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back to article Five ways Microsoft can rescue Windows Phone

Windows Phone might be the most impressive bit of software Microsoft has produced - but it isn't setting the world on fire. The iPhone and Android go from strength to strength - the latter proliferating so widely even Google doesn't know how many Android systems are out there. (It can't count the Chinese forks which don't use …

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft don't care..

They already make more money from Android than WinPho. Windows phone is more of a hobby than a serious project. Microsoft are far more concerned with other divisions such as the Xbox and Office.

Nokia, on the other hand, have put their entire business in the hands of Windows Phone - a project I don't think Microsoft really cares if it succeeds or fails.

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Ru
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Sure they do

They just can't bring themselves to do something about it.

They've already hurt themselves enough with their disasterous mobile strategy over the past few years. Like so many other things they've been doing of late, it all seems a bit uncoordinated, and there's the underlying sense that they might just bin it in a fit of pique.

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Here's a theory

Microsoft's policy on the phone is to integrate it into the Wintel ecosystem so tightly that it becomes the default business phone. If the mobile(cell) becomes an extension of the business desktop then a typical business installation becomes Windows/Office/Winphone.

Outlook has another section called calls. Your company phone is tied into your company login. then all your office stuff/settings/security is also your phone. The deskphone is obsolete. Your bosses get to know where you are, how quickly you are moving, Who you speak to and for how long. They could even record your calls remotely.

They bought Skype to integrate voice calls into the system. Intra-office calls all go through the company network and can be tracked back to your desktop. You no longer need a desk phone. The phone tracks location, Outlook knows your location and routes call appropriately. They bought Nokia to bring locked down business winphones to the market.

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At my work, we recently shifted from a conventional phone system to VOIP using MS Lync. Much as I hate having to turn on a PC and run a specific app just to be able to make a phone call, I'm grudgingly coming round to it. It's well integrated with Outlook and works remotely via VPN. It's a strange experience being called on your office number while sitting at home on a laptop, but quite effective when you frequently work from home. I gather that Lync clients for Android and iOS are available, but not sure how well they work, so I can well imagine a deeper level of integration of mobile phones in the way you say.

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Vic
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Disclosure: I sell SIP systems

> At my work, we recently shifted from a conventional phone system to VOIP

I do that too.

> using MS Lync

Not that, though.

> It's a strange experience being called on your office number while sitting at home on a laptop

My office numbers - and my home number - come through to my laptop, to my luggable (Snom 300) phone, to my Wifi phone, to my Android tablet, to my mobile phone, ...

I get full integration with my CRM system as well, as long as I'm on a "trusted" network connection[1].

VoIP is a useful way of doing things,. But don't fall into the trap of thinking Microsoft invented it.

Vic.

[1] I've got ways to get a phonebook out for anything I can download a phonebook to - but I've noticed that most phones don't have any security involved. So I just restrict the download to addresses I know are well-controlled - i.e. local LAN or VPN.

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WTF?

RE: Lync...

...is probably the most awkward VoIP implementation that ever reached en masse deployment; as always Microsoft was waaaay too late to the party and by the way Lync works it's pretty obvious they only care about binding you to Outlook/Office, the last cash-cow.

In short: VoIP has NOTHING to do with Microsoft and Lync is the last thing I'd suggest to run anyone.

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Of course they care

Within years the desktop computer market will be a niche. Mobile OS will span all of ppl devices. My cure for winpho is yes, more content, but crucially Price, I can get a capable android for £50 , sorry Nokia/MS you are going to have to dabble in the murk of budgetland. And one other thing, embrace open stds, If I cant play my DVD/Blu CD rips on the phone its not going in my pocket. So many free android apps eg remote controls, mapping,navigation and get some good/great games. And Microsft CAN withstand a billion or two being burnt to get market sare. making a full takeover/merger a possibility. Reasonable OS .....

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"the desktop computer market will be a niche"

Sure. You do know that you sound exactly like the pundits and random idiots who were predicting the death of the mainframe in 1990, right? They've been wrong for 22 years and counting.

