back to article Windows Phone 7: Microsoft's exercise in self restraint

The key difference between Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile is not Silverlight, the Windows Marketplace lock-in, or the disallowing of native-code applications. Rather, Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's best effort at creating a user-centric device, something that is actually a pleasure to use. Its existence has everything to …


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  1. BobaFett
    Jobs Halo

    Changed the water it drinks

    No kidding, to Apple juice it seems!

    1. breakfast Silver badge

      Or maybe...

      Perhaps to Buxton mineral water?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User Experience?

    As a professional WIndows Mobile developer, the biggest problem I've had to deal with over the years is Microsoft progressively trying to create a "user experience". The devices I work with are largely used by companies for a single purpose, such as tracking shipments across transportation networks, and it's the customer who wants to control the user experience. This means we've had to fight harder and harder against the OS, instead of it just providing a palette of services that we can use to create whatever "experience" we want to.

    The appearance of Windows Phone 7 is a bit of a two-edged sword for us. There's no way we can use it, so it frees us from the constant pressure to always move to the latest Windows Mobile version. On the other hand, it means that we won't be able to use the new generation of consumer applications such as navigation software, which at the moment run perfectly on our devices and interoperate with our applications. Oh well, some you win...

  3. IT specialist
    Thumb Down

    Microsoft got it upside down

    "Microsoft's best effort at creating a user-centric device" has turned into Microsoft's best effort at creating a device for itself, not end users.

    Locking people into Microsoft's Marketplace is not a feature that benefits any end users. That's a feature for Microsoft's benefit only.

    Forbidding 3rd party apps from accessing native code, while allowing Microsoft's own apps to access native code, is a feature not good for developers. It's a feature that gives an (unfair) advantage to Microsoft only (BTW, Mozilla will never port Firefox for this reason alone).

    Windows Mobile 7 Series is everything that Microsoft ever wanted for itself, and nothing for end users.

    1. OffBeatMammal


      ... wrote an open letter to SteveB asking for an NDK specifically so they could port Firefox.

      Unless they get their browser out there on more devices than IE and Webkit they'll go the way of the earlier Gecko engine.... Netscape anyone?

  4. DrXym Silver badge

    Microsoft's problem

    The issue for Microsoft is they're competing against Apple from the consumer's perspective but they're actually competing against Android in most other respects. Android is a modern, well designed phone OS which does everything that Windows Mobile 7 (and iPhone) doesn't (e.g. multi-tasking) and its as vendor friendly as you can get since it's free. Unless Microsoft have some rabbit they can pull out of the hat (e.g. mobile xbox), I think Microsoft are going to have a pretty sorry time of it.

  5. Giles Jones Gold badge


    Anyone wondering why Microsoft's output is a bit chaotic should read this article, written by a former Vice President of Microsoft:

  6. MrT
    Thumb Up

    Rogue apps and the core product...

    What's painfully obvious from Windows Mobile 6.x is that the core OS is not protected from the applications. In the same way that an installation of Windows 98, (for example) could be screwed by the wrong version of a dll being called, or that newer apps over-loaded the older core files causing problems for older apps (if you follow my meaning there!), I've had a very decent handset (HTC Raphael) completely banjaxed by apps from the Marketplace, to the point where it has been taken back to factory state several times to remove all traces of the offending files.

    This, at least, will be prevented by the lock-down of the new OS from deep-level third-party code. It's possible that the inability of the apps to interchange data is down to stronger sandboxing. Microsoft is at the beginning of a road that Apple took several years ago - yes, in time the ability for apps to multitask may be opened up (as is rumoured for iPhone 4), and the interaction between them may always have to be brokered by the core OS, but it is the right way to go compared to the current WM6.x model.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rogue Apps

      MrT is correct in his assertion that apps can do untold damage to the OS with Windows Mobile 6.x. This OS is still based on CE 5.0, which runs everything inside the same virtual machine, much like 16-bit Windows apps used to do on 32-bit Windows versions. The other basic issue with the OS is the lack of virtual memory "headroom" between the app and the loaded dll's, which is down to the way in which memory allocation works. Windows Phone 7 is (or at least, appears to be) based on CE 6.0, which addresses the virtual memory issue, but actually removes some protections that CE 5.0 provided for the system processes. My guess is that on balance the system will appear to be more stable, but only because memory leaks will simply take longer to crash it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    it's the mind-set

    "Windows 7 is meant to be quieter, but the screen soon filled with ugly dialogs competing for attention, mostly from third-parties. It's this kind of thing that drives users to the Mac."

    Mac lovers think the interface is wonderful. To the rest of us, it's a competing mess of inconsistent UI features, cluttered with lots of boxes (why do programs like Word and Graffle and the rest litter the screen with little detached controls?).

