The Windows Phone Epic !!!

Dear Reader,

Do not be overwhelmed at the length of the article. I have tried my best to keep the length of the article not directly proportional to the time required to read it.

Oscar Wilde said, If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you. There are times when truth tends to be subjective, such as this article. However, I have definitely added the fun component to keep up earlier promise. Consider the time you spent reading this article as a break from your work or routine. I am sure you will enjoy it; doesn’t matter if you are using a Windows Phone 1. Perhaps you will read it again.

I am programmer[^2], gadget savvy, an avid fan of Microsoft products (especially Visual Studio and associated suite of development tools), and an honest critic of any product I use. I have an Android Phone, an iPhone, and for a few months now, a Windows Phone. And this is my experience with the Windows Phone – good, bad and grey.

To begin with, the Windows Phone landscape (app and feature set) is dry and unpromising. There are a few good things here and there to console ourselves for the money we spent on the phone, and for the love of Microsoft!

I am not any brand fanatic, like Apple fans. I am not rich or am I a movie star to keep changing my phone for a show off. I just want a good product in my hands. For the tiny special place in my heart for Microsoft, I want it to give the users the best mobile experience. All the screw ups that I have pointed out is not because Microsoft doesn’t have the people or skills to do it. An unbiased tech person would agree that Microsoft hosts some of the most brilliant people in the world; pioneers in their fields – Anders Hejlsberg, Herb Sutter, Eric Lippert, Chris Brumme, Mark Russinovich, Patrick Dussud, Scott Hanselman, Jeffrey Richter, and a lot more whose names and faces is not in the news. Do you think that the people who were involved and/or developed Windows Phone do not know what they are doing?

I have often times heard from Ananth, under the covers one of the greatest Microsoft advocate, “Microsoft products are robust and awesome under the skin. It is the business model defined outside that throws a rogue face. This is especially true for the Windows operating system”. To partner with PC/laptop manufacturers and other software application vendors, they have made the Windows operating system bulky. What am I trying to point out is that the failure of a product or ending up with a product with limitations like the ones pointed above is beyond the engineering team. It is with the business/management/marketing team, whatever you call it. I have not been a fan of the Microsoft business team. Some or most of them seem to have put their feet in Microsoft when it started hiring in the early 80s, and have managed to stay here still scratching the seats with all the old school habits like selling curtain hangers. Look at how big the list of failed products they have produced, like Windows Me and Vista. Why would you spend millions of dollars to release an OS for the millennium? Are we making a movie or is it a new year deal on the millennium eve? Or make a product with such segmentation – Home, Premium, Professional, Advanced, Ultimate. What after ultimate, hand the source code to the user? We are not making cars or looking for an apartment here. That is damn old school; nobody gets it all but they still pay us. There are far better, simple yet modern, ways to make money selling software. It is not about selling at low price. Apple does not sell it cheap but its iPhone and Mac are the market leaders.

Then Microsoft took its chance to build hardware, which is ironical. They build operating system and software to run on a variety of vendor platforms. Why would they have to change course? Why Surface? Is it to prove that Windows runs faster on their hardware and that the problem is with all the vendor hardware. They should spend the time and money on how to make Windows lighter, faster and robust ever. Like Apple fanatics, there are Microsoft ones too. They will claim all is good with Windows. My Ubuntu boots in less than 5 seconds, and runs from my VMWare on Windows like sliding on butter. Try all that with Windows, especially after a few months of use. It is alright if stuff like Surface is research material. The business and management team’s agenda should not be just make money but how to make it. That’s where people like Steve Jobs shine. The Apple business team chose to reap profits with what they could offer next. Compare that with Steve Ballmer. Microsoft never seemed to have had a leader like that, and it seems to hit hard now after a long time. Sadly, it seems to be the end of its era, as I heard from somebody.

Since the day the Internet Explorer was built, there have been hardly any improvements. Shoot him who shots tabs! Don’t freaking show me browser speed and other comparison charts? Get your hands dirty in web development. Or better ask the community. How many of them use Internet Explorer as the primary browser in their projects…….for development? Does the business think that it is the fault of the engineering team or they lack the capability to make it better? Well, throw them away, you got better people at Microsoft. No, that is not the agenda. I guess that the business is assuming, “while on windows, it is going to be IE”. What does an incompetent dancer say when he did not perform well, he says that the stage was bumpy. That is what Microsoft business team is saying: http://m.wpcentral.com/pawn-stars-chromebook-scroogled, http://microsoft-news.com/after-apple-ipad-new-surface-ad-takes-on-samsung-galaxy-tab/. This is an act of absolute shame. Why does Microsoft care if Google’s laptop is worth pawning or keeping? Or if the Samsung Tab doesn’t have USB port? Why does Microsoft care if Google is stealing data or donating millions? They should spend their mental and financial energy in making Internet Explorer better. Or are they thinking what is left in IE to make it better? Everything Goddamnit.

