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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"I disagree that iPhone is out of the price range of most consumers. You mean FREE is not cheap enough? iPhone 3GS is FREE! And the price of the iPhone 4S with Siri and 32MB SSD ram is $299 US. That is actually cheaper than many Andriod smartphones.

Please get over the 'Apple is expensive' mantra. That is soooo 1999!"

You probably forget to read to light grey text on that white background at the bottom on Apple US-website 3GS page. It clearly statesfor the $0-option:

1)Requires new two-year wireless service contract; sold separately to qualified customers.

- the page with contract say: e.g. AT&T From $54.99 to $134.99. So the cheapest 450min/talk and 300MB/month plan cost: $54.99 x 24 months = $1319,76.

And unlocked it says: Black 8GB1 Unlocked $375.00

I find $375 a strange notion of FREE

So please stop this 'it's totally FREE' bullshit. The only thing really free is the sun coming up every morning!

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Free as in 55 bucks a month for 2 years?

That doesn't sound free at all. It sounds more like prisoner of AT&T for the next 2 years.

North Americans have a really strange sense of freedom. Perhaps you shouldn't use that word so much. At least some ppl in Europe realize that nothing is free. And that the 'freedom' we have is very restrictive with all the political hypocrisy, impenetrable jungle of rules & laws and economic slavery.

In fact if WE come protesting in the streets for whatever reason, the cops are also awaiting to beat the crap out of us. Just as everywhere else.

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It's a business device, stupid

Fixed that subhead for you.

Where do MS retain an overwhelming presence? Inside the organisation. What they are doing is to build a smartphone that will integrate seamlessly with Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, Onenote, Active Directory, etc. The pitch to business will be that here's a device that can actually deliver an RoI. Watch this space and see if I'm right.

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Thumb Down

WP7 is NOT a business OS

One of the first things they sacrificed to get it out on time is on-device encryption. It still doesn't have it. It's useless for actual business work without it.

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Wp8 will include BitLocker (allegedly).

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That's nice Chris.

Nokia need to ship phones now though, and not sometime next year.

I can't recommend a phone based on what some marketing dept says the next version might probably have.

When getting a phone, you will be locked into whatever hardware is shipped for 18 months to two years, and as there is no certainty of updates on anything, it had better do everything you actually need to begin with.

As shiny Apple and Android phones are already being used by our own sales and marketing people, and those same people remember Windows Mobile, the question has already been answered.

Maybe in two years, except by then there will probably be some killer app on our existing phones that we can't do without.

Rather like the Windows lockin on the desktop.

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By far the biggest element they are missing is decent marketing - get the damn phones into stores, displays, promote them on TV and radio, in news papers & magazines. Get them into movies and TV shows etc etc. Everything else is little more than finetuning. Look at apple, their fist attempt at iOS was severely limited, being little more than an app launching platform, but the combination of embracing apps and marketing the hell out of it followed by continuous refinement with each generation has put apple on the course to being top dog today. MS need to learn from this and start spreading the word and the gospel if they ever want to compete against the church of Job or the android collective.

Personally I would have to see the following before I ever contemplate switching

1. add support for microSD cards

2. Either get bing maps up to google maps standards or bring in more devs to develop some decent navigation apps for WP7

3. add support for higher screen res and bring in dual core support. In fact start relaxing the hardware spec control a little to allow for some more variety.

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Maps

I think Nokia have that one covered.

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Anonymous Coward

> 1. add support for microSD cards

WinCE/WP7 seems not to support adding a card while running, nor will sync data for removal. The result is that cards will not be noticed and/or corrupted. It may be that it is essential to shut down and restart to swap cards.

Also CDs and USBs would (in the past) infect desktop machines with malware merely by being inserted. MS wanted to avoid this (especially where 'malware' is defined as anything not purchased from MS).

> 2. Either get bing maps up to google maps standards

The Nokia deal was supposed to get Nokia's mapping and navigation software for Bing and WP7.

> 3. add support for higher screen res and bring in dual core

WinCE/WP7 is fixed to 480x320 or 800x480 _only_. Adding more pixels will break most of the software.

WP7 does not multitask effectively, it approximates MS-DOS's TSRs, with limitations. Dual core would just waste one core.