    And worst of all, when those applications (third party or otherwise) want your attention, their icons start bouncing in the dock: that's sooooo anoying. It's right up there with <flash> in the bad-UI innovation stakes.

    I don't want to start an is/isn't battle (again): just to say that it's horses for courses. Give me objective evidence that one is less cluttered/busy than the other, then I'll take notice.

    1. OffBeatMammal

      I like OSX

      but I'm bored of it always being held up as a shining example of perfection.

      it's got a bunch of inconsistancies and missed opportunities to make good use of keyboard accelerators (or worse has innapropriate defaults).

      Win7 is actually a huge improvement over what came before from MS and has evolved and grown at a faster pace than OSX

      I use both (and Ubuntu) on a daily basis and have frustrations no matter which OS I am running.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    User centric or loser centric?

    I found recent software much more difficult to use for power users than ever before. The aim to let the computer illiterate to be able to perform his or her useless tasks is killing usability. Whatever task is outside the loser capability must be deeply hidden from the user interface, and the software must try to convince you you should not use it and let the computer perform some other useless action instead. I do not need nor Facebook nor Twitter. I need a device that performs what I need, not what the average loser may be driven to think he/she needs. And Apple is a master to drive users. That's why it was used by people in the image industry, but power users looked elsewhere.

    1. Andrew Newstead
      Thumb Down

      So much...

      .. for IT providing a way help liberate the masses by providing a means of access to information. OK, I know that most people waste the potential of the medium (facebook etc.) but given that more and more services from government and sellers, not to mention the banks are going online, I would have thought that there is an increasing demand for a simple and robust computer system that can be used by the "computer illiterate".

      Computing for the masses is here to stay whether you like it or not.

  9. The Original Steve

    Damned if they do

    So MS can spend a couple of years designing a new platform... either a flexible, customisable platform with lots of developer support but the UI can be bastardised by OEM's or dev's - or they focus on design and a cracking UI but drop features that developers want.

    MS historically have sided slightly in towards the dev side of things, but have UI/end user as a close second.

    For the last 7 years or so I've just wiped any machine I get. Consumer or business, I don't want anything from the OEM other than the E "equipment". Found that whilst Microsoft's UI efforts leave a lot of be desired, they are very usable and have good developer support. OEM's and 3rd party apps destroy any effort for a consistant UI.

    The success of the iPhone shows that users ultimatly don't care about software, OEM branding etc. They want a clean UI first and foremost, with functionality to follow as long as the UI is clean.

    MS are damned if they do, damned if they don't...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another reason...

    Another reason Apple have done so well is the fact they can push out firmware updates directly to the user through iTunes.

    Currently all the WinMo and Android phones only get updates if firstly the handset maker updates the firmware and gives it to the CellCo's, then secondly the Cellco's, who insist on being able to brand the "user experience", actually investing the time and effort to do the branding and make it available to their customers.

    Of course with them not controlling the hardware, even if they could bypass the CellCo, MS will still be dependent on the Handset makers for firmware updates.

  11. Lou Gosselin

    Not for me.

    I may not be a typical consumer, but the lock in and lack of end user control that apple has forced onto it's customers is rather a step backwards. I'm repelled by apple's approach to consumer devices, and I'll be equally repelled by whatever company takes a similar stance.

    In the cell phone market, I'm disappointed but not surprised at the dominance of closed platforms. Should the closed tablets take any significant market share, I will be both surprised and disappointed.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    interface is nice, but

    I applaud Microsoft for the nice user interface, and the fact that they are putting more emphasis on usability. There is no doubt that they are very important parts of developing a new product, but the technology has to be there to back it up.

    No amount of animated transitions between screens will make up for the fact that you cannot email and listen to music at the same time (multitasking), or have background messenger open.

    Lacking features like cut and paste, and crappy cut down office applications practically hands over the remnants of their business customers to blackberry.

    Alienating developers by excluding features they need to build applications makes sure that first line of third party applications will be lacking.

    Silverlight means that you will need faster and more expensive phones just to keep up with native code on their competitors' phones.

    Lack of open market, and inability to run your own apps alienates tech crowd, previous win mobile users, and anyone with half a clue to know how dangerous of a precedent shit like this sets for computing in general.

    On the related Office comment. Most of the complaints about new Word are because of the new ribbon, and gimmicky 'user experience improvements'. Last thing people in professional environment need is some overzealous designer to change office so it is a pleasure for grandma to use, but cuts out all the professional features that people have grown to depend on. (because grandma does not need them)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Dumbed Down Design

    I would hardly refer to Apple's attempts to create a UI as "Industrial Design", more like "Dumbed Down Design". It was not that long ago that it was MS accused of makingthings too simple, for idiots, and now they get slated for keeping things too difficult by the IT press. Bagger you barstewards, have you nothing better to write about?

    iphone is not an innovation, in fact my HTC / Qtek running WM5 from 2005 had far more innovation 2-3 years earlier than the most recent iphones (so Apple's attempt at suing HTC is truly pathetic).

