David Aronchick

Guest Commentary: The tale of Microsoft killing its Courier tablet project is both riveting and familiar. With Microsoft making two-thirds of its revenue from enterprises, it comes as no surprise that the company would protect that golden goose by sacrificing even a potentially world-changing innovation. And, now that Microsoft is playing catch-up, all future offerings will be measured not just against the success of the iPad (which will be both enormously larger in volume and revenue for YEARS), but against the lost opportunity of having done nothing else for years.

While we wait for Windows 8 next year (or the next), let’s see whether or not they have learned anything by looking at their most recent attempt to change the world: the Windows Phone.

I am a bit of a Microsoft junkie. After working there for six years, I know how hard the folks at Microsoft work. They do their best to make products their customers love, and I like to reward their hard work. I was the last person at my startup Hark to use Outlook exclusively (even on my Mac), I still carry a Zune around, and I am the only non-Microsoft person I know to own and use a Windows Phone.

My review? First and foremost, it is an extremely well-thought-out and usable phone; if it was not for the iPhone or Android, this would be on the cover of every magazine as an absolute game-changer. And I am far more productive on the Windows Phone than I am on iPhone and Android – it’s far more focused on tasks than on apps, and nicely merges together things that would otherwise be annoying silos.

Unfortunately, the reality is that Windows Phone is fighting for single-digit percentages of market share. And, while Microsoft’s goals are modest in the near term, Windows Phone has but two vectors for success to avoid the demise of the Kin or Zune: Killer hardware and universal developer support. Anything but homeruns in these facets of the product will result in disaster. Let’s take look at how they’re doing.

Killer Hardware: B-

The team behind the Courier talked a lot about all the customization required from the hardware side to make a product customers love. Getting the product right requires a bunch of the right bets:

  • Right weight
  • Right dimensions
  • Right battery-life
  • Right responsiveness
  • and most of all, the right LOOK.

And this was RIGHT; these decisions were CRITICAL to the success of the device. The devices we carry around now are no longer merely tools – they are who we are. These devices are in our pictures (not just taking them), they match our clothes and determine the size of the accessories we can carry over our shoulders. If Microsoft allows itself to just ship software and let the market determine the hardware, its products will not be competitive.

The Windows Phones that have already shipped have been mostly good, but they scream, “we’ll take it 75% of the way there and let phone makers take it the rest.” Microsoft hit it out of the park with Xbox, but, sadly, getting burned on Zune and having a culture of “we don’t do hardware” has led them to conclude that they will never own the phone and experience end-to-end the way that Apple does.

This is a mistake.

Windows Phone camera viewfinder

Even with phenomenal reviews like this, Windows Phone devices are still not religious enough about the end-to-end user experience, and the ultimate quality will suffer, sooner or later. Take my phone, for example. Microsoft touted the instant picture, even from lock screen, as a killer feature – and it’s fantastic. Or, at least, it should be if the hardware was implemented right. My phone? Maybe one out of every ten times I hit the button, the camera comes up. It ultimately may be HTC’s fault (I am using an HTC Trophy), but I do not blame HTC, I blame Microsoft. It is not my job, as an end user, to establish where the fault lies; if Microsoft wants to win, they need to take complete ownership of my experience with the phone. Here, they clearly failed.

Their only hope is to have an insanely-detailed hardware guideline spec for literally EVERY user experience — AND enforce it. Off by more than 2% on wake from sleep? No go. More than a 0.1 mm gap between the microUSB port and the shell? Back to the lab. To win in consumer devices, you MUST pitch something larger than just number of cores and megabytes of memory; you are selling the whole package. On this, I agree with MG Siegler (rare but it happens): Specs Are Dead. Either commit yourself to that mission, or end up with Frankenstein’s monster of half implemented (and unsold) phones.

Universal Developer Support: C+

Every developer in the world needs to not just be interested in making Windows Phone apps, but be actively pursuing them. Every. Single. One. If there is one out there who thinks “I’ll get to a Windows Phone version eventually, if at all,” then Microsoft has lost.

I know that there’s a default opinion inside Microsoft that says, “We have a Twitter app, we have a Facebook app, what’s the problem?” Go to iTunes and type in Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or RSS Reader. Hundreds of choices. Saying “We have one that meets your requirements” is like telling everyone you get as much delicious chocolate ice cream as you want. Some people will love it, but it is not a solution for everyone. Why are more choices needed? Because every different app of them will meet at least one user’s needs perfectly. Every app may not earn a million downloads, but having the app that YOU love is the kind of thing that wins loyalty forever.