WP8 should fix these issues, next year perhaps. Meanwhile anything WP7 that you might buy now will be obsolete because it is unlikely to run WP8. MS broke the WM6.x compatibility with WP7 and may well do so again with WP8. They should supply little coffins with every WP7 phone sold.

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You know...for a company famous for backwards compatibility Microsoft is REALLY messing up on this one. Apple ditched backwards compatible from OS X and OS 9+ and before but that was IT! Everything iPhone works with all apps because they push the iOS to all phones, all vintages (except the first gen, I think. But do any iPhone 1.0's still exist?).

Microsoft - a company doomed by their past misbehavior.

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@Peter 48 - I am perfectly happy with WP7-8 now. It will lose. And it should. Microsoft made their bed years ago and now have to sleep in it....and never wake up!

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Here in California I see several WP7 ads. None of them work though. I think it may be time to call their actors from the Windows 7 commercials.

~LOL~

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@ Peter 48

Totally disagree on that

1) Yes, Okay. Also add call recording :-), full multitasking, full bluetooth transfers (read: NFC) and please make the bloody devices able to connect to a hidden SSID!

2) There's Nokia Maps. Who needs stupid Bing (even the name sounds ridiculous). Google Maps sucks because it's a plot to sell data-plans! Only the Android version allows for a limited amount of offline-mapping data on the phone. Which means either buying a third party nav-app (Hey TomTom where are you when Microsoft needs you) or buy a Nokia device with Nokia Maps (propably the only reason to actually buy a Nokia WP7 device in the first place). Unless some smart hacker releases a Nokia Maps hack that can run on all WP7-handsets because it really is just an app, right.

3) Are you nuts!?! Higher resolution on 3.5/3.7 screen. 800x480 is really sufficient for that kinda screen. Microsoft should NOT relax HW-specs at all. It's a testament to Apple that software updates goes much smoother across its limited range because of these tightly controlled HW-specs. In fact, M$ had a BAD reputation from being a bit too loose in the past. So they shouldn't make that mistake again.

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To make this pig fly..

you need to vary the form factors. And, dare I say it, lose the Holy Jobsian dedication to the touchscreen as the single form of input.

A smartphone is best outside of office environments. In an office, you have a better option available for everything a smartphone can do, with the single exception of texting and phone calls and for calls, a landline has far less reception issues.

This means the optimum smartphone buyer is actually not the office bound IT wonk (95% android) or Starbucks-dwelling hipster (100% iOS). It's people who work for a living.

A builder wants at the very minimum a hardware "answer call" button so that he doesn't have to get his cement covered thumb on the touchscreen. The lack of one is a hideous oversight. Ideally he wants a clamshell phone which protects the screen.

He'd like big buttons because he is not a girl (usually) with tiny fingers and therefore T9/predictive and numeric buttons are optimum. If he could flip a slider and manage all the touchscreen magic from the keypad, he'd probably be delighted. He is outdoors so the screen must be matt. He wants bluetooth because he doesn't want a fine for answering calls in his van.

He'd probably like big or replaceable storage for music but I doubt he's ever going to be using this as a portable video player. He needs email and CAD-produced images delivered promptly and he'd like to be able to return his comments.

Basically, the current crop of smartphones are toys. Expensive toys but still toys. This market is underdeveloped until phones that do work environments start appearing. When that happens, whichever OS can handle it will be the one that takes the spoils.

As of right now, that's none of them.

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Anonymous Coward

How many sugars do you want in _your_ tea?

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RE: To make this pig fly..

He would also like it to be drop proof and have a battery that lasts more than a day with heavy use from taking calls for quotes, Jewsons, finding out where the lacky is with his bacon sarnie etc.

Serious gap in the market for a decent "tough" builder friendly phone....

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I'd kill for a bacon sarnie right now.

You're right about drop-proof but "clamshell" always used to cover most of that. My old Moto RAZR V3 took one hell of a bashing but is still a serviceable backup phone when required. And yes yes yes on the battery life thing. The sad part being, that's really where Nokia could make a huge difference.

To the other poster - just one. But three in my coffee, please.