Last year somewhere on the order of 85 million "client" PCs were shipped *per quarter*. Most of those were desktop systems, or laptops which are essentially portable desktops (certainly the vast majority aren't "mobile" in the sense of "mobile phone", nor are they running a "mobile OS", insofar as that phrase means anything).

Will desktop computers - ie, discrete appliance general-purpose computers for a single user - dwindle "within years"? Sure; nothing lasts forever, and millions of non-specialist computer users taking care of their own CPUs and storage has largely been tremendously inefficient and a security disaster, among other problems. But it won't happen soon, and as Keynes noted, there's a limit to how much you want to bet on the long run.

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Thumb Up

Good article...

However a couple of points. Firstly I'm sure that RIM would argue there are in fact 3 mobile eco systems out there and while not a major player in all markets, in some markets such as business they are important. This provides another obstacle to an area MS would normally see as a strength i.e exchange support

Also if they increased Skype prices to non windows mobile devices wouldn't that just push people to look at alternatives such as google talk?

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Yeh I really don't get the Skype bit - the article basically wants MS to go back to the 90s. Skype's value is in being platform neutral and available everywhere! I also don't get how operators afraid of becoming dumb pipes would see Skype as anything other than another threat to their offerings?

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You have to ask

"...the article basically wants MS to go back to the 90s."

if Microsoft has ever managed to leave the 90s?

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The real problem is the legacy

As with a lot of Microsoft software the first version wasn't quite the exciting phone as they proclaimed it to be. Even very simple common tasks such as multitasking or using your own music file for a ringtone wasn't possible. Of course Microsoft has fixed this with the latest upgrade called 'Mango' but many people will only remember that first "horrid" version and as such won't bother trying out new versions for quite some time to come.

And what about those people who may be tempted anyway? Well; in the mean time a new dilemma was created by changing the policy in which the updates are provided. Everyone who works with Windows (or Microsoft software in general) and kept up a little knows that in many cases Microsoft software tends to starts out poorly but eventually does manage to catch on.

So; apply the update (usually done by using 'Windows update') and you're home free.

But what about the Windows phone? Recently Microsoft has announced that updates will now be a responsibility for the network providers; Microsoft itself won't supply any updates themselves anymore.

So here's my dilemma; what if I do buy a Windows phone but end up with a network provider which doesn't provide any updates because "the phone is good as it is" ?

Quite frankly I wouldn't be surprised at all if many people simply played it safe; why risk running into possible problems which are very likely never going to be addressed (due to no updates being provided by the operator) vs. a phone where you have a certain guarantee ?

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While Android remains as workable and as customisable as it is, I see no need to ever entertain owning another Window Mobile device ever again. I've been there and have no desire to go through it again. Nokia on the other hand, if they released a decent spec Android phone with a qwerty slider I could be persuaded as their hardware is usually very functional.

The first manufacturer to come up with a set of handsets that are decent spec, with decent battery life and ideally for me one of them has a 5 row qwerty slide out keyboard, that doesn't cost more than £200 sim free and where the hardware is open and supported (directly or by a modding community) for several years and isn't upgraded every 12 -18 months leaving the old models to rot, I suspect, will be on to a winner.

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Meh

@ShelLuser: Actually the update policy hasn't changed at all. Right from the start, providers had the right to reject any update. But the deal was that they had to then push it out when the next update was made available. So all they can do is delay an update by one cycle. And as updates have been coming thick and fast (I've had about 5 in the last 15 months), that's not a problem. Don't believe everything you read on teh internetz.

Plus, no provider has ever prevented any update up to now anyway. Compare and contrast with Android. Will all Android phones always get the next update? Yeah, right.

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Stop

Successful businesses sell to *consumers*, not geeks

No.

What you are describing is not a successful product, it's a geek's wet dream.