In terms of developer tools, Microsoft is off to a solid start; I would bet on Visual Studio as the development environment to beat vs. Eclipse or XCode any day of the week. And if there’s one thing that Microsoft knows how to do well, it’s help people build rich client software. The biggest stumbling block here is getting developers to see the value in doing so; with the Windows Phone a distant fourth in the market, it is very hard to make a case to spend precious developer time building a version of your app for the phone. If I were Microsoft, I would drive a dump-truck full of money up to the doors of the top 100,000 app makers, and make it a ridiculously easy choice to port to (or, better yet, release first on) the Windows Phone.

This is also a perfect example of a thousand lead bullets vs. a single silver one. I could practically hear people high-fiving across the lake when they got Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on Windows Phone. As they say in philosophy, that is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for victory. When the #1 game engine decides not to support your phone, it shows just how far you have to go. Efforts like offering Windows Phone buyers $25 app gift cards (BTW, why am I being punished because I bought mine 5 months ago?) do help by putting money DIRECTLY into the hands of the creators, but that is still not enough. Think hundreds of millions of dollars. Dump-trucks full of money.

So that is it. Nail those two or lose the phone wars. The Courier team knew that. I wonder if that knowledge will be lost now that the team has disbanded (and their leader has left the company).

Also interesting: Many of the areas Microsoft USUALLY focuses on are NOT part of the equation. For example:

  • Winning enterprises: I bet Steve Ballmer would give a billion dollars to take back his comment that “iPhone will have no chance of gaining significant market share.” I know what he was thinking — no Active Directory integration, no keyboard, this looks nothing like a Blackberry = lose. But employees have woken up to the fact that they are also consumers — and consumers want nice devices. RIM’s downfall in enterprises is proof point number one. Focus on consumers and what they want, not the IT department. (Hint: if Microsoft EVER starts talking about Active Directory as a winning feature, they are doing it wrong).
  • Making your Operating System “the best/most feature rich/blah blah blah”: iPhone did not have copy-and-paste or a decent notification system for YEARS, and that did not slow its adoption one iota. Focus on great user experience, and deal with the feature checkbox later (if at all). And I would avoid talking about features your phone has but no one uses because the UX could not be understood by people with PhDs in computer science (I’m looking at you, Craig Mundie). Reminds me of Raymond Chen’s Essay about how the guts of the Calculator and Notepad had changed dramatically, but the UI has not, so no one noticed. It just does not matter how sweet your multi-core, UI-priority threading features are — perception is reality. Microsoft, take whatever resources you have available and put them on features that people can see.
  • Making Carriers Happy: Mobile OS manufacturers bent over backwards to support all the many, many, many requirements of the carriers and that led to years of subpar and forced application installations. iOS changed the game; they not only do not have a great relationship with carriers, one might even say it is antagonistic. Contrast that with Android, who has a million phones with every carrier under the sun, and is taking installs like mad, and all that has led to is hideous fragmentation. I am going to bet that this is going to cause a lot of pain for Google in the not-too-distant future. Focus on what the people who buy your product care about, not the networks they run on. Oh, and by the way, I NEVER like the carrier version of apps. NEVER. EVER. They do not know how to build software. Do NOT let them on your phone. I would also prefer no device manufacturer versions either, but that will never happen. Somehow, they think that is going to be the differentiation for why I buy one product over another. IT NEVER IS.

Microsoft tries to tackle so much every time they launch any new product. Their desire to do everything at once leads to a jumble that almost never works. When it comes to pure software, no one does a better job catching up and beating the competition. But in the world of end-to-end joy, I wonder whether Microsoft will sharpen its focus before it is too late. That is, if it’s not too late already.

Follow-up by GeekWire’s Todd Bishop: Windows Phone: Why apps are still the big stumbling block

David Aronchick is the founder and CEO of Hark, an Internet media company that lets people create, share and listen to entertaining, informative and timely sound bites online and through mobile devices. He was previously a senior product manager at Microsoft on products including Windows and Internet Explorer. You can follow him on twitter, google plus, on the Hark company blog or his personal blog.

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  • Anonymous

    This really caught my eye: “I am far more productive on the Windows Phone than I am on iPhone and Android.” Any chance you could explain this? I’d be very interested to know what the WinPhone offers versus the other guys in this category.

    • Gary Voth

      Part of the reason is explained here: http://gizmodo.com/5472010/windows-phone-7-interface-microsoft-has-out+appled-apple.  This was written about the original Windows Phone 7 OS; Microsoft’s data-centric user experience has only improved (and most of the feature gaps closed) with Windows Phone 7.5.

    • David Aronchick

      Gary’s exactly right… i can click on a person, see all tweets, all calendars, emails, etc in a single place. The interconnected-ness of apps (and the back button!) just makes things much smoother.

    • http://www.miguelcarrasco.com Miguel Carrasco

      Here is why I am far more productive on the Windows Phone. http://youtu.be/CtM5zQN8p74. Basically makes iOS look ancient.