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current crop of smartphones are toys

...just remember the public love their toys ;)

Got to agree on the form factor, Microsoft painted themselves into a corner here. After investing so much effort in talking up Android fragmentation as a problem, fragmenting their own platform to widen appeal is likely to be resisted far too long.

Even simple things like adding a landscape mode hard keyboard requires forward planning to ensure the UI still works. Android built that in from the start and still has problems - sufficient that landscape is no longer supported in most launchers unless forced. How WP7s vertical interface could be made to work in landscape is a puzzle.

Similar argument for vertical Blackberry style form factors. The vertical UI collides with landscape screen again.

Whether you like the grid of icons approach or not, it's inherently flexible enough for different screens, with no inherent preference for orientation or resolution

WP7 seem to have too many implicit assumptions to be easily diversified onto other form factors.

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Anonymous Coward

> How WP7s vertical interface could be made to work in landscape is a puzzle.

Just add ribbons.

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@ Paul Shirley

Gee, mr. Shirley, perhaps you really ought to look better at Symbien (Belle) then. I use my 701/C7 mostly in landscape mode. It works great. No problems in that OS.

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What's in a name?

Maybe Microsoft would have better success by dropping the name Windows from Windows Phone 7.

When people see the name Windows they think bloat, viruses, etc.

May be call it Metro OS and the handset mPhone. Wonder if Apple will get upset with that.

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Disagree

When MOST buyers see "Microsoft" they don't think about it at all. If you were right, there would be no XBox and lo! There seems to be an XBox market doing very nicely thank you.

Your argument applies only to a proportion of nerds. That proportion is _currently_ the segment of the population buying smartphones (along with Apple cultists) but it is the tiniest fragment of the actual potential market.

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Eh?

Xbox is actually a pretty tremendous example of Microsoft doing exactly what the original poster was suggesting they do with this.

They've managed to create a well known brand "Xbox" which stands on its own without any preconceptions or baggage left over from other products - you won't see the word Microsoft anywhere on the packaging for an Xbox apart from in the small print.

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FAIL

What Tony said.

In fact, they only started putting 'Microsoft' on the TV ads a couple of years ago.

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Windows, not Microsoft

People in the street talk about 'Windows', and even 'Windows Office'

The Microsoft brand isn't big outside of people who work close to IT.

The Xbox doesn't say Windows anywhere. Xbox is the brand, and it is doing quite well.

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Pint

I've been watching the platform since launch and definitely like what I see, but when it came time for me to do my annual upgrade with Sprint, there were no Windows Phone's available. NONE. There was the Galaxy S II (Android) and the iPhone 4S. Having had bad experiences with Gingerbread upgrade on an EVO 4G, I opted for an iPhone 4S because I needed a phone I could live with for two years and not have phone envie one year into the contract (like other Telcos, Sprint no longer offers annual phone upgrades). Where's the WIndows Phone ad campaign? Android and iPhone have theirs. If there's no advertising, no one is going to know the thing exists. T-Mobile now has a Windows Phone ad campaign but do any of the other Telcos have any Windows Phones?

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Anonymous Coward

Windows Branding

Interesting that a number of posts have questioned the value of using the Windows branding; maybe Microsoft should have gone the Xbox route and called it "Xphone"?

A good article though; and, like some other posts, I think that Microsoft should capitalise on their server integration with products like Exchange and SharePoint to attack the corporate market. I think it's too late to go for the consumer segment; that belongs to Apple and Google.

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or zunephone

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Anonymous Coward

"...The smartphone market is one driven by a desire for unique and distinctive devices"

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!

If it were true, there would not be any army of iClones out there! They can't all be unique and distinctive devices.

The market is driven by sad people who believe that owning an iPhone makes them special. That "hey look I'm cool cause i've got an iPhone too" crowd.

Have you not worked that out yet?

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Take issue with a couple of points

Ignoring your one (non-native) example I've found Metro to be delightful. Andrew - can I suggest using the native / integrated twitter client on the people tile?

The WP start screen has 8 tiles, then a further 8 as you flick down. Rinse and repeat.

The tiles are essentially widgets - and I don't recall ever having more than 8 per home screen on my HTC Desire. As you can have whatever you want I disagree with your comparison against other platforms.

Retail placement is Nokia, not the platform developers issue to resolve.

