Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Windows 7 Mobile - First Impressions

There's no doubting that the initial end-user impressions scattered in comments across blogs, youtube videos and technology forums from all around the internet have been very good. The only real negative feedback seems to be centered on the bad taste Microsoft has left in so many nerdy mouths over the years, especially in the mobile world. Microsoft has lost over 30% of the U.S. smart phone market share since 2007 and is currently hovering somewhere around 16% and dropping like a rock.

So what has Microsoft done that is making real success a possibility?

They have completely redesigned windows mobile from the looks of things. The new user interface is reminiscent of Windows Media Center in terms of looks and comes paired with a new ideology in terms of navigation and functionality. The information is data-centric unlike our current popular mobile Os platforms like Apple's iPhone OS and Google Android OS among others. The layout makes sense and could really stir things up if the cards are played correctly.

All of this is exciting and all, but I can't help but to be somewhat afraid of what Microsoft will manage to do to undermine its own success. This reminds me of how excited I was about xBox Live and the many possibilities there specifically with the integration with Windows Media Center and how I couldn't wait to replace my cable box with a media center computer and an xBox360. Unfortunately the corporate mentality of Microsoft killed both of these things for me over time. Instead of allowing free and cheap user created content to integrate with xBox and Windows Media Center pcs, we were locked into only playing windows media formatted files and purchasing videos. We were forced to rely on all sorts of hacks and workarounds to get our xvid movies to play on our TV and couldnt enjoy most of what the internet already offers us for free (Like HULU and YouTube!). The dream of a centralized unrestricted home entertainment seems to be hitting road blocks everywhere, and the first one to tear them down will undoubtedly see some real success.

Here are a few items we will just have to wait and see about before we go buying a Windows Mobile 7 device...

  • Will Microsoft lock down media formats, cripple xBox Live and media center integration or try and heavy handedly push 'premium content'?
  • Can apps directly integrate with the UI to bring their data front and center (which is what makes this OS so attractive anyway), or will microsoft lock down which services get special treatment? If they can, can I get in and tweak what shows where, when and how it is displayed? This style of interface could quickly become overrun with useless app notifications at time when they aren't needed if I can't have tight control over it.
  • Can users disable the long transitions? They look great but I'm sure some people would like to shave any extra seconds off their day to day tasks like adding contacts, browsing the internet or looking up someones contact details, etc.

These are just a few things that come to mind, but I'm sure all of the thorough comparisons, benchmarks, overviews, photos and videos that are sure to begin flooding the interwebs will reveal the answers in due time.

Microsoft, don't lock us out of our own content. Don't force us to use something when we already like something else much more. Feel free to give us the option to try something new, but don't flood me with nag screens teasing me to open my wallet to enjoy what I thought I had already purchased (like with xBox), or handcuff me to your favorite video and audio services owned by you and your buddies. You've got a good idea here, and you seem to have done well with Windows 7. Please don't make Windows 7 brief moment of clarity, tell me you've changed for good.