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      Oh, one thing I forgot to mention which is PHENOMENALLY productive is the suggested spelling… holy cow it is SO much better than the single word suggestion model


      #1 thing i miss when using anything else.

  • Gary Voth

    David, certainly, Microsoft has to work harder in many areas if it wants to emerge as a mobile industry leader in the coming years.

    However, I want to point out that Microsoft’s “limiting” hardware requirements for Windows Phone are in fact very consumer-driven. Unlike the Windows Mobile (or Android) paradigm, where OEMs wrote their own drivers and other software and thus each phone worked a bit differently, the phones often crashed or froze, and the device maker could choose not to provide OS updates, with Windows Phone Microsoft has written much of the HW device interface. This HW/SW consistency leads Windows Phones to be very stable, to offer a consistent user experience, and and ALL of them are receiving software upates from Microsoft.

    To underscore this difference, just today Samsung announced that the popular Galaxy S smartphone would not be receiving the much anticipated Android 4.0 upgrade because they are unwilling to port their proprietary TouchWiz user interface. Lots of Android fans are going to be be upset by this.

    Windows Phone ditches the PC/Android model of HW/SW integration (where it’s all Wild West, all of the time), in an attempt to provide something new: an “Apple-like” mobile experience across hardware from a range of providers. It’s only by enforcing some HW consistency (within a particular generation of phone chassis) that this becomes possible.

    Still, you are right that Microsoft needs to move faster to get onto new HW platforms.  Windows Phone not having LTE is a big problem now as carriers seek to promote HW that sells their emerging network services. (Perhaps we’ll see some news on this front at CES.)

    Re. developers, I tend to agree, but I think Microsoft is actually doing a heck of a lot to win the hearts and minds of developers. What is lacking is customers; revenue opportunity is by far the biggest developer motivator.

    I believe by far the biggest issue Microsoft faces with Windows Phone is carrier and device maker disinterest in promoting the platform. Windows Phone is losing in the retail channel. I believe this is due to two reasons:

    1. The poor experience that nearly everyone had trying to promote touch devices based on Windows Mobile 6 (with their awful resistive touch screens) to compete with the early iPhone. Customers were unhappy, carriers were unhappy, retailers were unhappy, and device makers were unhappy. 

    2. The basic fact that Android is more attractive to both carriers and device makers because it is less restrictive and can be freely modified, controlled and customized (Carrier IQ, anyone?). 

    One way for Microsoft to change this dynamic is by dramatically improving consumer demand. Customers have to be walking into carrier stores and asking for a Windows Phone (or a Nokia Lumia), as they do iPhones. (Easier said than done, of course.)

    If Nokia can create a hit product or two and Microsoft can execute well on Windows 8, consumers may start to connect the dots and see the benefits of Windows Phone within larger Microsoft ecosystem that includes their future PCs, tablets and game consoles. 


    In any case, Windows Phone deserves to be successful. It is in my opinion the best and most consumer-friendly product Microsoft has ever built.  People who actually try it tend to love it, and for good reason.

    • David Aronchick

      Great thoughts … i think it’s funny to say WP “deserves” to be successful…. would that everything that “deserves” to be successful, was :)

      I’ve heard the carrier lack of promotion many times, but this seems like a red herring. I’ve been into the Verizon store and seen the phone shunted to the side, but who walks into a carrier store without SOME idea of what to buy? AT&T didn’t push iPhone… Apple did. Google advertised the heck out of Android to pump up demand. This is on MS.

      And in re: WM6, until you mentioned it, i had completely forgetten they even tried a resistive touch screen. I promise that the average consumer couldn’t care less… if they cared about 2 year old+ phones, they would never have given Android a second chance after the terrible G1.

      • http://twitter.com/Alishsayd Alisher

        No, Google didn’t spend nearly as much in ad dollars as Verizon and Motorola did on the DROID brand. So it has to be the OEM+Carrier spending 80% and WP chipping in with 20%. The economics of selling software license simply doesn’t make the model you’re talking about sustainable.

    • Anonymous

      Customers have to be walking into carrier stores and asking for a Windows Phone (or a Nokia Lumia), as they do iPhones. (Easier said than done, of course.) ”

      It’s been documented in a few stories around the net that even if you do go into a store asking for a Windows Phone, the “sales rep” will try to talk you out of it and push you toward phone X that will help the hit their numbers for the day.


      You go into any store and ask a rep what the features of  WP are and they won’t have an intelligent answer for you. This partly their employers fault and partly their fault. There is a lack of education about WP to say the least. 

    • Anonymous

      sticky this one and QFT.

