Windows Phone conclusion

Some time ago, I wrote about my transition from Android to Windows Phone. I don’t regret having gotten a Windows 7 Phone, but I do resent having one. Allow me to explain…

Windows 7 Phone’s UI utterly severs all visual and stylistic ties with it’s desktop ancestry. It is deliciously intuitive – once you unlearn your desktop-trained instincts of how you have to interact with an electronic device; the same way it was hard to learn to right-click a century ago :)

Once you’ve been thus liberated, oh my god. What a joy to use!

I got to liking Windows 7 Phone’s “Metro”. My only real problem was the lack of a good app ecosystem. It doesn’t run Windows native apps: You can’t, for instance, throw a copy of putty on it.

We talk about the era of “app for that”. I call BS – on the era part. Apps have ALWAYS been the critical factor. In the earliest of days, MS-DOS beat it’s competitors … because it had so many apps and games – stuff that you downloaded and off it went – that the muss and fuss to get more complex stuff was abbrogated rather than just ammortized as it is under most other OSes.

As a relatively early adopter, I was going to have to wait for apps to emerge. Microsoft – a company based on software developer – they’re famous for enticing developers to their new and nascent platforms, right?

Oh, I forgot… Steve Ballmer runs Microsoft now, not Bill Gates :(

Windows 7 Phone needed developers enticing to it. Apps = life. Windows 7 Phone has very few apps. But developers need consumers and MS utterly shafted Windows 7 Phone reception and sales – along with their shafting of Nokia.

Instead of doing what Microsoft does best – luring developers by any means – for Windows 7 Phone they decided to do what always fails badly for Microsoft – going borg and hitting developers with a massive stick: Windows ME and Windows Vista were both sticks. Windows 8 is also a stick. A stick that shat in the very cradle W8 is going to have to lie in by killing it’s progenitor (W7P).

When Microsoft is releasing a stick, the wrong end of the dog is leading the product development. ME, Vista and 8 weren’t really consumer OSes – they were developer assimilation products. Microsoft was willing to take the consumer purchase hit in exchange for the app-ecosystem migration ready for the next and actual consumer OS release :(

It has worked in the past – why shouldn’t it work just fine in this case?

There are three target markets for Windows 8:
– Desktop. Except, the goal of Windows 8 is to make developers switch to using the sub-desktop/touch centric Metro UI. If Windows 8 is a success, desktop users will see their app ecosystem wither up and die…
– Tablet. Except this is a new hardware platform, so there’s next to no app ecosystem for it; Tablet users will have to subsist on ports and/or apps that are not specifically targetted to tablets.
– Phone. Except, phone consumers have just seen Microsoft ditch a dedicated phone OS in-favor of a second-class all-for-one experience; they also have a year+ of people saying “Windows Phone is OK, but there are no apps for it” and Windows Phone 8 will have even less.

Microsoft has already seriously eroded developer confidence in their ability to establish and commit to technologies lately: .Net, Silverlight, ASP, ASP.NET, MVC, HTML 5, WP7, even just the renaming of “Metro” never mind the fact that Windows 8’s UI isn’t the same Metro that won people over in WP7.

So the bipolar desktop touchtop OS doesn’t strike any developer as a long-term commitment. Clearly one is going to win and one is going to loose.

For a small developer living off an existing Windows app, the reality is that if you want to target Windows 8 proper you are going to have to *port* your application to Windows 8, or make it essentially cross-platform.

Doing so, and only targetting Windows, is essentially putting development money on OS futures.

Conversely, you could add iOS/Droid targets; leverage their existing consumer bases and mature development tools to buy-down the porting costs, and then wait for W8 to bed down before targetting it – after all, Windows 8 Desktop and Tablet users will be able to use your app already.

Steve Ballmer is not a developer; his decision making for Microsoft is actually not that terrible for end-consumer products, but has forced the company to make choices/actions that have been atrocious for platform consumers i.e. developers. He just doesn’t know how to run an operating system company.

As a result his platform doesn’t have developer confidence, and he doesn’t have the freedom to make his platform-provider make good choices that will nurture a healthy development community that will result in the copacetic app ecosystem that he needs to move his device goals forward.

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