Microsoft and Apple’s Fall 2011 Time Machine
The year was 2007 and Apple had released the iPhone to great reviews but was lacking features. Many brushed aside Apple’s chances to be a serious contender to Microsoft’s mature Windows Mobile platform. Apple had complete faith in its product and what they wanted to change about the smartphone. It wasn’t until several updates later that they adopted the app store and began to take the market by storm. They were innovative, a breath of fresh air and had what their competitors lacked-a compelling vision. Over the years the iPhone platform has become mature and predictive. Major yearly updates and product releases that you could set your watch to. Until now! Instead of releasing iOS5 this summer as everyone is accustomed to the major update will be coming this fall.
Microsoft saw the writing on the wall as it saw market share dwindle away each year until finally in 2009 Microsoft ditched “Photon” the awaited major update to its Windows Mobile platform and pulled the Windows Phone team together as they set a course to rejoin the smartphone conversation with something new to say. They could have easily been another Android with their Windows Mobile history but that wasn’t good enough for them. The Fall of 2010 saw the launch of Windows Phone 7 to great reviews but lacking features to make it competitive in an ever increasing tough smartphone market. Android was on fire and Apple was stretching its reach across the globe too.
This Spring Microsoft unveiled previews of Mango. Mango is the upcoming major update to the Windows Phone platform that both fills in the feature set while adding several differentiating features and services to the platform. Everyone who stayed objective had nothing but rave reviews for the Mango update with one caveat. Timing. It was only logical to wonder if Windows Phone who entered late to the current smartphone scene could wait another 6 to 8 months to release the Mango update. iOS5 was due to be unveiled in June at Apple’s WWDC and it was expected that a new iPhone would accompany the announcement and be available in July. Apple, you see, had a proven successful yearly release of new products. Android is also due to release a major update this fall codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich. Things changed at the WWDC.
There was no earth shattering announcements by Apple for the iOS5 software update. They instead polished the OS and added a few requested tweaks to important systems. Even the iCloud isn’t the revolutionary announcement we’ve all come to expect from Apple. Suddenly with a meaningful, yet slightly underwhelming iOS5 due to be released in the Fall the attention turned back to Mango and what it means to the Windows Phone platform.
Put simply. Mango puts Microsoft’s Windows Phone right in line with Apple’s iPhone as an appealing choice for the consumer. The irony now is that Apple has the mature, market leading platform who doesn’t see Microsoft’s offering as a threat. Microsoft’s Windows Phone is the new kid on the block with the fresh ideas that has something new to say to the conversation. Several bloggers openly questioned Microsoft’s strategy to do once a year major updates but isn’t that exactly what Apple does? In between its fine to refine or tweak a feature or two, even add a feature as a minor update. These are the top two tech companies in the world so if both of them are following this model, chances are they know something we don’t.
This Fall Mango and iOS5 will be released within weeks of each other both offering compelling experiences and each have a voice of its own. The battle lines have once again been drawn and the frenemies are fast becoming serious competitors with each other. I’m personally rolling with Windows Phone as the SkyDrive, Groups and Threads features complete with the coming tie-ins with Xbox Live and the Windows PC is a natural fit. Others are going with iOS5 with iMessage and iCloud- also because they have come to appreciate the iPhone for the mature, polished offering it brings.
To each his own but I want to hear where you stand. Windows Phone or iPhone?
I’m in the WP7 camp, but one major advantage that Apple has is the update process. Some users are still waiting for the NoDo update (aka the March update). Quite a few more still haven’t seen the Security Certificate update – lesser, but still a little annoying. Apple develops a patch, releases it, and the iPhones are updated. MS has to mess with the whole carrier scenario and the horrible fallout from some manufacturers (Samsung) changing their devices mid-manufacturing process. I think Mango has a lot going for it despite those problems, but getting it out past the carriers is going to be a beating. Add in the relatively small support for actually selling WP7 devices and MS is still climbing.
Despite the problems, I think MS will be successful. They realized that the demand for their dated WM offerings was a dead-end and changed direction. What I’ve seen so far indicates they’re on the right track if they can just get a good enough user base. Still not sure on the long-term predictions, but they may not be too far off.
I agree that Apple’s keynote definitely lacked compared to prior keynotes. No earth-shattering announcements and a lot of the response I saw was “Apple is now playing catch-up”. Still, they set the trend for a consumer-oriented smart phone, buying apps easily in a central location, and changing the way people buy phones. I do give them credit for that, even if I’m not a huge fan.
