VoIP Business and Virtual PBX

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Beyond that, opinions are largely divided. The Surface is great! The Surface is an iPad ripoff! Windows Phone 8 is great! Nokia users got screwed!

The Surface is an impressive looking piece of hardware

The Surface is an impressive looking piece of hardware. Microsoft, for the first time in two years, fired a clear shot across the bow of the iPad, and simultaneously put all Android tablet makers on notice. They took a big step forward toward laptop/tablet convergence - which was fairly predictable given the nature of Windows 8 - however in clever ways people likely didn't expect, with a built-in kickstand and a Smart Cover/keyboard hybrid. Beyond that, Microsoft when all is said and done seemed to understand how much it improves the user experience if a company controls both the hardware and the software.

Windows Phone 8 was a much-needed shot in the arm for Windows Phone, after all bringing a cohesive ecosystem to the mobile Windows world, such that developers can easily target apps for both their tablet and phone OS, in the same way they already can for iOS and Android - with the added benefit of Windows RT arguably being a more powerful operating system. Even though Microsoft was in some ways for all that left playing catch-up with their new features, they genuinely - and appropriately - seemed excited about the future of Windows Phone. In other ways, Windows 8 Phone to tell the truth leap-frogged their competition, especially with regard to things like Direct X and Skype/VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) integration. Personally, I've always had a soft-spot for Live Tiles, as I think they're an ideal mash-up between static app icons and information-providing widgets - so I think the expansion of the Windows 8 start screen was as well a pretty big deal. Overall, I found very little - if anything - in WP8 to complain about.

Lot of good to the table in a single week

For someone bringing a lot of "good" to the table in a single week, Microsoft nevertheless doesn't seem to know in every respect how to present it. Their announcement of the Surface tablets was largely reminiscent of major Apple announcements, however I believe it was missing the most important aspects. During there's no doubt that Steve Jobs was a fantastic salesman, I think what as a matter of fact wins people over while Apple's announcements is the fact that the product being announced nearly always:

Showing a product at an expo like CES is one thing - it's a venue designed to show off new research, some of which may never even make it to market. However, if you hold a special last-minute event, you have to bring something more to the table than "It will be out together as the OS and will be priced competitively" - that just doesn't cut it. Microsoft gave us tech blue balls - they got people rightfully excited about their product, nevertheless by the end they refused to tell people when they could buy it or how much they could buy it for. So why even bother holding the event? Maybe it was to get the fires going in accordance with their OEMs previously the release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, yet it everything considered seems like a wasted possibility - and since Microsoft is undeniably behind in the tablet races, and they can't afford to waste opportunities of the same type.

Speaking of the OEMs...it will be interesting to see how they respond to the fact that Microsoft is now directly competing with them, especially since they have to pay Microsoft a non-trivial fee to create Windows RT and Windows 8 devices...a fee that Microsoft will evidently not have to pay themselves. It's hard to imagine they're thrilled over the prospect of paying to compete with Microsoft, particularly when Android continues to be free for their use.

The impending end-of-life of Windows Phone 7

I don't think it's possible to discuss Microsoft's announcements this week without mentioning the impending end-of-life of Windows Phone 7. The reasons they're doing it make perfect technical sense and perfect business sense, nevertheless that doesn't change the fact that the timing is horrible. Two and a half months ago, WP7 had what was in essence a re-launch of the platform with the Lumia 900. It was Microsoft and Nokia's big push afterwards almost a year and a half of other handset makers in essence recycling their Android hardware and putting WP7 on it - we were when all is said and done getting quality hardware that was meant for WP7. "The smartphone beta test" was over, we were told.

Flash forward to yesterday, when clients were really told there was no use in buying a phone running WP7, because it was being EOL'd as-of that moment. Keep in mind that the Lumia 900 isn't even 3 months old and it's already running a deprecated operating system. This is even worse than Android - an OS that's already notorious for a sub-par updating strategy. If you buy a flagship Android phone today, there is a very high chance it will be updated to meanwhile the then and there version of Android. There is no question that the Lumia 900 is the current flagship of WP7, but it's already been torpedoed by its own side such as it was leaving port. To be frank, it deserved better.

Yes, there is going to be a stop-gap in the form of WP7.8, nevertheless this is a token gesture in the best case. People comparing it to the feature-"fragmentation" of iOS are, I think, missing the point. To be clear, I am not pleased with some of the choices Apple has made with iOS6. I don't think there's any reason the iPhone 4 shouldn't be getting turn-by-turn navigation, for instance. For all that, until further notice developers will have the freedom to write apps with new iOS6 API's that will run properly on the iPhone 4 and, yes, even the iPhone 3GS. This is the major - and important - distinction between WP7.8 and WP8. If a developer uses any WP8 API's or features, that app simply won't run on WP7.8. Period. WP7.8 is little more than a re-skinning of WP7.5 to make it look similar to WP8 - in accordance with the hood, everything is different. Even clients who would not typically care about having the latest software might be caught off-guard when their friend is running new apps that they can't - especially if those new apps include things like Words With Friends. In spite of all the talk about the smartphone beta test being over, WP7 now looks in many ways like it was a beta - a placeholder between the legacy Windows CE kernel and the shiny new Windows 8 kernel.

The argument that you buy the product as-is

Obviously one could make the argument that you buy the product as-is, not the product you want it to become, and there's some merit to that. Still, I think Apple and even to a lesser extent Google have shown that that rule doesn't apply to the smartphone world. A large majority of smartphone owners get their phones subsidized with a two-year contract, and as such we've come to expect regular updates while that two-year period, since the option of buying a newer device is simply too expensive when you consider early-upgrade costs. I think Microsoft will get away with making this mistake once, if only because the number of impacted people is so small, nevertheless if WP8 takes off like they hope it will, they can't afford to do so again.

The Lumia 900 is, I think, an unfortunate victim of Microsoft moving in the right direction. The only solution I can think of would've been simply to not release the Nokia flagship until Windows Phone 8 was ready, however I'm honestly not sure Nokia as a company could afford that long of a wait without being bought by Microsoft. The sad truth, although, is that there simply aren't enough WP7 users - and exactly Lumia 900 owners - for this decision to negatively impact. Even if every single Lumia owner refused to ever buy another Windows Phone, I think it's unlikely it would impact Microsoft's bottom line. In was in many ways a terrible decision, yet it might have as well been the only one Microsoft could make - even though I don't think that completely excuses it.

The unification of Windows 8

The unification of Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows 8 Phone is a in effect, in point of fact big deal. Microsoft's put the pieces in play such that someone's desktop, tablet/laptop, and smartphone could all conceivably be running the same basic operating system, and they're now without warning in a position to create a cohesive ecosystem that could even rival Apple's - however they're doing a terrible job of explaining that to potential clients. Apple has shown just how valuable that unified ecosystem is - all of their products work at the same time amazingly so then, to the point where clients are to tell the truth afraid to leave the comfort of that ecosystem. Microsoft already has a large percentage of users who are running Windows on their desktop or laptop, and they have to leverage that in the mobile world.

Apple's biggest strengths are hardware/software unity and their ecosystem, and Microsoft showed with the Surface that they learned the first part, but to all appearances they all in all have a ways to go previously they figure out the true value of the second part. I don't think anyone wants Microsoft to become Apple, however there are at any rate valuable lessons for Microsoft to learn from them, without losing their own identity.

More information: Theverge