First off I want to take a moment to say that I love Windows Phone 7. I have been and still am, as many of my friends would attest to, an avid proponent of this new mobile platform. That being said, I am starting to have serious doubts about its future. Not in the mobile operating system itself, I still passionately believe that the Windows Phone OS is the best Smartphone platform available today, but the way Microsoft is managing (or not managing) this new ecosystem.
As soon as Windows Phone was announced I was hooked. I read every article I could find, watched promo videos and downloaded the developer tools & SDK. I started development of a Windows Phone application and eagerly awaited the launch date.
When the launch date of 8 November was announced for Canada & the United States I was pleasantly surprised. Canadians normally have to wait weeks or months after a US product launches before we have access to them. It was also interesting that Europe was going to launch Windows Phone before the United States. I was tempted to order an unlocked phone from Europe just to get my hands on the phone early! I decided to wait and pick one up when the phones were officially supported by my carrier.
And wait I did …
As the 8th of November approached I started to drop in on and call my carrier on a regular basis. Each and every time, the response I received from the friendly Rogers sales person was perplexed expressions or confused responses. They had no idea what I was talking about. When I responded that Microsoft and the official Rogers web site stated that they would be offering the phone on 8 November their only rebuttal was that no one had notified them as of yet and to inquire again on a later date. I also noticed that none of the carriers (Rogers, Bell & Telus) were displaying posters or any kind of marketing campaign for Windows Phone either. It was like Canada, or at least my city, was living in an alternate universe where Windows Phone didn’t exist.
The 8th of November came and passed and still, no stores were caring the phone and the sales people continued to look at me with blank stares. Ones only hope was the official Rogers web site which was now displaying the new phone. You could purchase it from the site and have it delivered via mail, which I did eventually once I gave up on the stores.
Once I finally had the phone in my hands though, all was forgiven. The phone exceeded my expectations. I put down my iPhone 3GS that night, picked up my shinny new Samsung Focus, and never looked back. From here on, I thought, everything would be great. I mean sure, there was missing features and a few bugs but Microsoft had to rush to get the platform out to users and promised to update the phone with new features and bug fixes on a rapid and continuing basis. What was there to worry about?
It is now the middle of March and four going on five months have passed since the launch of Windows Phone. A single update was pushed to users in February, then retracted due to issues, and finally re-published later. Even now some users still don’t have the update. This update, nicknamed the “update update”, only modified the phones ability to process updates, no bugs were fixed and no features were added. The first substantial update called “No Donuts” or “NoDo” that is suppose to bring Copy & Paste, increased performance and a few bug fixes was announced in January. As I understand it, the update was actually completed by Microsoft back in December but has been unable to push it to customers due to carriers. The update was previously announced for release earlier this month (March) but was once again delayed until, we hope, later this month.
Transparency, in my opinion, is the crux of the issue. This is a new platform that was released early for good reason, to get the platform out into the world sooner rather than later. With the early release though, there were many known holes and issues. That’s fine because we, the customers, were told the platform would be updated and evolve over time. Now, whatever the definition of “over time” actually meant, the expectation was that updates would be provided frequently and whether Microsoft likes it or not, they will be compared to Apple in this respect.
As well as being a user of Window Phone, I am a software developer and have been for twelve years. I have been developing solutions using the .NET framework since the first version. Started exploring the Windows Phone SDK during the beta, actively encouraged my colleges and business to adopt the platform and have been dedicating my own evening’s and weekends building application for Windows Phone. As time has meandered on though and we have seen nothing from the software giant, my motivation has dwindled and I have put all my projects on hold.
Again, I want to say that I love Windows Phone. I use it as my primary phone each and every day. I have been constantly praising and recommending it to others, but now, I am questioning whether to continue in the practice.
I truly hope that this is just growing pains. That the situation will change in the near future. Microsoft needs to open the doors on Windows Phone and let us all know what is going on. Show everyone the roadmap and provide specific lists, in advance, of features & fixes for each update. Give developers early access to platform updates, allowing applications to be updated and submitted to the marketplace early.
We, your customers, can be your best marketing engine! But you have to keep us informed and show us you are listening to our feedback. Actions speak louder than words. So above all, Microsoft must show us their passion for Windows Phone.