    MS major problem has been in simply not marketing WMobile at all. They had a wide open opportunity and jobs et al need sacking for screwing this one up whilst also wasting time, at the same time, screwing up Vista, and screwing Office 2007 with useless ribbons.

    These 3 errors will be the downfall of MS, unless they return to their core, undumb users and keep on marketing day after day after day. How dumb can someone be paying a thousand bucks for an iphone? The alternative of getting a cheap phone but with all yor data stolen by Google Android is also unpallatable.

    C'mon MS, sort your crap out and get back to leading.

  14. niteriderxp

    User Centric == DUMB

    I have liked Windows Mobile since version 2003. It may not be the easiest OS to use, but it is extremely flexible.

    A usability professor of mine in college once said that flexibility and simplicity are at odds with one another. By definition if flexibility is increased, complexity increases too. The opposite is also true; if complexity is decreased, flexibility decreases too.

    Advanced (read: smart) users want flexibility and are willing to accept any *necessary* complexity. Novice (read: dumb) users want simplicity and are rarely willing to think about how to accomplish a task.

    Microsoft has generally catered to the advanced users, which truth be told is a small user base. They have now switched to catering to the masses which is a predominately novice user base. Their actions make sense; wider market, more users, more money to be made.

    By ignoring their traditionally advanced users, they may have lost them to more flexible platforms like Android. The majority of novice users are currently hooked on iPhones, M$ has to introduce some pretty compelling features to ween them off.

    If M$ does in fact lose it's advanced users and does not steal market share from other platforms, they will become an odd duckling just as Palm's WebOS is today.

    I think the best course for M$ is to take the middle road, improve usability while ensuring that advanced users can still hack the OS to their liking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thanks. For. That.

      "A usability professor of mine in college once said that flexibility and simplicity are at odds with one another. By definition if flexibility is increased, complexity increases too. The opposite is also true; if complexity is decreased, flexibility decreases too"

      Was he Professor of Stating the Bleedin' Obvious?

    2. Trygve

      You know, there used to be computers for advanced users once...

      They were called workstatkions. Sun, IBM, HP, SGI and lots of other companies used to make big bucks out of high-capability systems designed by experts for experts. 10 years ago workstations could do stuff which is just about becoming standard today. Full 32-bit way back in the day, user interfaces that could be tweaked to the nth degree, blah blah blah.

      Windows killed all of them. The ones that still exist probably sell fewer units in a year than Packard Bell sell in a week.

      Designing for advanced users is pretty much a 1-way ticket to the corporate graveyard, because in order to accommodate 0.01% of the user base you end up making the product so complex and expensive that the rest of the user base cant afford it and can't figure out how it works.

      Build locked-down limited systems for idiots - the advanced users may have to buy 5 and use them all simultaneously to keep themselves occupied, but hey, that's 5x the margin and you'll sell a ton extra to those who just want something simple.

      1. Keith Oldham

        Re : You know, there used to be computers for advanced users once

        There still are - they run Linux or FreeBSD

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Industrial designers?

    "Designers" designing a product means that function is following form = fail.

    Let the engineers do the fundamental design. Engineers who understand usability always make the best stuff.

    1. multipharious

      Industrial Design

      Not to be contrary here, but this is not what you think. Because Apple has total control over the hardware in their walled kingdom, they can do things like chop the motherboard in places so the peripherals like headphone jacks, NIC, USB, and so forth all line up. The cases have been historically prettier. The devices look almost alienly perfect. This is what industrial design is about. Setting specifications in advance. A lot of OEM vendors are starting to pay attention to details like this now, but in the past many if not all cases have had that mass produced Imperial tie fighter look to them with the devices either slapped above or beneath the motherboard. No fit and finish on the seams and so forth. In other words it just looked cobbled together from spare bits and bobs... I hope the shiny laptop case fad passes quickly, but that is one example of how the vendors are already responding to the design issue: Windows laptops are looking better.

      Microsoft is taking a stab at end to end design control, which is historically something that it has mostly left to the vendors. I don't like Apple because of their walled kingdom, let's see if Microsoft does a face plant with their version or if they somehow empower the vendors and developers to remain in play. (in the future)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Thank God for the Apple. I think in 10 years, this era will be seen as the second golden age of computers, the first being the era when the Commodores, Ataris, Apples and PCs roamed freely. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

  17. Simon Buttress

    They changed the water they drink? Kool-Aid by any chance?

