Today the first reviews of the Nokia Lumia 900 were posted online. In summary a lot of writers liked what they saw; the 900 is a beautiful piece of hardware with a responsive OS. There were of course negative aspects; the apps are not there, features are missing, and the hardware is not the latest gen. This post is not about the Lumia 900; but about Windows Phone’s future as a Platform.
When Nokia showed the Lumia 800, people said that Windows Phone had finally found its hero device; a model that would be the flagship of the platform. Back then and now I felt that that kind of sentiment was a distraction to the task at hand which was building up Windows Phone as a credible ecosystem. When Microsoft decided to rebuild its mobile platform it knew (or should’ve known) it was taking on a lot of risks. It was scrapping the decade of work that was Windows Mobile; it would be alienating longtime users and be going directly into the consumer market. Microsoft also changed the rules in which a device that ran its operating systems or OS would be designed; now there would be a minimum specification, changing the diversity of the hardware ecosystem. And all this would happen in a market where Apple and Google have the lion’s share of the mobile market.
Now a lot of tech and gadget writers, I guess, expected everything to move faster. Just today the Business Insider was asking how long would Microsoft go before scrapping Windows Phone. I’m not disagree about the need to move quickly, but given all that’s happened with the platform, everybody needs to come to grips with certain realities.
To be blunt, Windows Phone’s becoming a viable platform with a robust ecosystem will take time. It won’t live or die because of Nokia; the Lumia line isn’t a panacea. In fact Nokia isn’t putting all its eggs in the Windows Phone basket; so if they leave one day don’t act surprised. Windows Phone is going to have to fight to get software makers to build applications for its phones. To most developers its Apple first, Android (possibly) second, and a question mark for everybody else. And while Nokia has shown up with good hardware most mobile OEMs have not. If Microsoft is lucky Samsung and HTC will put out a device built from a design originally for Android.
On the software side of things, we have the problem of developers, developers, developers not giving a shit about design, design, design. The Metro interface is well regarded by the tech community, but is poorly implemented by the developer community. I mean remember these are Windows devs and they are the epitome of function over style. Some don’t want to learn design they just want to make the app. Another issue is the half assed way some companies port applications over to Windows Phone. Now this isn’t just a problem on Windows Phone (its an issue for everything shipping without an iOS sticker). You get Twitter and Facebook but they poorly port features and don’t update apps. And in regards to gaming most of the big name developers use native code (C++) which isn’t supported on Windows Phone. The big issue here is that Windows Phone needs Apple developers (who don’t use Microsoft tech but make the apps people want) and keep Microsoft devs (who use their tech but don’t value design) with them.
The other hurdle is a combination of Mobile carriers and handset makers. Carriers are an issue because of updates. While Apple can and does ship out updates without Carrier approval; Windows Phones can’t. They have to submit their updates to Carriers for testing on their networks. And even if they pass it doesn’t mean you can get the update. For example ATT is skipping two updates one of which is a bug fix. Mobile networks don’t want to support your existing phone they want you on a new one every 2 years. With the handset manufacturers the issue is how do they differentiate their product. The easiest ways are to “skin” or change the interface or concentrate on spec. Both of these are hard to do on Windows Phone; so OEMs don’t really go all out.
This is the world Windows Phone wakes up to and frankly it sucks.
Windows Phone will not have an easy road nor easy victories. The way to success will be slow and the benchmarks of making it a solid platform will constantly shift; from copy/paste to multi-tasking. It needs developers creating apps and not just functioning, they need to be compelling. Pont blank you need design focused people on Windows Phone and you need the big software vendors to build them (and not just ports). Microsoft needs to allow for differing screen sizes, resolutions, and chips. They also will have to support native code. Now these are things supposedly coming in Windows Phone 8. I’d also add that Metro needs updating on the phone. I love Metro but Microsoft cannot sit and be complacent with the UI. I think they should work on not just refining the UI,but think about customization, Hub integration, and features. Windows Phone still has a way to go.
Lumia 900 Reviews