Normal people are like the honey badger on "open" platforms, they don't give a sh*t .People _want_ a black box; they want to come into a shop and come out carrying a shiny gadget that they can turn on and "just work" with, no fiddling required. Most don't bother with mechanical keyboards anymore, the pidgeonspeak of instant messaging and Twitter has all but obviated the need for writing anyway. And they'll happily flock back for "upgrades" as long as you add some new gimmicks to each hardware revision.

I'm sorry, but what you propose is a recipe for disaster: it's the view of a hobbyist market that hasn't existed in any relevant scale for some 30 years now. Whoever tried to succeed in the mainstream market with a product like this would sink faster than you can spell "openmoko".

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Anonymous Coward

@ Arrrggghh-otron

"...owning another Window Mobile device ever again. I've been there and have no desire to go through it again.."

OK, here we go again. WP IS NOT Windows Mobile. None o/t WinMo applications run on WinPho. Also technically WinPho lacks most o/t things that you took for granted in WinMo. I refer to things like full bluetooth transfers, bluetooth (and before that even Wifi-) syncing, full outlook integration, full multitasking (for ALL apps) etc...

So You (and I for that matter too) should indeed look at Windows Phone with new eyes. The problem for me is that Windows lacks certain features which I definitely require. If my requirements are not met then WP (and iOS and Android too for THAT matter) is NO option for me.

Again it just doesn't matter on a phone what OS it has. If the device meets your expectations and fullfill your needs then even e featurephone is sufficient. Unfortunatly many modern smartphones lacks some features that were present on (some) featurephones or past smartphones. Usually ppl find it out AFTER they bought their new shiny toys when it's all a little too late (especially when you have to fork out the same fee that could get you a full blown laptop PC) .

As for Nokia bringing out an Android handset. No they shouldn't. Nokia will just sink in a sea of anonymity between the big Android players (HTC & Samsung). Especially in the low budget market (which is currently owned by Samsung and LG). Nokia NEEDS its OWN OS. And it doesn't matter whether it's called Symbion or moogee as long as it does what ppl expect it to do.

Are you a bit naive perhaps? All these manufacturers (and OS developers) need continue income. This can only be achieved when ppl continuously buy their stuff. They can't support a phone for too long or they'll cripple their own stream of development. it seems that you want hi-tech but don't want to pay for it (or can't afford it).

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@xperroni Geeks are consumers too!

What makes you think that such a device couldn't be used by normal consumers? It would already work out of the box but could be easily upgraded should you choose. At least the choice would be there.

That most don't bother with a hardware keyboard is why I suggested one model out of a range to have a hardware keyboard.

A geeks wet dream perhaps, but then so was the iPod when it first came out.

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@AC

I have looked at the new Win phone. It doesn't float my boat, nor do I feel like hanging any expectations on it improving to a point where I would recommend it. Perhaps in a few years I will look again, or sooner if Android goes off in a direction I don't like. These things happen.

As for the OS, It matters to me and it clearly matters to some non-geeks too. Try explaining why market differentiation means the same OS doesn’t work the same way on a new device. If I was buying a new device which fit my needs and I could install any OS then the OS wouldn't matter.

Nokia has been descending into anonymity for years and pinning their hopes of recovery on an OS aimed at consumers that comes saddled with years of baggage (whether you like it or not, it is true) doesn't sound like a smart move. I would hedge my bets at this point. Sure run Windows Phone but why not also run Android? There is clearly a market for it.

Naive no, bored of seeing manufacturers hobble their own products and limit their markets maybe. There is more than one way of generating income, goolge doesn't sell Android (I know about the patent licensing issues but that is another issue). Perhaps I am just bored of the relentless consumerism but I would be genuinely pleased if a smart phone I chose was still current after the end of a two year contract.

If the manufacturer doesn't want to support their own device after 12 months, there is a whole community willing to do it for them. Why not help them, and build some brand loyalty in the process?

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Metro UI

I'm not suprised the ridiculously huge font annoyed you, it was one of the things that put me off WP7 last time I changed my phone. That and the wonderful social networking tiles that every reviewer loves but I neither want or need.