Am I digressing from the point? Nope. When Microsoft decided and went out to make the Windows Phone, who made the agenda and what was it? It is not the engineering team, or just them with the complete liberty to screw up. The engineering team has all the capabilities to build whatever a phone should be and beyond. Did the business/management/marketing/sales team do their homework? Or were there staring at pie charts over coke and pizza to figure out a way to grab the left over 2% of the phone market? Some of the limitations that I discussed above seem to be deliberate. As Sammy says, the Windows Phone 8 is not an upgrade of Windows Phone 7. They killed WP7 along with the few thousand apps it had, and built a completely different one WP8. Nobody, especially the small but brilliant ones, would spend again to build it for WP8. That is not an engineering team screw up alone. What was the cover up, compensation as a better word, for the offered by Microsoft community to kill WP7?

Is there a remedy for the outcry? Wish people like Elon Musk agree to take up Microsoft. They are people by whom the title (CEO) is honored. There is an old saying, “Scholars should rule”. Steve Ballmer enjoyed a decade of monkey dancing, mocking the $500 phone with a single button and selling curtain hangers. There are more Steve Ballmers in Microsoft. As always say to my friends during our chit chat, “Throw the bastards out, Microsoft will be skyrocketing”.

Let me tell what is the gem of all things in a Windows Phone. Even on a single core mobile processor, it had an unparalleled responsive user interface. How many of you had the chance to use an Android in its early days, Android 1.6 (Donut)? It had a cheap horrible user interface, and it begged the user to let go; it was miserably slow. Android had a real make over sometime around or after v2.4. The first version of Windows Phone on a petty economy Nokia model was fluid; the UI did not jam or freeze. The community gave Android chance after chance to pull itself together and join the game. Microsoft deserves the same fair chance, to get the users what they want.

The Metro is an excellent user interface design. In many ways, it makes the user interface simpler to use. When Android and iPhone rule the market, it was good of Microsoft to think outside of the established user interface standards and come up with Metro UI. Don’t agree? Pull your head out of the hole.

Last but not the least, it has the most sophisticated development environment – IDE, powerful modern programming languages, tools, APIs. Ask the developers. Try Eclipse, and know better.

Are you waiting for a verdict? As consumers, I think we should expect a good product in our hands. Heard somebody say, “Imagine a phone whose hardware is powered by Apple, and user interface/SDK/tools developed by Microsoft”. Where does that leave Google? Let them steal all the data. No, no, the quote goes like this: Imagine a phone whose hardware is powered by Apple, user interface/SDK/tools developed by Microsoft, and integration of applications powered by Google.

Expect nothing less, hope the Windows Phone gets better!

You might also be interested to read about Windows Phone from an expert – Scott Hanselman.

Appendix

  1. The term Windows Phone or WP referred in this article refers to Windows Phone 8, which is the current version. An earlier version, not technically a predecessor, of the Windows Phone 8, is explicitly referred as Windows Phone 7.
  2. I like being called a Programmer rather than Developer, Coder. Especially Coder sucks. When somebody calls somebody Coder, I think he is saying, “tighten the screws well so that it does not leak again”.
  3. The term Google with Bing is borrowed from Scott Hanselman’s writings and/or speeches.
  4. The camera and all user experience discussed in this writing are based on a Nokia Lumia 1020 (2GB RAM). Nokia has a bunch of apps just to show off its footprint. There are so many camera apps from Nokia that a normal user is going to have a hard time picking one.
  5. The drink and drive sort of meaning in the statement is only for fun. It is not intentional nor is it being proposed with the advent of Google’s automatic car.
  6. The Android phone referred in this article is Nexus 4 or a Samsung Galaxy S3 (not in all cases). Nexus, being Google’s flagship, is enough to consider it for comparison with other mobile phone hardware/software.
  7. The iPhone referred in this article is an iPhone 5 (white color, )
  8. I don’t consider this article a review of the Windows Phone, like the ones one would find on CNET or similar sites. It is rather from an experience of using it for quite some time. It is from the perspective of a user, aware of what is good, bad or grey. This article discusses a lot of areas in the Windows Phone but is definitely not extensive in covering all the aspects.