WP7 for me. Apple has a major advantage upgrading their own hardware. I was extremely happy with my iPhone 3g &3gs, but then came a bad update. I had every intention of upgrading to the iPhone 4. I went two months with a phone that did not function well. It was just to slow. The rep at Apple kept saying an update will be soon. The last time he said get the 4! That was it for me. Picked up an HD7 the first week available. Glad I did… I’ll stick with MS. I hope Mango update goes well 😛
@stpetekev: & @stpetekev, yes Apple does have a huge advantage in the seamless ability to issue their updates. Microsoft needs to correct this and correct this fast. If any OEM pulls the crap they pulled with the first wave of phones changing stuff midstream without working with Microsoft they need to have their licenses revoked and with Nokia on board i’m sure Microsoft now feels less pressure to hold all their OEMs hands and forgive them easily for transgressions.
Yes Apple does credit for bringing mobile app development to the forefront.
Too little marketing.
MS needs to keep great specials going and make an effort to show the phone. I would like to see demos set up in the malls, showcasing the phones and XBox/Zune capabilities.
The sales people at the various carriers, don’t even mention WP7 phones, most of the time.
I tell people about the XBox and Zune compatibility, and there is lots of interest.
I must admit there was a sigh of relief as I read the live blogs detailing the (lack of) new and innovative ideas being rolled into iOS 5. This coupled with the fact that iOS 5 is coming out in the fall, rather than within the next month also eased my mind. The reason I say this is because I have been fighting an uphill battle for 8 months trying to convince my iPhone and Android loyal friends to consider a better alternative. Most have Android phones, and seem to be satisfied with them, despite that most don’t actually know how to use them to their “full potential.” I just worry that in 2 year’s time that these mainstream, non-techie Android users don’t remain loyal to the platform. I can’t imagine that most people would feel compelled to remain with it, but I hope that buying apps doesn’t lead to lock-in as it may with iOS.
Too much focus on what ios is doing. Microsoft needs to focus on executing flawlessly from now on. They are on notice, carrier reps wont sell their phone, OEM partners are producing forgettable devices, carriers are delaying updates. All that needs to be tackled firmly so that the update process is more like the apple experience and less like the Nodo fiasco. Then you can talk Nokia bringing their value to the game because if the other issues are not addressed, Nokia or not WP7 wont see the end of 2012.
So, reading the article and the coments, it seems that iOS is the example to follow for Windows Phone. 🙁
My god, what a disappointment. As a former WinMo user I would never have imagined that one day Microsoft would try to mimic the iPhone and its locked down OS, with no freedom, no flexibility. That’s bad.
I am a WP7 owner, but I am very happy to see that an more open OS, such as Android, with USB storage, file explorer, etc (that is to say a REAL smartphone IMO) is so successful.
@Eric, while I definitely can sympathize, one issue that hurt WM was the device fragmentation. Difference screen sizes, different hardware, some had touch screens, some didn’t. Each device had to be customized differently and then software had to be developed to run at the various resolutions or work well with the hardware configuration. Some of this I see Android devices allowing – screen sizes, hardware. Some things Android does well (customization as you noted).
Personally, I think Apple did a lot to change the smartphone industry and give them credit for that. It and Android finally shook MS out of their “do the same old thing” mode. However, I can definitely sympathize and partially agree on the way they handled things like USB Storage, file explorers, and such. Of course, the main reason I needed a local file installer was to run an installer or find a document I couldn’t otherwise find so I’m not as bummed about that. Easy file transfer on/off the device would be useful, though. Hoping some of that changes with the next release. I know we’ll at least get better SkyDrive support.
I disagree a little with your first line. iOS and Android both have a lot from which the WP7 team should have learned. MS shouldn’t necessarily follow them in all things, but they did a lot right so learning from that makes sense. Whether they did or not will be left as an exercise for the reader. 😉
As a dev, I like Silverlight and it is far easier to program WP7 apps than it is iOS’s Objective C. iOS has a very strong app-paying market though, so it’s hard to ignore. Objective C and iOS’s APIs allow for much better access to underlying components, so it’s easier on that platform to create some really great software. I wish not only was the WP7 platform better in this regard (maybe it’s getting closer with Mango), but also Silverlight was a better compiled language – it can be slow. Even animation in Silverlight is all wacky with memory management issues, so while the language may be easy, creating apps isn’t – there are many, many limitations and things that slow it down. Objective C will take 4 times the amount of time to program for the same features, but there are less limitations.