Microsoft, perhaps being too complacent or just ignorant, failed to react in a timely manner when Apple’s iPhone took the storm in 2007. In an interview, CEO Steve Ballmer outright laughed at the prospect of the iPhone, commenting that at $500, it’s the most expensive phone in the world, and without a keyboard, it wouldn’t appeal to business customers.
Of course, after witnessing the overwhelming popularity of the iPhone, the Redmond-based software giant dumped its Windows Mobile platform to build a more competitive platform, with a whole new interface that’s unlike any of the existing mobile operating system out there. Windows Phone.
The new mobile OS debuted with several well-known manufacturers in 2010, such as Samsung, HTC, LG, and Dell. But it wasn’t until Microsoft partnered with Nokia, an ailing mobile phone manufacturer that’s desperate for new blood to replace its dying Symbian platform, did the media and consumers took so much interest in Windows Phone.
Many outsiders, myself included, thought that Nokia should have at least given Android a try, instead of going all in with Windows Phone. Nokia, as far as I’m concerned, makes some of the best-designed phones with top-tier hardware, and it’s really disheartening to see the direction it’s taking after the inception of the iPhone and the crop of Android smartphones.
Nokia’s Lumia line of Windows Phones proved me wrong. The Finnish-based company stands out like no other handset manufacturer with its Lumia 800, and more recently the 900. The Lumia’s polycarbonate unibody design with Windows Phone’s Metro interface is a match made in heaven.
It’s still too early to tell, but by having a close partner that’s as competent as Nokia hardware wise, Microsoft doesn’t have to worry about being sidelined by other manufacturers that are enjoying massive success with Android. Nokia, on the other hand, is able to differentiate itself without the need of customizing an “Android skin” that no one would appreciate.
By being late into the game, Microsoft has a chance to learn all the mistakes done by Google on Android, and if it could avoid the same mistakes, Windows Phone could be a viable choice for users who’re either frustrated with their existing platform, or looking for a drastic change.
Presently, it appears that fragmentation isn’t quite a problem yet on Windows Phone, with Microsoft imposing a strict guideline on the hardware requirement on manufacturers. However, just like Android, Microsoft couldn’t send software updates directly to Windows Phone users without first getting the nod from the carriers.
So far, Microsoft is not selling a lot of Windows Phones. However, it turns out that those who took the plunge are very happy with the platform. In PC Mag’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2012, Windows Phone 7 scored 8.7 out of 10 in terms of consumer satisfaction, the same score as Apple’s iOS, which is pretty impressive for Microsoft’s relatively young mobile platform.
Windows 8, Instead of Windows Phone, On Tablet
Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket, they say. Microsoft is doing exactly opposite of that. Instead of extending the Windows Phone platform to tablets, like iOS and Android did, Microsoft is doing the unthinkable: build a new interface on top of Windows 8, and develop Windows on ARM.
Brilliant, as that’s the fastest way Microsoft can make a presence in the tablet realm, although it may cost the company many disgruntled customers who aren’t happy with Metro on traditional PCs.
By forcing Metro on all future PC buyers, Microsoft is able to build a large user base for its pseudo tablet platform almost effortlessly. That’s the first step in solving the chicken-and-egg problem. With the number, the company can then convince developers to work on Metro apps for Windows 8.
A sleek OS with a healthy ecosystem could only lead to sales. And by healthy ecosystem, I mean both quality and quantity. Android tablets may seem to have the number, but quality wise, most of the apps aren’t stellar to say at least.
For some reasons, many Android developers think that as long as their Android app can run on a tablet, they have a tablet app. Wrong. When a user is running your app on a tablet, he wants to perform that task on a tablet, not a smartphone. If all he’s looking at is an oversized smartphone app on his tablet, what exactly is the point of using a tablet then?
Microsoft evaded this problem by separating its tablet and smartphone platform. Developers are forced to build a tablet and a smartphone app separately for Microsoft’s platform, and that could ensure that Windows tablet apps are built with a tablet in mind, and not a smartphone.
The result: An app ecosystem filled with native tablet apps that is functional, efficient, and beautiful. Basically, everything that’s false on an Android tablet (with a few exceptions). IDC predicts that Android tablets will ship more than Apple’s iPad by 2016, without taking Windows 8 and Windows on ARM tablets into the picture.
Provided that the pathetic state of Android tablet apps doesn’t change, it’s totally possible for Windows tablets to go hot on the tail of Android tablets in coming years, dashing any hopes for Android to emerge as the dominant platform on tablets.
Both Windows Phone and Windows 8 are the first organized and controlled mobile platform that will be available through various manufacturers. The fact that they are not copycats would have an impact too. Given enough time, I firmly believe that they will pose a great threat to Android, and to a lesser extend, iOS.
Windows on ARM tablet concept: Jonas Daehnert