Regarding the spec being loosened I'm of the understanding that MS are working on this with the Tango and Apollo builds out this year. Dual core support, higher resolution, NFC and other features.

Whilst it has its issues I'm happier with my 3 month old Lumia 800 than i was my Desire. Loved playing with new ROMS and nothing beats Android for customization - but a reliable, solid device that requires no task manager, doesn't need me to "manage" my storage or other fluff - well I'd take a WP7 over Android or iOS as it stands right now.

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Meh

Watch out - with positive words like that for WinPhone, it's only a matter of time before someone on here accuses you of working for Microsoft. Happened to me.

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Gimp

Nokiaholics Anonymous

Having had numerous Nokias, until their buggy software pissed me off in the late naughties, I really want Nokia to succeed.

What is puttting me off is the version number: WP 7.5. I think I'll wait until WP 8 thank you very much.

What I'd like to see is Nokia to have a lot more influence into the next version so they can bring their experience of hardware management (especially battery life) and the UI to WP8.

I just don't know if Microsoft can get a way from the desktop mentality of expecting the hardware to keep up with the software bloat instead of writing to meet the limitations of screensize and battery life.

Gimp because I don't want to admit to wanting a Microsoft/Nokia on El Reg.

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Anonymous Coward

"What is puttting me off is the version number"

That's rational.

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@ Nokiaholics Anonymous

"What I'd like to see is Nokia to have a lot more influence into the next version ..."

If you want that you should get a Nokia N9 or a N8/C7/700/701 or other S^3 device. Nokia can only bring apps (especially their navigation app is of importance to M$.) to the platform.

"..if Microsoft can get a way from the desktop mentality.."

have you forgotten IE4? That product WAS better than Netscape at that time. The way M$ kills competition is by introducing indeed a BETTER product for free (undercutting margins of any competetion) and then when all competetion is gone they have a tripple-strategy 1) creating incrementally worse products and 2) hypocritically breaking standards (that made their product the better product) while even attending standard creating-organisations and 3) even enforcing your own non-standards. This goes on until eventually competition/resistance re-suffices again. Then it all starts over.

Nokia sleeping with M$ is a very bad idea especially for Nokia! The way that mole Elop has paved the way by prematurely burning both Meego and Symbian is testament to that.

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FAIL

Meh...

The Apple fanbois will only ever go for the iphone. The deluded, self-loving media types will only ever go for the iphone even if they aren't fanbois, so Windowsphone has to steal most of it's market share from Android, which boils down to HTC and Samsung.

Assuming you have no problem with windows or Microsoft (I do not) Here is the problem for windows phone - customer looks at an HTC advert or screengrab and thinks "I WANT to use that, it looks great". They then look at an S2 and think "that looks awesome - lots of icons and apps that DO something - I don't know what, but I'll enjoy finding out", then look at windows phone and think "Look how bland that looks - what does it actually do?", and the punter is NOT inquisitive enough to find out.

Me? I don't do facebook or twitter, I'm an old fart, so I look at windows phone, take away the facebook and twitter updates and I'm left with... a dumb phone.

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Meh

Twaddle.

Shady@ The Apple fanbois will only ever go for the iphone.

I'm a big Apple booster, and I seriously looked at Android this time. The only thing that kept me away was lack of a direct iCal synch. I didn't feel like paying an extra $50 for the Missing synch, and I have no desire to leave it to Google. They have far too much of my personal information as it is without giving them my friends list as well.

When Android can give me iCal, and address book synch I'm more than willing to give it a go.

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Megaphone

Obviously

Can't speak for EVERY fanboi / none fanboi. I was making a generalisation, which I'm still convinced holds true for the vast majority of iphone users. I'n my own circle of friends / contractors (about 15) we are split roughly 50/50 between Android and Apple, with one windows phone user. The windows phone user wanted to take a risk, to be different - he's ready to ditch his phone because he just doesn't use it - although it is more user friendly it lacks enough eye candy to make him WANT to use it - consequently he uses less than his old HTC Desire. The Apple guys will stay with Apple until their iPhones are wrenched from their cold, dead hands, and the Androids are all in a "see how the mood takes me" when it comes to upgrade time. As for myself, I've got an HTC Desire S, my first foray in to the smart phone world and I'm a little disappointed. When my contract is up I will give the iPhone a go, but I will consider the Windows phone IF I can be convinced of it's merits - I already have an iPod touch and don't mind carrying two devices with me.

