The focus here is on blocky simplicity and information presentation and the Redmond team has done a good job. There have also been very pleasing comments on the Multi-touch and its implementation and execution.
Overall the user Interface is very useful and easy to get used to using. One of the real winners here is the keyboard, which is one element of the Windows Phone 7 that most users will praise. Out of the gate, it is as good, if not better than the iPhone and certainly better than Android’s stock virtual keyboard.
Nevertheless, there are a few glitchy bits and some bone jarring discrepancies. Windows Phone 7 has no Cut and Paste. Microsoft and Windows practically invented the “cut, copy, and paste,” era, so how is it that Microsoft forgot to include the feature on the company’s smartphone OS, or worse, simply did not want to include it?. The lack of cut and paste is a real problem and so is the lack of a universal search function, which can hamstring some operations more than one might think. Other things are also lacking such as the inconsistent display of information on the top bar of the screen; sometimes it is there and sometimes it is not Having said all of that, it is still a nice UI and has a reasonably useful feel to it.
No Multitask? Really?
The most surprising missing feature is that Windows Phone 7 includes no multitasking. That really should be the last sentence. The entire OS functionality falls on this point. Not even the poor multitasking of the iOS is included-nothing. This is worse than the fact that if you lock the screen, whatever app is loaded at the time the screen freezes and is lost making users reopen the app and reload the saved (we hope!) file or game.
No multitasking is a deal breaker and there is no word yet as to when Microsoft might decide to add the function. For Microsoft to be a “Johnny come lately” in the smartphone market is bad enough; to arrive without multitasking after giving the world a peek at Courier is massive failure. Windows Phone 7 will not be the “big come back” that Microsoft hoped for in the mobile market, or any other market for that matter.
Microsoft initially cornered the market with its perfect Windows Mobile OS for the millions of potential users who were already familiar with the Windows OS for computers so it is hard to understand how Microsoft, the most iconic operating system company in the world-the same company that practically invented the “PC” world-could have lost market dominance of the mobile OS. Up against Android and iOS, Windows Phone 7 is not taking even third place in the running, not with Symbian and BlackBerry OS still on the market.
Chris De Herrera, “Windows CE/Windows Mobile Versions,” Pocket PC FAQs
Matt Hamblen, “Balmer: We ‘screwed up with Windows Mobile,'” Computer World
Joshua Topolsky, “Windows Phone 7 Review,” Engadget
BitMod Dev, “Metro UI BETA,” Android Freeware