      (although fact and reason can’t match catchy headlines)

  • Björn Sveinbjörnsson

    I am a developer and have been programming professionally since 1987. Much of it on MS platforms. Even taught windows programming at college using the Win API and later MFC.
    There is no way that I will program for the WP and the reason is simple. C# and CLR.
    I do not want anything between my compiled code and the tiny CPU that is on the phone. I have native code on the iPhone (Obj-C) and the Android via the Native Dev kit.
    I am sure Microsoft used C/C++ when they wrote their applications for the WP including the fantastic MS Office. Why should I opt tor anything less powerful. Try to develop something advanced such as Fast Fourier Transforms on audio and you know what I mean.
    The developer story is really, really bad. My guess is that MS is is the process of developing a new phone OS based on the same kernel as Win8 and phasing out the old one based on WinCE which powers the WP.
    Which is another reason to wait with development activities until the new OS is shipping.

    Anyway. Enough of this rant. Back to my Mac programming (in Objective-c).

    Happy Hollidays,

    • Anonymous

      *Ahem*, you *do* realize that a huge bloat of a java virtual machine sits between your Android code and the CPU, right?

      Did you even *try* to develop FFT on audio on C# and were dissatisfied with the result or you are just supposing that “it will not work”??

      And regarding waiting for version 8. Again, you *do* realize that even if the kernel changes *nothing* will change regarding development in managed code? 

      The developer story will change drastically when Win8 ships as every win8 metro program will be easily transported to a wp program….Boom! This is end of story right there….

      • Björn Sveinbjörnsson

        Ahem. Not when I am using the native device toolkit. Only when you are using Dalvik.


        • Anonymous

          From: http://developer.android.com/sdk/ndk/overview.html

          “The NDK will not benefit most applications. (…) using native code does not result in an automatic performance increase, but always increases application complexity. In general, you should only use native code if it is essential to your application, not just because you prefer to program in C/C++.”

          I think this puts a stop to any allusions about coding natively in Android….. From the horses mouth….

          I realize that you have used C# in some traditional windows fashion but your deduction that the speed difference on *WP* will be the same is simply wrong… Try it first and form an opinion later…. And if you ask mine I can tell you: C# is super-fast as is all managed code running in WP. EVEN for compute intensive stuff. EVEN on a single core.

          • Björn Sveinbjörnsson

            So. I only have to implement again what I have working in C and C++. I’m sorry. Life is too short.


          • Anonymous

            No worries. We’ll take the customer’s cash for you! Win8 metro will be a huge market after all…. :-)

        • David Aronchick

          I understand that’s what you want, but I think it’s a mistake. Let’s compare to the brouhaha over Android performance –


          When Dianne Hackborn basically says “We’ve done what we should to get perf right, it’s just that devs aren’t using the tools”, you should probably NOT be inventing your own tools and/or going direct to hardware.

          DON’T DO IT. I promise that the performance gain you get out of your work will not pay off in the long term reliability/maintanence/etc hit.

          • Björn Sveinbjörnsson

            What language do you think Microsoft used for MS Office for WP?

            I do not for one minute think they used C#.


          • http://hark.com David Aronchick

            agreed, some (not all) of MS Office is probably not managed, but you are 1 dev who probably does not sit next to the guys writing the kernel. suffice it to say I would not compare your dev experience with theirs.

          • Björn Sveinbjörnsson

            I am but a humble developer. Not the kernel one. Only writing applications where sound, language and linguistics are used. Think spell checking for dyslectic people. I need all the processing power a platform can give me. Like I said before. I am not the only one.


            The WP platform in its current state does not give the power I need.

            And I do not tolerate being treated as a second class citizen.

            And you wonder why developers flock to Linux and opens source platforms. I will tell you why. There we can pick and choose instead of being feed with MBA / PM sellers smooth talk.


          • http://hark.com David Aronchick

            But developers also flock to iOS and you have none of the flexibility there. Have you given up on iPhone?

          • Björn Sveinbjörnsson

            No. I have not given up on the iPhone though the iPad is more important to us. Our product started on the desktop. First on Windows and then I helped port it to OSX. iOS is next.

            It is true that the iOS platform policies are not so great and the App-Store policies are not so great.

            But. Much of OSX is in iOS and I have the raw power of C in Objective-C. So. The CPU is mine and the memory is mine as long as I handle it with care. A bit like the old days with TSR programming in DOS if you do remember.


          • Gary Voth

            I get where you are coming from, but fundamentally, the phone is not like the PC. (In fact, in the future, the PC may not be like the PC.)

            A managed software environment enables consumer devices such as phone and tablets to provide a much more stable, secure, and consistent user experience, and to be far less prone to unexplained crashes, malware and viruses.

            One reason that the iPhone and iPad have redefined computing expectations has to do with their simplicity, stability, consistence of user experience, and freedom (so far) from malware. They don’t come with all of the “baggage” that the PC (Mac or Windows) has. Like it or not, this is the future.

