Oct 25

I had seen the launch at Mobile World Congress but to be honest had not taken much notice. The concept looked a lot like Vodafone 360 and there were no handsets to play with (not counting the six foot mockup of course).

Look and Feel

I was impressed by the marketing.

What do Android, iPhone (iOS), Nokia (Symbian, touchscreen), Samsung (Bada) all have in common? They are all based on an icon grid structure, all to some extent following iPhones lead. Taking the iPhone as an example the icons in general are not dynamic or information led, except for the calendar icon which has today’s date on it. According to the weather icon it is always 23° and sunny, which is obviously not always the case.

So Microsoft wanted to break the mould. Wanted to do something iconic. So what better place to start than the iconography around us that we see everyday and are familiar with, motorway and airport signs. Most people will instantly know if they are in airport what the sign in front of them is trying to convey not matter where they are or what the language.

The devices will be based on three hardware specs that Windows phone 7 will support, each have a specific pixel count and orientation (think iPhone, Blackberry and Milestone like devices) and minimum hardware requirement (at least a 1Ghz Snapdragon from Qualcomm). Other requirements include 256MB of RAM, 8GB of Flash and 2GB of file storage. Only Operators and OEM’s will be able to write natively for the devices. Anyone else wanting to write apps for the devices will have to utilise Silverlight or XNA (XBox integration) for games.

Facebook will be heavily integrated at launch for contacts etc. There will be no HTML5 or flash support. Obviously Silverlight will be supported from day one. Sub pixel rendering will be utilised during browser zoom to stop the fuzzy edges around the text.

Music and video services wil be provided the Zune integration that has been done.

Microsoft obviously supports the Microsoft Marketplace in terms of its app store. There will be a ‘Try’ feature on the store that allows you to try the app before you purchase. The rationale behind this is to get rid of the necessity of free apps so there will be less apps on the store. There will be a 7 day SLA for acceptance into the Marketplace. Ad supported apps will be available. All apps will be downloaded to the handset as there will be no sideloading.

Location services (maps) will be provided by the Bing.

All in all I was very impressed by what I saw and what I heard, with a well thought out attempt at relaunching their mobile OS. The proof will be in the usability and we will not really get a feel for that until the devices launch.

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Jul 04

Microsoft hosted the event at their London offices in Victoria.

As our host, Alex Reeve, Director Mobile Business Group, Microsoft gave an opening address.

Opening comment ”Microsoft are back in the mobile industry”

Windows Phone 7 experience is based on a seamless media, contacts and calendar experience. The UI is heavily influenced by the Microsoft Zune (media device) which Microsoft will be bringing to the UK at some point on the future. XNA ( Xbox developer platform) will be supported on the device allowing cross platform developments. Microsoft are committed to a three screen environment that includes games (Xbox, TV), web (PC) and mobile.

The chair of the panel was Marek Pawlowski, Founder of MEX. On the Panel were Oded Ran, Microsoft Consumer Marketing, Ilia Uvaroz, RG/A, Nick Lansley, Tesco IT and Mobile R&D Head, Tom Hume, MD Future Platforms and Jerry Ennis from Flirtomatic.

Marek started with some industry stats:

  • Current trend is 250M smartphones sold per year
  • Current Smartphone install base is 400M
  • Three quarters of mobile developers use an Android or Apple device <- Certainly the events that I go to this is true!

Which platform do you star with? How do you decide?

Nick (Tesco) – Draw big Venn diagram of handsets and online and where the intersection is that is your target. Tesco started on the iPhone because Nick was using one and regarded it as a hero device. Could the iPad be the next hero device?

Jerry (Flirtomatic) – Started with a Java app on Nokia devices. Found this was too difficult to produce across all platforms. Moved to mobile web which has been very successful. Have developed an iPhone app which has been very successful.

Tom (Future Platforms) – Would recommend web/Java in the first instance until audience has been confirmed. Suggested spending £50 on adwords to see who would click through to the service you were creating would be money well spent <- What a smart idea!!

Oded (MS) – Application has to look great. Platform should have great tools to ease development, don’t want to spend lots of time wrangling the development environment. In the end the application needs to be fun or make money.

Comment from the audience - Ed @touchnote discussed that they had developed for Nokia and the OVI store first. Really struggled to make money. Android/RIM/iPhone have been a much better experience. View was that OVI was letting the Nokia down.

Discussion moved to application updates. Given people have lots of applications could this lead to constant downloads/updates?

Jerry – Application uses a native iPhone wrapper. Core content of the application can be changed on the fly as long as the application itself is not changed i.e. application does not have to resubmitted to the app store.

Nick – Approach is to offer functionality updates when they  want to fix major bugs. Perceived that there is then a good reason to update the application.

Is current fragmentation sustainable?

View from the panel was that there is some consolidation going on around web/HTML5 etc. Developers should support platforms first and foremost where there are customers for their offerings. <- Not sure either of those comments answered the question. Is this falling into the iPhone/Android trap?

How can Microsoft best support application developers to make money?

These comments came from the crowd – Don’t force people to write applications in Silverlight. Reveal the numbers in the app store to give developers insight. 70/30 is the normal split for developers in the app stores, that is an opportunity for Microsoft to mix things up a bit and provide proper competition.

What about using tools for cross platform development?

Nick had some views on this, don’t choose mediocre tools to create cross platform applications, gives a poor experience. Lowest common denominator developments satisfy no one.

An interesting night, a good panel and a good Chair. Nice to see a bolder Microsoft with developers, more on Windows Phone 7 in my next post!

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