    On another point all this cringe inducing "business" jargon makes me want to projectile vomit over those that use it.

  18. Youngone Silver badge


    Is it just me, or is it odd that Microsoft has real problems competeing in markets it has no monoploy control over?

    Just asking.

  19. sleepy

    business model crumbling?

    Doesn't this mean Microsoft is tightening its grip on the platform, leaving even less scope for OEM partners to innovate, and effectively making them irrelevant intermediaries between Microsoft and contract manufacturers in the far east. Dell and HP have already ceded product development on PC's if favour of picking options from proposals prepared by contract suppliers.

    Won't the potential "OEM partners" therefore forsake Microsoft for Android, or roll their own Linux or BSD derivative smartphone (as Apple and Google have done)?

    So isn't MS once again trundling along years later copying Apple's product, just as they did with Windows. But this time they will soon copy Apple's business model too. The talk of OEM partners will turn out to be illusory, just as it did for media players. And won't the platform still be flop, just as Zune is?

    MS can't go on for ever subsidizing all their other businesses from Office and Windows. Even today it's doubtful entertainment and devices has ever made any money, allowing for 2007's $1.1B special Xbox adjustment, and for a fair share of the enormous but vague costs lumped into "corporate level activity" in Microsoft's accounts ($5-7B annually).

  20. barth

    There's no point

    in speaking of partners. If MS is going to ape Apple to that degree (and aping it is, WinMob 7 is iPhone OS 1.0, 4 years late), with so many restrictions on the hardware that "partners" cannot really choose anything (screen, CPU- whole SOC actually, ram expansion, buttons... are all dictated by MS), MS might as well drop the pretense and sell their own phone. Which they would surely be doing already if they were not in such a big rush to have a product out , since they obsoleted their available offering while still NOT having its successor.

    WinMob7 is Zune-ish, and the Zune is branded MS.

    So, enjoy you last hurrah, MS "partners". Next stop, the dung heap.

  21. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Microsoft man talks a good game.

    No features but beautifully useable... Windows Phone.

    If it actually is a more useable phone, then fine. I assume I can use it as modem for a PC?

    By the way, do you mean Apple when you unexpectedly say "Adobe has a design community" and Windows developers - mobile or otherwise - just ship the last version that successfully compiled?

  22. Anonymous Coward


    "Its existence has everything to do with Apple and the way it has stolen Microsoft's market - in music downloads, in high-end laptops, soon in tablet computers"

    Wow. I'm no great Ms fan, but that statement's rather sweeping isn't it? I mean since when has MS manufactured High end laptops? I thought it was the OS it did which, when I last check, still had more than 80% of the market.

    And 'soon in tablet computers'. I assume that's referring to the iPad, which hasn't started selling yet, and doesn't have massive projections even so, especially out of the US. Again, not comparing like for like.

    And when has Microsoft's market been centered on downloads?

    MS still makes most of its money from its OS and Office which, despite some implication in the article, is far from dead.

    This piece reads like an Apple Fanboi 'ignore the actual facts' article.

    Note: I'm not saying anything about the MS phone here, I agree that MS is way behind on things that aren't its core product.

    1. gratou


      I think he means that people shelling big bucks for a laptop buy an apple one, not a windows one, and this may happen again for tablets: MS has been trying to establish a market for years without success.

      As for music downloads, you are right, MS tried to delay as long as possible having to anything to do with the web, its only notable activity being to kill Netscape (remember the IE team being dismantled because IE6 was all a browser could be?). But he is right too: they missed to internet boat, and now they want to offer a cloud and an online office extension.

      As for their core products, as long as apps can overwrite systems files when installed, or a simple word processor can freeze the OS, I see no reason to take pride in MS' technical achievements. The marketing achievements of course are another story.

  23. Big-nosed Pengie
    Gates Horns

    I see.

    So they're going to continue to produce buggy, insecure and counterintuitive shite - but they're going to make it look pretty.

    Sounds about right.

  24. Haydies

    Stolen Maket

    "everything to do with Apple and the way it has stolen Microsoft's market - in music downloads, in high-end laptops".... when exactly did Apple make a high-end laptop?

  25. Azzy

    Am I just weird?

    When i see things like

    "the attention given to transitions between states, with attractive flowing animations. "If you don't have as much detail in the transition as you do in the state, you're going to get it wrong,""

    I think that it's another example of how out of touch MS is with the end users. We don't want animations, we want an easy to use interface that responds as faster (regardless of how fast it is, we want it faster). Animations won't help that, and will probably make it slower.

    Am I the odd one here? Do normal users want smooth animations and effects?

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