            The WinRT environment for Windows 8 is entirely managed; if this is successful, in 5 years most PC software could be written for that environment rather than for Win32, and much of the inexplicable behaviors of past and present PCs may seem like a bad dream.

            We will see.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeindustries Mike Davidson

    I think there’s a third vector too: an affordable monthly plan. Right now, Virgin Mobile is the only company with anything close to an affordable monthly smartphone plan. Every single person with either an iPhone or a Windows Phone or a non Virgin Android phone is paying a crazy high fee every month just to own a smart phone. My girlfriend and I barely use our phones for voice at all and our combined bill is $170 a month through Verizon. If Microsoft entered into a deal with, say, Sprint, to offer 2-5 years of service at $20 a month, that would bring a lot of people over. It would cost Microsoft a lot of money in subsidies but it would give them a visible, objective advantage over their peers.

    • David Aronchick

      I remember working through some unique ways to compete back in the day, and I loved the idea of buying down monthly costs as a marketing tool – I think I’d sign up if it was $25 a month for 5 years with new phones every 20 months, that would sound like a hell of a plan. And fairly cheap to do, I’d imagine – maybe $100M? A lot cheaper than a ginormous marketing scheme (of questionable returns)…

  • Yoshili

    Great article. Well said. I had 3 wm phones and now have iPhone 4s. My first, Smt5600 was superior to what was out there at the time. The next wm was okay. My last wm, htc tilt2 was soooo bad, I jumped ship because i was not willing to endure another two years of a possibly I have never owned an apple product ever til this 4s. I am coming to really understand the apple philosophy and began embracing it. Anything is possible

    • John Wilkes

      WM != Windows Phone, they are ENTIRELY different

      • http://hark.com David Aronchick

        Exactly… and another huge challenge for MS to overcome – not having people associate with the Windows Mobile platform!

  • Anonymous

    Catchy headline but not great analysis beyond Captain Obvious. What will allow the 2 ways is actually worldwide carrier support and more importantly… REAL support by the 4 USA carriers. Right now CDMA support is woefully absent which limits USA market by 60% (sprint & verizon) if not more. Having 100% developer support would not change this dynamic.

    Your requirements (to survive) will come by default. Developers follow the $$$… see that little piece of software shipping on 95% of computers sold by next fall (windows 8) as well.Then see Mango devices on AT&T for example for premium hardware shipping for weeks or see Nokia at CES).You can’t bribe developers or pin 100% of success on a game engine that might have 2 hour battery life and undercut xbox live efforts. Yawn..

    FYI – Courier had no place in market anywhere worldwide, thankfully JA was shown the door the guy was an embarrassment like that Zune tattoo poster child slob. Any article that wreaks of wunderlust for such drivel as Courier raises red flags however.

    MS needs a few quality VERIZON WP7 (LTE) devices by spring 2012 to begin to gain
    market share. Not a rocket science. Until then don’t bother doing the

    Making billions per quarter MS can afford to let WP bleed for years (decades) so no worries about “surviving”.

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      As you can see by my last point, i think trying to satisfy the carriers is a red herring, and any focus thereon would be a disaster. Happy carriers do not happy customers make – and AT&T hates Apple (and vice versa).

      In Re: Courier’s place, the 59 million people receiving an ipad THIS YEAR would like to have a word with you about whether or not it’d have a place in this world.

      And in re: “surviving”, the kin and zune teams would like to have a word with you as well. Just because MS has billions doesn’t mean they don’t kill products that could have a chance EVENTUALLY (overlooking OSD, of course).

    • Guest

      You’re ignoring phones and tablets in your 95% of computers sold by next fall figure. Smartphones + tablets already exceeded PC this year, for the first time. Developers aren’t stupid. Are they going to invest their time in a platform that has taken several decades to get to 350MM units a year and is growing at <5%, or one that is already over 200MM after just a couple of years and growing at several 100%?

  • JA ONeill

    Great insights David.  Thanks for the analysis.

  • Anonymous

    Nokia is delivering the killer hardware. As for developer support, this is work in progress. The number of registered developers for WP platform are increasing every week. Follow the stats on this site (last graph) and we are also approaching 50k apps in the marketplace:


  • Guest

    Good, thought provoking article. Apps that properly leverage Metro and killer hardware are required. But it seems like it’s too late for MS, both in mobile and tablets. Initial arrogance and hopeless competitive threat assessment, combined with subsequent incompetence and ignorance that thought the company could wait THREE years before responding in either, have conspired to make the task of challenging for leadership effectively impossible. MS hasn’t successfully come back from behind against Apple in any market this past decade. And unless Android crumbles under the weight of legal issues, incompatibilities, OEM concern about MMI competing against them, or regulatory action against Google coming out of the UE, they have effectively secured the traditional Windows role in these markets.

