Why the Windows Phone isn't exciting

22 Mar 2010
Posted by Kiran

Microsoft came out with the Windows Phone 7 Series during the Mobile World Congress in February 2010. With the Windows Phone, Microsoft has drastically changed the way they intend for the user to interact with their devices. It has been touted as the Mobile OS that will enable Microsoft to capture the market back from Apple's iPhone.

I have been a devoted Windows Mobile user since my days with Pocket PC 2002 on my Compaq iPAQ 3850.

When Apple came out with the iPhone, it was definitely worth sitting up and taking notice! It was a new concept and a glamorous one at that. Suddenly, the Windows Mobile looked jaded and just another old phone. However, I stuck with it primarily due to the fact that the iPhone was, and still is, too locked in. I cannot install anything or do anything on the phone without Apple explicitly allowing me to do so. The only other way is to "jailbreak" the phone; something that would void my warranty.

Devices running Windows Mobile were a stark contrast — though they embodied flexibility and customizability with numerous vendors providing applications that added great functionality, they lacked touch-friendliness. With Windows Mobile 7, or the Windows Phone 7 Series as Microsoft like to call the new version of their Mobile OS, they have brought in a whole new paradigm! It is no longer a computer on a phone; it is a consumer phone with possibilities.

Windows Phone 7 Series brings in a new user interface and a new way of managing your phone. Gone are files and folders; gone are applications à la iPhone; the Windows Phone introduces us to task hubs that help the normal user streamline their interactions with various systems into seamless streams of data.

You could watch their video which introduces the Windows Phone 7 Series in detail to know more.

What Microsoft also seem to have done, however, is leave users like me out in the cold! Until now, the Windows Mobile has been a very flexible and customizable phone. It allowed users a lot of control on what they wanted to do with their phones. With Windows Phone 7 though, they seem to have embraced the Apple way of doing things. In an attempt at standardization of hardware and the platform, they have drastically cut down on the amount of control that the users have on their own phone.

I have been reading up a fair bit trying to learn about the Windows Phone and some aspects about it did not make sense:

 

1. No true multi-tasking

The Windows Phone does away with true multi-tasking! Though, the programs and hubs native to the OS will have multi-tasking capability (you can play music in the background using the Music Hub while browing the Internet or checking emails), the capability will not be open for third party programs to make use of! In my view, this is a big let down.

I have installed third party music players, communication software such as Octro Talk and routinely switch between applications to refer data from various documents while I work. I fail to understand how I could continue with that style of working without multi-tasking capabilities on my phone.

2. No file manager

While introducing the new paradigm of seamless integration through hubs, Microsoft has done away with simple tools that give the users more control over their phone. For example, the File Manager will no longer be available.

I love organizing my files into a structure suitable for my needs. However, now all my Office files will simply be available in the Office Hub. The average user may not see a problem with that. But I carry many files which don't exactly fit into any one particular Hub that Microsoft intends to provide! How can I manage them?

The other aspect to this is that Microsoft will no longer support the USB storage mode. This means, I can no longer use my phone as a temporary storage device to carry my files around.

3. No Copy & Paste

I really don't know what Microsoft were thinking when they decided to remove support for the Copy & Paste functionality from their phone.

Apparently, Microsoft's "research" showed them that people don't use this functionality! Microsoft's Todd Brix is extremely confident that I will not require this functionality and will not make use of it. He cites the new "Smart Linking" functionality that Microsoft has introduced into the Windows Phone which will eliminate the necessity of me every wanting to Copy and Paste.

The problem for me is that I am not equally confident since I make use Copy & Paste all the time. Be it moving text from Word to Excel or copying a quote I like from the Internet into my notes! On the Windows Phone 7, I cannot do that.

This is a deal-breaker for me.

4. No support for Additional memory

Microsoft has gone full blown Apple here. The Windows Phone will not support external memory cards. The iPhone has never supported external memory cards and I have never understood why. Now, I am horrified to see Microsoft go the same way.

In my opinion, external memory allows me to quickly transfer files between phones or between my phone and my PC. Memory cards also allow me to carry additional files without having them clutter my phone memory. Their absence is another deal-breaker.

 
 

I have been waiting for the Windows Phone since early 2009 when I first noticed the chatter about Windows Mobile 7. I have had great expectations and even deferred the purchase of my next phone waiting for this Mobile OS to come onto the stage. My first impression of the OS was definitely that of awe. However, now that I had the time to delve into some details I must say I am greatly disappointed.

It is true that the Windows Phone is a game changing OS. Microsoft has tried to embrace the general consumer and worked hard to make its phone consumer friendly. However, I cannot understand the need to shut the door firmly on those who are a little more technically inclined and crave for just that little bit of control and ability to tweak the phone to get an experience they desire — users such as me.