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Windows Phone Goes From Soft To Hard–I’m Ready To Recommend It

When Windows Phones first went on the market, despite the expensive ad campaign, it was always known to be a ‘soft’ release. In other words, they needed to get in the game and release phones to start to build a platform but they knew that they weren’t going to takeover the market on day one. The goal was to get devices in hands and start to build brand recognition and buzz, as well as a solid offering of games/apps, while they worked on improving the OS to catch up to the market in areas they knew they were missing. For some of us, we were in no matter what they were selling and people like myself bought devices on the first day they were available. And while I love the experience on my Focus it’s always been hard to recommend it to others because some of the shortcomings are obvious and I can’t say to someone “the iPhone is a more polished OS and has more features but Windows Phones will take them over in two years so jump in now despite the current shortcomings.” And that’s why you don’t see that many Windows Phones on the streets.

I mean, call a spade a spade, right? The iPhone has a better market in terms of apps and games and that’s both quality and quantity and some of the apps, like augmented reality apps or apps that require background services, simply can’t come to Windows Phones. And some of the capabilities from copy and paste to the ability to easily store documents\files are simply lacking on Windows Phones. All other platforms have turn-by-turn mapping but on Windows Phone it’s a third party app that isn’t tied into the native Maps (Bing) app. Despite the fluidness and slick integration that the OS has, I found it hard to recommend it to friends because of the simple and obvious shortcomings. Note the use of the past tense…

Since then the Marketplace has greatly expanded and has solid offerings in terms of both games and apps. No, it’s not the App Store but that’s double edged because I don’t want 300,000 apps. I want an OS that is functional out of the box and doesn’t need 300,000 apps to work. And now with Mango on the horizon the time has come. I’ve now recommended Windows Phones to 4 friends who are still smiling ear to ear every time they think about their phones. Yeah, the OS is something special and the subtle niceties are simply genius when you use it and learn how to use things like the People Hub to its fullest. And once Mango hits Windows Phones will move into a new phase- a hard launch.

Expect a full scale ad blitz and a lot more prominence based on what the OS can do natively. Microsoft is finally getting its act together and with the new features they have an OS that’s different than everyone else. See, they may not do everything that the other operating systems can do, but it can also do things that they can’t do. Take the messaging integration – native IM (including Facebook) chat within the OS. For me – that’s pure awesome and will entirely change the way I use my phone. Good bye text messaging and hello to chat whether I’m at my desktop or my phone and that’s without running some third party app in the background that drains the battery. Music search and real time camera search built in – sweet. Live tiles with multi-dimensions are not just beautiful but smart and time saving while also saving your battery. Tying Twitter right into the phone – no need for an app to get more done.

And you’ll no longer be able to talk about a lack of HTML5, hands free messaging or turn-by-turn directions as those will be baked into the OS. And the fact that the core to IE is the same as the desktop version speaks volumes about the quality of the web experience MS is kicking out. A linked inbox as a smarter take on a unified inbox shows that they’re not just checking off boxes but they’re stepping over the competition. I mean, every time I watch this it excites me:

Mango is getting ready to go RTM and that means MS is already working on the next set of features so expect this pace of innovation to continue. We still don’t have the list of 500 changes yet and there are likely still some Xbox Live tricks up their sleeve to be announced this week. And as more news comes out about Windows 8 and developers get excited about the reality of writing once for three screens (Win8, Xbox and WP7) with common code expect the app market to explode in a good way. Just think about it – they can code apps and games and have more devices available than any other ecosystem.

Microsoft has their foot on the pedal. Both Windows Phones,Windows 8 and dare I say Xbox 360 show a common theme – Microsoft gets integration again. Last time they understood that they were hit with an antitrust suit but being behind has some advantages. You can see Windows, Windows Phones and Xbox moving towards a fully integrated complete packages that are beyond the standard core experiences you’d expect.

With Mango you can open the box, enter your Live ID and be set. Deep social and app integration wrapped in a slick OS that you periodically glance at because it’s just that damn pretty. All of this without sitting there watching a task manager to ensure your battery will make it more than half a day.

They got it…they finally got it. Bring on Skype. Bring on Xbox. Let’s do this!