    MS seems to be coming to this conclusion as well. The recent raft of apps for iPhone and iPad, and news that Office is being considered as well, looks like an admission of defeat. And I don’t know how MS’s traditional Windows and Office business can continue to thrive in a world where phones and tablets OSes are dominated by others.

    Despite a decade of mistakes to chose from, mobile and tablets are Ballmer’s failure magnus opus.

  • Guest

    “We love our strategy. The board loves our strategy”

    – Steve Ballmer

  • Corrosion

    Interesting article. Two quibbles, though. If the iPhone didn’t exist, MS would have never made WP7.

    Second, I develop for iOS & .NET and I feel you are far too quick to crown Visual Studio as “the one too beat.” I use both (VS & Xcode) regularly and there’s nothing particularly spectacular about VS. In fact, it fails at some very basic use cases where Xcode excels, like SVN/Git support, code analysis, and contextually & semantically aware editing. VS is also slow & somewhat buggy, or at least more buggy than Xcode.

    It’s subjective, but I’d take Xcode over VS any day.

    • Guest

      And if MS hadn’t been working on tablets circa 2000, Apple would never have embarked on iPad, which along the way spawned iPhone.

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      You are absolutely right … The phone that currently exists without the courage and bold moves of the original iPhone. Before that no one thought you could even do multitouch on a device that small, which was obviously critical.

      I’m surprised to hear you say that about VS. the source code integration does blow, but I admit I do all that from the command line. I am interested in your thoughts on where the semantic analysis falls down – where have you had an issue?

      • Guest

        “Before that no one thought you could even do multitouch on a device that small, which was obviously critical.”

        Inaccurate. There were other multitouch phones before iPhone. For example the LG Prada and the N97.

        • http://hark.com David Aronchick

          I don’t disagree it was out there, but much like Craig Mundie said “Windows Phone has had voice recognition” – there’s a difference between having tech, and making available for the masses.

          Plus, didn’t the N97 come out in mid 2008, after the iPhone had launched, at $650? Hardly a competitor.


          • Guest

            I wasn’t denying that Apple made it popular. I was just correcting the statement that nobody else had thought of it. They had and did, specifically with the Prada phone. In fact if you want to restrict it to just touch, instead of multi-touch, that are other even earlier phone examples.

            On Mundie, what he said and what he’s been crucified for are two different things. While I agree that’s Siri’s natural language processing is currently the best in the industry, he was also correct that MS had been offering many of the same capabilities overall for a year. There are things Siri still can’t do that TellMe on WP can. And of course Siri is really Siri + Wolfram + Nuance, a fact that most reports forget to mention.

  • Jschaff

    I have to say as an Apple/Mac/iPhone/iPad devotee, this is the FIRST ESSAY/analysis I have read ANYWHERE that dispassionately explains and calls out any other provider whether it be hardware or software to what makes Apple what it is. And he gives a great guide map that will describe what others will need to do to compete or flourish in this Apple Centric mobile tech world.

    You ALMOST convinced me to check it out. Ha!

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      Hah… High praise!

  • http://spacetimecruise.blogspot.com Udipta

    Having tons of apps would provide users with more choices for sure, but its up to Microsoft to avoid a paradox of choice situation

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      I think search/ordering in app stores are TERRIBLE. Huge impediment to innovation and new entrants!

  • GW fan

    David, Actually you alluded to Microsoft’s biggest challenging in your ending comments, ie Microsoft’s exec management. The company has plenty of talented people (though fewer than they used to), but with any real technical visionary the company is likely to always be late and only give 75%. Once Ballmer chanted “developers, developers, developers” but the company’s priority is not as strong and the competition does a reasonable job. As you note exec comments about the industry and competition also leave everyone scratching their heads.

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      Sadly, i think MS has lost its developer focus and mind share. Take IE for example – decoupled from Windows, they could make huge progress, and have a much richer add-on story, but as is, they have an enormous dependency that Chrome and FF will never have.

  • http://twitter.com/suhaildutta Suhail Dutta

    Great article David. 

    Interestingly enough – your point about IE reminded me that rather than the native vs. managed argument, the main reason we don’t have something on Windows phone is the lack of webkit on current windows phones.I suppose the more general way to say this would be the lack of html / css standards that let us build much faster on the other 2 phone types.

    This has been addressed somewhat in Mango and I’m sure will get much better as the next version ships – but we have to wait for Win8 to get HTML5 compliance. I’m assuming the phone version of that compliance will come after.

    The OS is a pleasure to use and for various reasons I actually wish I could rationalize the time to port our app to Windows phone.

