Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why (not) Windows Phone 8?

Last article on this site was about my reasons for sticking with Windows Phone 7 over everything else out there. In this article I try to explain why, contrary to my enthusiast nature, I'm thinking of not changing from Windows Phone 7 even to Windows Phone 8.

Towards the end of October '12, we finally saw the wraps come off some notable Windows Phone 8 devices. Samsung opened the game with ATIV S, shortly followed by Nokia and HTC. All of these devices offered a lot of specs to drool over, but I can't help to think that for me the operating system it self is the least exciting thing about these new devices.

Let's compare the situation to the Android and even iOS world. Every time there's new devices announced, they also make a very big deal over how the OS has evolved in its latest iteration. Android manufacturers and Apple upgrade their operating system, but offer higher specs in the devices as well. Sure, this isn't a guaranteed way to make money (such as HTC's beautiful and powerful One-lineup proved), but it becomes pretty clear to consumers as to why make the jump.

The most awaited feature in Windows Phone 8 for me is ... drumroll .... the new theme colours. Yeah, not Kid's corner, not that Room thing, not the resizeable live tiles, not the support for new technical feature a-z, but the theme or accent colours. Sure, Microsoft is very lucky that they've enrolled a device manufacturer that has been willing to pour its heart out in innovation into their WP8 device, increasing drooling potential significantly. Still I feel this isn't a merit of the platform itself at all, and I pack the 808 for when I need a mobile camera. Other features I love about WP7 remain unchanged in WP8, so why do the upgrade?

Yeah, so?

So, sales and especially pre-order sales have been great for some Windows Phone 8 devices, so I must be in the minority who think that WP8 isn't anything too great. Right? Well, I think there's more to this here. Let's explore a little farther.

Windows Phone 7.8, the update to all current Windows Phone 7.5 devices. Rumours spread around the web a couple of weeks ago, that on the 28th of November, WP7.8 would be released to the masses. Wednesday rolled around, and all we got was a Microsoft statement that they've pushed it back to Q1 2013. Whenever a date pops into the rumour-o-sphere that is Twitter, we can usually be pretty sure that the software is ready or just about ready to be released.

There can then be only market-strategic reasons for not releasing the software. I think that the reason this time is, that they don't want to risk sales of Windows Phone 8, and will go far and wide to take precautions. If I, for example, would have been given WP7.8 on the 28th, I don't think I would even be writing this blog post. Windows Phone 8 would feel so irrelevant to me. I'd have all I wanted:  my precious theme colours. There was a lot of commotion when WP7.8 was announced, as people were expecting a free update to WP8. Since that day I've felt though, that because WP7.8 and WP8 will look the same, the real differences between the operating systems will soon be forgotten. I think Microsoft is aware of this as well, and this is the reason they're pushing it back.

High demand and interest for WP8 comes from people, who aren't on the platform yet, but refused to do the jump 6-8 months back when it was "killed" WP7 months after it got popular and got its first flagship devices.

Conclusions: my suggestion to Microsoft

Now that you've bought yourself some time with WP7.8, make it mandatory that in the installation phase you will be greeted with a checklist comparing WP7.8 to WP8. I think we satisfied, current customers should be reminded why we're only applying the "WP8 skin" to our system. You could remind us of the strict hardware restrictions that have made "real" new features a near impossibility on older devices. Trash talking your own product like this probably isn't the way to go, but maybe you get my drift.

Sales for Windows Phone 7 devices were rubbish, but there's still a couple of million of us out here, so make the effort of selling Windows Phone 8 to us.