And now MS want to bring both to Windows. :(

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WTF?

3 and a bit

Make sure the words actually fit onto the screen without disappearing off the edge

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Anonymous Coward

Actually the text off the screen is designed to inform you that there is more than just what is on the screen. Spoken as a zune user who wondered the same.

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Facepalm

Yeah,

we'd all want to read a book printed in the same fashion as well.

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Missing the point

It's not much use trying to run after an already full market. They should try and get the productivity market, the one where people don't care about Facebook integration, but things like integration with their business systems.

A mobile device which simply "clicks" into any existing VPN infrastructure and allows you to access desktop applications would actually be something that businesses could use.

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That's what Win Mob 6.x was for

That's probably why Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 is still being used by some businesses. If Microsoft kept compatability for legacy software then maybe SMEs and large corporates could have retained or chosen the Windows platform. WM6.x had many business focused apps and integration with corporate networks, and 6.5 could have been the start of something that merges the old style GUI with modern expectations, but MS threw out the baby with the bath water IMHO.

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Blindingly obvious

MS apps are now firmly associated in the public mind with "Work" etc. anyway - I think they're wasting their time if they think they can poach a lot of Apple/Android customers. Surely they're no.1 when it comes to business integration, & business seems to trust them the most. Flawless RDP (over VPN or not) that just works, Office integration etc. - you think they'd be doing it better than anyone else.

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FAIL

Had they done this, WinPho would have sucked just as much as WM6. The gulf between the two is huge.

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@ Gary F

indeed. Don't forget that at the release of Windows Phone. Microsoft declared that Windows Mobile was to be kept for business users. WP was clearly targetted at youth (facebook integration, xbox-games/live, zune music player etc...). This changed when they turned 180 degrees and killed off WM6.x and suddenly introduced e.g. exchange support into winpho amongst others.

Microsoft has a bad reputation with the old geeks but again they don't target their products to these ppl anymore. They go after the young whom haven't got the same bad experience that we have with Microsoft.

In fact in the 'old' days when you were pro-Symbian then you were against windows mobile and vice versa. And now these 2 clowns 'join forces'. How believable is that?

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Paris Hilton

Here in Denmark

Here in Copenhagen, Denmark, a country that really has a high cellphone penetration and a very high percentage of smartphones, the situation is this.

You cannot ride public transport anywhere without seeing an add fro WP. It is in your face everywhere.

I ride the commuter trains/metro daily. The most common phone appears to be the iPhone 4, but for every one of those there are probably 5 other assorted brands. I have been keeping a weather eye out for the new WP from Nokia - unsurprsingly given the "in your face" advertising.

So far I have seen a couple of "brightly coloured phones", but they were in fact N9s - which is pretty amazing since the N9 was marketed here only briefly and cost a staggering amount (compared to prices in other markets. e.g. it was double the price in Copenhagen compared to the same phone in Bangkok - this is abnormal). I see a lot more N8s than you might imagine even exist by reading US centric tech journals.

Actually, I have only seen one WP and it wasn't a Nokia (no clue what it was).

So there you go ... casual empiricism at its finest

philip

Paris: ... because she is empirically casual

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Happy

There's even more to it

Problem #1 : Nokia doesn't support their phones

This is a huge problem because when you buy a Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone 4S, you know that this phone will be the true love of the company who made it for months if not years after it's made. With Nokia, you can't even be sure anyone outside of marketing can remember it.

Problem #2 : Nokia doesn't support their phones

Everyone in Europe can tell you about how their first mobile phone was a Nokia 6000 something. It was simple and worked awesome. This was long before software updates or mobile Internet. But they don't have Nokia anymore because everything that came after felt like junk that was hacked together quickly.

Problem #3 : Nokia doesn't support their phones

At any given time, you can find dozens if not scores of latest and greatest Nokia models of phones. Even for a company the size of Nokia, there is no way in hell that many phones can actually be supported. And for every one phone you see, there are two that are being developed of which only one will ship. When you buy Nokia, you're buying a device and that's it. Buy a Galaxy or a iPhone and you're buying a device to access a full user experience and service.

