I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts awhile back. The hosts were talking about Windows Phone and how they couldn’t understand why it didn’t have more market share. I said it when Windows Phone first came out and I’ll say it again. The problem is not as much developer support or traction but the interface. Sure I applaud Microsoft for doing something different than every other mobile operating system (OS). It is also this difference in the way the OS works why not many people want to use it. At this point you might wonder why I’m even talking about Windows Phone. Well that is because now that Windows 10 has been launched Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10 Mobile will be the name of their mobile Operating System (OS). The problem is that only the name has changed. So the same way I felt when they released Windows Phone is the same opinion I’m going to hold for Windows 10 Mobile.
Microsoft did the same thing with their mobile OS that they did with Windows 8. The current smartphone interface is pretty standard. There is a lock screen, home screen(s), app icons and you tap and hold the icons to move them around. Most of the basic icons are even usually in the same locations and have mostly the same look. Microsoft instead decided to ditch the concept of the home screen and icons in favor of their infinitely scrolling live tiles. They took something that everyone already knew how to use and developed a new way that people would have to re-learn. In Windows 8 the same was true, after spending over a decade teaching people how to use Windows. How to use the start menu, windowed programs, etc. They decided again to have people re-learn everything by removing the start menu, introducing full screen apps, live tiles, charms and splitting up the log off and shutdown buttons. They don’t seem to realize that times have changed. Gone are the days when there was a divide between the consumers and the enterprise user. People want to use what they are familiar with and if they have an iPod, iPad, iPhone or Android device at home that is what they will want to use at work.
People love to personalize things, make it their own. It is why cars are sold in different colors, people change the wheels, add stickers, hang little things from the rearview mirror. It’s human nature and whether a person works in the enterprise or they are a mainstream user. People like to put pictures of their kids, car, favorite superhero, etc. as a wallpaper. It personalizes our devices, it makes them different from every other device out there. Microsoft was the one who gave us the ability to do so for pete’s sake. Windows allowed users to set a background, re-arrange icons and used the whole desktop metaphor. The desktop on the mobile OS is the home screen. In Windows Phone there is no personalization. A user can’t put their favorite picture as their background because there is no home screen. Just tiles that can be spun around and used to launch apps. Sure there’s a lock screen but how long does anyone spend looking at the lock screen compared to the home screen? The lock screen is only looked at on two occasions, to get glanceable information (time, notifications) or while unlocking the device.
The minute I saw the Windows Phone OS I knew I would never use it. I also felt and still feel that it will never gain much market because it is asking users to re-learn how to use a smartphone. It also doesn’t provide users with the means to personalize the exprience beyond changing the color of the tiles, Whoopie! I feel pretty safe assuming that the same will be true of Windows 10 Mobile. It’s only recently that Apple started allowing 3rd party keyboards onto the iPhone. Along with things like their version of widgets. Microsoft is arguably closest to doing mobile in a similar way to Apple. Like Apple they have a desktop OS, which BTW is on a hell of a lot more computers. Also like Apple they have a media player, Windows media player. In my opinion if Microsoft had looked at the mobile marketplace and said let’s take the best things from Apple’s way of doing it. Then let’s look at the things they don’t allow and provide those to users. I believe they would have had a great rival OS. Setup syncing and OS updates through Windows mediaplayer so they aren’t at the mercy of carrier’s for OS updates. Allow 3rd party keyboards, widgets, allow customization of the home screen like the ability to put app icons anywhere on the usable home screen grid, the ability to turn off lock screen elements or have lock screen widgets. The list is truely endless and I think that would have made a much more compelling user experience.
Microsoft instead wanted to take the fast route, felt they knew better than the competiton and users. They wanted carriers to instantly carry their devices. Instead of taking the longterm approach of getting one or two devices out there and letting the popularity grow. As the devices become more popular they would have the carriers at their mercy instead of the other way around. I think as long as they stick with the current setup and style of the mobile OS. I will predict that the market share of these devices will never approach anything respectable. It’s also a shame because more competition in the market makes all of the mobile OSes and devices better.
image credit: Redmond Pie