  • Philipp

    You point out “it’s [WP7/Metro UI] far more focused on tasks than on apps” <– while that may be an advantage for end users (or not), how helpful is this UI strategy in trying to win the app developers? After all, as a developer I wouldn't want my app to increase the value of WP7 with limited visibility of my own app.

    • http://hark.com David Aronchick

      I think that app makers are always scurrying around, trying to avoid getting run over by the OS steamroller (as nicely summarized in an article here – http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2009/06/10c.html). However, the integration i’m talking about here is more with the core data/features (FB, Twitter, Messaging, Phone, Address Book Data, etc) that if you, as an app building, are playing with fire if you’re building.

  • Paul Prescod

    My thoughts are a bit long for the comments, so I added them here:


  • cpsltwr

    Frankly, with a couple of partial exceptions all these are either things that they have already been doing for the last few years, or obvious things that are extremely easy to say and extremely hard to do.

    To start with, it is elementary for any attempt at building a hardware / software platform / ecosystem that your two biggest goals are getting hardware makers to put their resources into building great hardware on your platform, and getting software makers to put their resources into building great software on your platform. So this is sort of like saying “the two (and only two) ways the Blues can win hockey games: (1) score goals (2) prevent the other team from scoring goals”. The basic goals are trivially obvious, but it’s all in the details and execution.

    Also, your “things not to focus on” are things they haven’t been focused on for some time. WP7 and 7.5 have been the polar opposite of enterprise and feature-richness obsessed. If anything, they’ve been criticized for going too far in the opposite direction, with WP7.0 widely ridiculed for choosing to leave out features like copy and paste and multitasking to focus on having a smaller but better-polished featureset.

    So I’m not sure where the new insight in this article is supposed to be.

  • Lason1864

    Microsoft’s innovation cripples other’s innovation. I am so thankful for Apple, Google, and Palm (WebOS). I am thankful that there are other players in town and not only Microsoft.

  • Phil Doble

    Visual studio vs The Rest…
    XCode is free, Netbeans and Eclipse are free, Visual Studio costs £££££ (or $$$$ for our friends over the other side of the pond, from my perspecitve!). Not only that, the fact that VS takes 1/2 hour or more to install makes me very nervous – what is it doing to my system to take so long? And it even lacks features compared to, say Netbeans. So come on Micrsoft, let’s have have a free cross-platform development environment that can be installed in less than 5 minutes!

    • MarkusAnderson

      I use them all … none of them comes close to what VS offers.  After 27 years of building software, and using almost as many tools, languages, and IDEs I can say with a straight face “VS is the King.”

      • Phil Doble

        Depends what you want and what you use it for. If you want, for example, a file history, you have to buy an extra add-on with VS. Comes as standard with Netbeans. I have used both VS and Netbeans, and personally I find Netbeans to be a more productive and pleasant tool to work with. For other people, no doubt VS will be “King”, but for me it’s Netbeans. And I don’t have to break the bank to get it.

  • http://fadi.el-eter.com Fadi El-Eter

    I think the result of this battle was already determined. Google is not spending a penny in direct marketing over Android, Microsoft is spending billions, and the iPhone has started to lose market share.

  • MarkusAnderson

    As someone
    who has been creating mobile apps for 12 years I could not agree with you more
    (Palm, all versions of Windows, Symbian Series 40 & 60, BlackBerry since
    2003, Android since v1.6, all versions of iOS).

    The barometer
    for me is what platforms my clients request support for on new projects and
    ports on for older projects (over 130 delivered projects to 74 different
    clients) …. Windows Phone 7 has never been requested.

    The irony is
    I’ve designed, implemented, and delivered over 60 systems on every mobile
    Microsoft offering since the original Pocket PC – it used to be my most
    requested platform up until 2009. I have been watching a similar “trailing
    off” of demand for BlackBerry the past 2 years also. Demand for Symbian is
    all but extinct with my clientele.

    I wonder
    which of these will become the next Palm?


  • Billm

    I don’t understand how people do not see that Apple is/was leading the way and act as if the Windows phone, Android, windows 8 are new “revelations”.

    • MarkusAnderson

      iOS has done a great job, but point in fact iOS based handsets get to stand on the very tall shoulders from Palm, BlackBerry, and Microsoft.  These were the guys who started, molded, and defined mobile.  That being said, as I’ve discussed with many-a-client, “an application that has an excellent UX but low feature set will usually be more readily accepted than an “ugly duckling” but powerful app.” 

      Gartner and the other usual suspects are still thinking the market share will be in the following order:  Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian/Windows …. of course, this will change depending on RIM and Microsoft, and how they deal with their particular fates.

  • GWood

    What actually happens to the current crop of Windows Phone apps when/if Microsoft adopts Win8 Metro for the phone platform? I’ve spent a bit of time with the dev preview, and while the metro xaml experience is very SL-like, SL phone apps won’t run on metro. Not to mention, no XNA support.