Hell, Nokia's been shipping Windows Phone for weeks and already they have more models out of Windows phones than Apple ever shipped of iPhone.

Problem #4 : Nokia doesn't support their phones.

Updates to the operating system will be targeted at a few specific models. There's no guarantee that you'll get an update to your phone later on with a phone where the manufacturer just doesn't care what you do with the phone after you buy it.

If you don't believe me about these 4 major problems, watch Elop's presentation of Windows Phone and see how much he actually focuses on anything other than what it ships with.

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Don't change the layout of WP!

I've been using Windows Phone 7 since Vodafone made the LG available over a year ago. Personally, I *love* the look and feel of WP, and that includes the use it makes of text AND SPACE.

I don't mind that Rowi only displays three tweets on the screen. I don't mind scrolling to see more tweets. To me, if it is going to fit in more tweets, it would either have to use a smaller font (which my aging eyes would then struggle with) or make the layout look more cramped.

Given my recent experience at trying to get WP taken up as a corporate handset, I think the main challenge lies in the fact that people don't even *look* at it. When 36 staff were offered smartphones, 30 of them opted straight for the iPhone without any hesitation. No questions at all - and I *know* that they don't really know about Windows Phone so it doesn't come down to things like the use of space. People either aren't aware of the platform or are just being sheep and following the trend.

I think that Microsoft extending Metro to other platforms could well help WP, particularly if (as rumoured) Windows 8 will offer some interesting usability when coupled with WP8.

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Anonymous Coward

Welcome newboy

First post - signed up specially ?

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Brilliant marketing point there: Windows Phone - for the old and half-blind!

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Holmes

I would have thought...

...that most people do indeed sign up especially to post. I know I didn't sign up just for the heck of it, waiting for the right time to post in the future. You have to start somewhere.

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@ GettinSadda

>>>Brilliant marketing point there: Windows Phone - for the old and half-blind!

Actually it is. Most populations in Western countries (and China) are ageing rapidly. So large print, high contrast might well be a good way to go.

One of my main selection criteria on phones is readability, as I have a major eye problem. I can just barely read the address list, and texts on my Android phone, without digging out reading glasses. So it's only just useable, when I'm out and about (the purpose of a mobile). And I can't force white text on a black background in all apps, which I'd prefer to do to make it more readable for me, true for everyone in bright light.

So perhaps WM7 should be the smartphone for old gits? They've got all the cash anyway, so as the boomers get old, companies are going to have to cater for their needs.

I vote for GrumpyOS, as the new name.

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When I'm Sixty Four

>> Brilliant marketing point there: Windows Phone - for the old and half-blind!

Agreed, the problem is how to dress it up such that people can buy your products without being seen to admit that they're old-n-grey. This is Doro's problem.

Ever since the 2-line-LCD display became old-fashioned, I've failed to find an affordable phone I can read - they all have such noisy graphics as backgrounds (with no mechanism to change them).

> I vote for GrumpyOS, as the new name.

Sorry, Disney's already got that one: Snow White and the dance of the seven mobile phones.

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Anonymous Coward

But just signed today

to post a very pro comment

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Unlikely to be astroturfing. He can spell.

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That's not as mad as you think.

The population of most Western nations is ageing. Designing a user interface my own mother can use without having to squint is therefore not a terrible idea. She has trouble using my iPhone and iPod touch, so I doubt she'd have any more success with an Android device either.

A Windows Phone 7 device may well be a better choice for my parents and older relatives. (Yes, I'm the "good with computers" member of the family. As you can imagine, I get to do a lot of free IT support.) Most of them have Windows laptops, so they're not tied to the Apple ecosystem.

I also agree with the earlier comments that Nokia need to look beyond the reference specs for WinPho 7 and start innovating on physical design; a clamshell "Nokia Communicator" model could sell very well in some vertical markets.