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One tiny thing and I'll buy

All I want is for Nokia to put one of their excellent N97/E7 style keyboards on a WP7 device and the cheque is in the post. It's not like it would be difficult!

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@ tiggertaebo

"It's not like it would be difficult!"

Yes it would. Because in its current state WP7.5 doesn't work in Landscape (very well) . Then you would complain and make sneer remarks of it in El Reg.

So until it works as good as it does on that E7 (and on Symbian landscape works very well) it's a definite no-go.

And right now, both Nokia and Microsoft can't afford to make many cock-ups!

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Anonymous Coward

Cheaper devices needed!

This is what Android has as an advantage.

Legacy 1GHz processors are cheap as chips these days.

Get some more "budget" devices out there and you'll get more interest.

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Mushroom

One Killer Problem of WinPhone

In my opinion as a software developer one of the biggest obstacles will be MS's policy of not providing a native API (C, C++, Pascal, Ada or the like) to developers. MS is deluding itself into thinking that ".Net is the future of all programming" and that is simply not true.

Despite all the propaganda from the Java and .Net camps, the old-style statically compiled&linked languages such as C and C++ lead in terms of performance and power efficiency *by a factor of 3 to 10*. So if a developer wants to bring a sophisticated game, image recognition or audio processing algorithm to the Winphones, he simply cannot.

Android, Bada and iPhone allow for native code, which means the most sophisticated apps can be done on these platforms.

That all might sound like an arcan techie problem, but applications are *the* defining aspect of modern smartphones, so it does actually matter in the end.

Picture of a burning Winphone, overheated by .Net code.

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Native coding will come with WP8 I think as that is when they switch the kernel from CE to NT. Once they've done that, there's no further need to block native code.

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Hope so...

I spent the worst year of my career maintaining a ball of .NET C#. I never thought there could be something as soul-destroying as debugging Java's delegated clusterfucks, but MS showed me differnt... never again.

I'd really like to see Nokia lean on Microsoft to get Windows Phone to support Qt. If WP8 does lift the ban on unmanaged runtimes (and MS have claimed this), then Qt could be on its way anyway, but a bit of corporate leverage wouldn't hurt.

Incidentally, while I find the whole "Metro" UI to be too big for phones, I think it's a real breath of fresh air on tablets. Looking at a side-by-side comparison of a Win8 tablet and iPad (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntSdfGzF60M&feature=youtube_gdata ), I realised why Tim Cook alluded to Microsoft in Apple's recent earnings call.

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"Where's the Windows Phone Communicator - with a clamshell or slide-out keyboard?" - I have an HD7 pro with slide out keyboard which works great thanks.

@dogger - It does truncate text, I noticed last week when looking through my "people" it truncated one name so neatly with the edge of the "whats new" screen, it looked like a different name which I didn't recognise as someone I knew.

The home screen is an awful waste of space as is the apps list. I don't like either of them.

I don't get if it is business device why have Facebook integration at all? I could do without that and why if you make an office hub and connections to Sharepoint available, why can't I save my files direct to Sharepoint? Only phone or skydrive. Just being able to open them is of limited use as I actually create files on the phone too.

From a general system perspective, as a technical user, I still think it is hamstrung in the same way as iOS is and I would much rather use my wife's Android phone for a some things.

Still it does a lot of things very well and is on par with Android and iOS but hardly anyone else appears to be using it. As MS gold partners, the company made a decision to give them a good try and they don't really disappoint.

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Step 1 - drop the windows brand

Nokia is still a very strong brand, they have been through some hard times recently but they are well respected and people will forgive them if they start to produce decent phones again.

The latest edition of windows phone may be better than previous abominations but it's too late, it's already tainted by association with previous versions, and indeed just by association with the words Microsoft and Windows.

Erase the windows name from phones completely - keep quiet about Microsoft's involvement and just make the whole thing strongly Nokia branded.