  • Bassam

    does MS needs the 99$ per year from every participating developer? surely not , this is of course a barrier to entry, make it free for everyone to write applications and run it in the phone like they do in the PC right now and publish on marketplace for free or for say, 50$ for lifetime aubscription for 5 apps, then you will see the market share

  • Torjp

    I have moved from a iPhone to a Windows Phone in the past two months and love it. I tried to move my company from Blackberrys to Windows Phone but Telus was only offering incentives on the Blackberrys and iPhones. Seems like the carriers do not want to have to support a phone with only single digit market share. They obviously had a bias against the Windows Phone since it was less expensive than the iPhone and Blackberry. I would have had to pay a $6000 premium to have the 25 WindowsPhones.

  • lol

    lol, neither of the two are essential. Killer hardware comes by default from phone manufacurers while universal developer support is nonsense concept wise. Every OS has its own libraries and its own aproach, universal devloper support would negate all this and the entire purpose of having a different OS. Man, if you wanted Microsoft to join Google’s effort on Android, why don’t you say it straight? :)

  • Justme

    How about getting rid of WinCE (a most apropos acronym, btw!) and using something stable underneath it all…

  • Timothy

    I’m a small time app developer that makes mostly free crap that appeals to small audiences.  It’s just a hobby to me.  Both Apple and MS make it impractical for me to develop for them.  I don’t like the iPhone anyway, so I don’t really care.  And, frankly, Apple doesn’t give two hoots about me either, as they should.  When you own a market, you can make development demands that shut out small timers.  MS, however, doesn’t really have that luxury.  The fact is that developing for Windows Phone is cost prohibitive for the hobbiest unless you are fanboy willing to pay the gateway fees.  I’m not.  I gladly paid Google my measily $25 for a lifetime ability to put apps in their market.  For MS, I’d have to pay $100 per year for just a handful of apps per year.  Holy crap that’s expensive when you have little money to begin with!  I know the counter argument that it keeps a lot of the garbage apps out of WP that pollute Android, and yes, that’s probably true.  But the same end result could be achieved by taking an active approval/policing role without the giant price tag.  Even if it took a month to get my app to market on a free submission and even if they only allowed a couple free submissions per year, I wouldn’t care.  I’d still do it because it would be a fun hobby.  But as it stands, it’s too freaking expensive.  Oh, hai Google!  Yes, I will make more Android apps in the crappy Eclipse with no decent visual designers…because you are cheap.

  • Anonymous

    Nokia choosing Windows was somewhat of a big gamble,as people used to a Nokia Symbian phone an be able to send an recieve data between phones using Bluetooth was one of the Best selling points an using memory cards inside the phones you were keeping all your music an photos with you,an you could change the way the phone looked with Themes an Wallpapers,the with Windows you lose All the functions,so people will switch to Android phones because they are like a Symbian one,after having the N8 an want a change,you look at the Lumia 800 an Samsung Galaxy S2,an there only one phone you would want an thats the Samsung Galaxy S2 because you can do all the same as you did with the N8,an Windows as got to be changed until Symbian users will find the switch to more like they are used to

  • Terri

    Good information.  Thanks.  BTW “I would also prefer no device manufacturer versions either, but that will never happen.”  Versioning is not typically a marketing strategy, it’s a minimal functional requirements to market strategy.  Shorter cycle times. The question the product manager typically will be asked is, “What is the minimal marketable functionality (MMF) that is usable and viable that we can get out on the market quickly and then add to in the next version?”

  • Guest

    C++ support is 100% essential, and I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s hightlighting of this. MS is drinking its own lemonade if it thinks otherwise.

  • http://profiles.google.com/clive.boulton clive boulton

    priceless last 3 paragraphs…Focus on great user experience, and deal with the feature checkbox later (if at all).

  • John

    “And if there’s one thing that Microsoft knows how to do well, it’s help people build rich client software.”

    Seriously, are you going to try and convince us that Microsoft has helped companies make rich software?  How about bloated software that is usually full of bugs, memory leaks, random crashes.

    I am firmly convinced by history that Microsoft has only ever wanted to control 100% of the software market.

    DRDOS v Microsoft
    The Microsoft-PKWare debacle

    And now, low and behold IE9 requires you to stop explorer.exe to install itself.  I am willing to bet that once IE9 is installed you cannot remove it.  Going back to their old tricks again, 

    The only thing they have ever been good at is pouring money into pockets to get people to develop for them.  IBM made the mistake of not pouring out the dollars when they released OS2 Warp.  At the time it was far and away superior to any of the Windows flavors that were available.

    Just the 2 cents, well maybe a nickel’s worth, of a person who has followed the industry since 1983.  Wow, dating myself here.

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