But the main problem is that Microsoft need to nail the systems integration side and have the phone connect as seamlessly to computers running Microsoft's OS as iDevices do to Apple kit. I've seen too many reports of issues in this area to be willing to recommend a WinPho7 unit yet, despite being a fan of its GUI. (Yes, you read that correctly: an Apple user praising a Microsoft GUI.) It needs refinement, but it has a lot of potential.

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Vic
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> This is Doro's problem.

I think Doro has a number of problems.

I've got a Doro IP phone. It (sometimes) connects to a WiFi network, and gives me a SIP line.

Nice idea, right? Unfortunately, it's shit. The biggest problem being that the battery only lasts the one day even if you turn it off

Putting crap products on the market will blight your outlook for a considerable time. Microsoft might like to remember that before releasing "early" versions of WinPho...

Vic.

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Windows

new users....

probably because he's tired of all the negative, anti-MS rants that happen here all the time. just because he's a newbie doesn't mean he has to be negative and cynical

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Happy

agreed! DO NOT TOUCH THE INTERFACE. It's beautiful and classy, something you can't say about the other other two. Nerds never seem to get this, I certainly don't want IN YOUR FACE information overload otherwise I'd still have an android. I don't think any major changes are required, just a few siri-like gimmicks to show off, a couple of beautiful clean hardware designs like Apple churn out, and, crucially, a bit of mindshare. I suspect WP7 is a slow burner but will mushroom at some point. It's too good not to.

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Joke

Careful there OffBeatMammal... you'll have all the Reg commentards downvoting you like mad for suggesting such things!

Stick to the script - Android is the one true saviour of humanity, iOS is for fashionistas with no tech knowledge, Windows Phone is the worst thing since Hitler, and BlackBerry users might as well just be shot for support a "dead" platform!

Oh sh*t... now I've gone and broken the rules too! Thumbs down o'clock!

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@Sean Timarco Baggaley - LOL. No, they are just tied to the Microsoft ecosystem. sheesh.

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@OffBeatMammal - I have news for you. Microsoft has a legion of haters because they deserve it. For too many years they lead battles of FUD and phoney 'grass roots' campaigns to pump up their sales and reputation afters decades of deceit, thievery and their embrace, extend and extinguish policy. People don't forget. Microsoft is now running with this 'look, everyone hates us' campaign to try to get folks sympathetic about them. Apple survived all of the MS attacks. Netscape survives in the form of FireFox. Unfortunately there are dozens of other companies that did not manage to survive. Microsoft made their bed. Now they have to deal with the consequences. No one wants to hear anyone ra-ra-ra MS anymore. Get over it.

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No, didn't sign up specially. This was just the first article I ever actually felt inclined to comment on signed registering!

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Facepalm

Awful Brand

The problem is that people hate Windows Phones. It doesn't matter how good they make the phone, people hate the brand for it's past.

They should have totally ditched the Windows Phone brand and called them Metro phones instead, not even including the Windows logo.

Otherwise yeah, all good points in the article, especially the comparison to XBox.

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Gold badge

I agree with you about the PocketPC based platform, that was pretty awful although I did stick with it for about 10 months or so.

The non-touch version was actually pretty good, if a little clunky. But that was back when people wanted candybar phones you could easily stick in a pocket, not the coffee cup coasters people want now.

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FAIL

Ditch Windows brand? Naaaah.....

....because Ballmer is in charge at Micros~1 and he was the person that created the Windows brand because it was generic and covered any and all windowed UIs.

He can't get rid of the only thing he's ever done!

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Weirdly, the one thing WinPho7 lacks is...

... windows! It's all "tiles".

So there is some logic in suggesting a different branding. Especially if Microsoft are planning to apply a very similar UI to their desktop OS.

On the other hand, "Microsoft Metro" is a bit of a mouthful.

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Anonymous Coward

Except the idea that the Xbox is a 'success'.

Its losses run into the billions. It'd have bankrupted any company without a bottomless pit of cash.

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