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Such a wasted opportunity

I owned a WP7 phone briefly, bought because I was amazed by the UI, and hoped to see the platform grow. But it didn't take long for the cracks to show in everyday use and the Mango update just didn't go anywhere near far enough. Where's the multiple tile screens? Where's the global search box - as Android and iOS have had for years. The ability to close apps from the task switching screen?

My biggest single annoyance was the stupid logic behind the back button and how they tried to make it work as the browser back button as well as the OS navigation. Android has a back button and gets it right but Microsoft couldn't do it because as usual they tried to be too clever. Then in Mango they removed more buttons from the browser UI.

Other annoyances include the poor hardware quality (HD7) which looked a mess in no time and had a terrible touchscreen. Plus the lack of decent games, 30fps limit on games, and the fact that the few games released cost 3-4 times as much.

I think the tile UI is genius, and I love the text falling off the screen, but lots of people just don't get it, and that's fair enough.

I'd love to go back to WP7 but so much needs improving and they're not doing it.

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Meh

@Paradroid:

"Where's the multiple tile screens?"

Scroll down

"Where's the global search box"

Press the search button

"The ability to close apps from the task switching screen?"

No need, they tombstone when you're not using them so take up zero resources

"stupid logic behind the back button and how they tried to make it work as the browser back button as well as the OS navigation."

Fixed in Mango

"poor hardware quality (HD7)"

My HD7 was fine thankyouverymuch

"the lack of decent games"

Really?

"30fps limit on games"

Removed in Mango

"games released cost 3-4 times as much"

Again - Really?

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FAIL

1. "Scroll down" - are you serious? It falls apart when you get enough icons. It doesn't let you group related stuff without hacks like this (http://www.coolsmartphone.com/2011/11/16/coolsmartphone-recommended-windows-phone-app-new-group)

2. "Press the search button" - this might be my memory. Does it search the phone too?

3. Closing apps - yeah but if I can close what I want, things I want to keep open will then stay open without being automatically binned off.

4. The back button is not fixed in Mango, it's still a load of bollocks.

5. If you think the HD7 is fine quality-wise you're not looking closely enough. Lots of info in my review if you want a look (http://www.blitterandtwisted.com/2011/04/htc-hd7-windows-phone-7-handset-review.html)

6. Lack of games - yes really.

7. 30fps limit might have been removed in Mango but have all the games been updated? I've seen Angry Birds running on a Lumia 800 and it's still choppy compared to an iPhone or Android

8. Games cost 3-4 times as much - yes they do. have a look at the table in my other article! (http://www.blitterandtwisted.com/2011/04/windows-phone-7-game-prices.html)

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Windows 9 is when the win arrives...

At this time, having hated micrsoft for the entire 90's and a good part of the noughties, I find myslef hoping, wishing this wins. I've had an Iphone since iOS2, waited for exchange support. Its the best device out there today for exchange and other features. For me, and it came as quite a surprise when I realised it, a front facing camera for video calls is a must. Facetime just works. MS must ad this.

Android is chaos. Handset makers are happy as you have to buy a new handset every now and then as they have failed to port the latest andriod version. The Android Market place is dodgy too. Android is in my book best avoided. Wife has a Galaxy and *HATES* it.

For me, MS are in this for the long haul, hopefully Nokia can stay around long enough for the win. Windows 8, when we get it will start the idea of a consistent and combined experience, across work pcs, home pcs, ultrabooks, tablets, phones and whatever other devices might arrive. Win 8 in my book is the starting point for people to realise exactly what they can have. By the time we get Windows 9, *IF* MS do it properly, we will have a game changer. By then, TVs will have to have an OS. By then XBox 720 (or whatever it will be called) will have to have an OS. MS should not miss the opportunity to put Win 9 everywhere. With an XBox 720 acting as a smart tv hub, or indeed with a TV with built in XBox capabilities and Win 9, finally BillG gets what he has desired since the 80's. 10/15 years later than he thought but the one device in the centre of the home is arriving. Now if every device runs the same OS and has interconnects, why would you buy apple or android...

Oh, may be thats why Apple and Google are looking at TV too ;-)

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Vic
Silver badge

> Wife has a Galaxy and *HATES* it.

Tell her I'll offer her £20 for it...

Vic.

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