Windows Phone 7 Press Conference, October 2011

Engadget has the live blog. Big news is November 8 is when phones go on sale.

Bunch of phones unveiled

Live stream available

Looks nice, but it should have come out a year or two ago. Android has just built up a huge head of steam now, and the iPhone 4 has been another grand slam from Apple.

Hey, it’s… a bunch of stuff we already knew. Say what you will about Apple’s secrecy fetish, but at least it means their big announcements are interesting.

It’s going to take as lot of work from MS to overcome the Android/iPhone/Blackberry entrenchment.

Who would buy one of these? What does this 1.0 product offer that the 2.0 android and 3.0 iphone doesn’t? They haven’t answered that question, and that is why it will fail.

Seems like a horrible idea to me for their launch to be so AT&T focused. A lot of the inroads Android made on the iPhone are due to people not on AT&T that want smartphones and while Android also has a head-start on Windows7 Phone in the not-AT&T market, it believe the non-AT&T market is still much more gainable one than the iPhone heavy AT&T market for them.

I’m like 100% a Microsoft/XNA/C# fanboy and even I think this thing smells strongly of failure right now. Too little, too late, too AT&T.

The Xbox Live stuff sounds nifty. If that really takes off, I could see this being big with kids, the way that the Kin was supposed to be and iOS devices are.

I think the issue isn’t Microsoft wanting to focus on AT&T, but rather Verizon stating that it was going to wait until 2011 to jump on the Windows Phone 7 wagon.

Verizon is in a nice place. It made its bed with Android and Galaxy S, and it appears to be paying off in gangbusters. Meanwhile, thanks to the need to get more eyeballs for iads and to stem Android’s growth, Apple needs Verizon a lot more than Verizon needs Apple right now. There’s a very good chance that the Verizon iPhone will have some Verizon-focused apps on board as default, such as Vcast.

I wanna hop on as a C# type, but the hardware specs I have been reading today aren’t… I dunno, baked? I think comparable would be the better term. Fragmentation of the market.

Actually, the variation in the tech specs is pretty tight. From a gamedev perspective, my only real concern is whether touchscreen quality is going to vary widely between different devices.

Fragmented how? Everything I’ve seen has been basically identical phones with slightly different form factors.

Microsoft should not let Ballmer be the head speaker on these sorts of things. He’s too bombastic and on-message without actually being convincing and clear. For a company as big as MS, he’s just not talented enough a presenter. Ugh.

Didn’t expect a lot of new news out of the unveiling event, and didn’t get much. Just specific dates and prices. Looks like AT&T and T-Mobile in the US for the short term, Sprint and Verizon coming early 2011. Nice to see them officially put a time frame on adding copy and paste (early 2011).

Mostly this is just good because it means they’ll be opening up the app submission process and freeing up devs and phone companies to blab about their Windows Phone 7 stuff.

I still think there’s a lot of good stuff there, plenty to like, but also enough missing that it’s absolutely not going to suddenly rocket MS to #1 or anything like that. I’m guessing six months from now, we’ll see that it has made them a solid #3 (RIM will have taken their place as a “less than 10% of sales” holder). The real question will be how much of a gap in sales will there be between #1 (probably Android phones), #2 (iPhone), and #3 (WinPh7). It’s gonna take them awhile to get there, though.

Longer term, in order to do more than just stop the bleeding and shore up a back-seat #3 share, MS is going to have to do something dramatic. Win Phone 8 needs to hit a year from now, and feature all the amazing new exciting hot phone hardware of 2011 along with lots of neat new features and functionality. Because you KNOW there’s another iPhone coming, and Android 3.0, and dual-core Coretex A9-based fancypants cell phone chips, and LTE networks, and and and…

See, and that’s where MS needs a MASSIVE culture change. How often did the updates for WinMobile come? How late is WP7? How often was the Zune software updated? How fast does it churn out iterations of IE? It’s way too slow compared to everyone else. Google’s churning out a new version of Chrome it seems every quarter. MS churns out a new version of IE about every three years. They’re moving too slow. The fact that their answer to the iPhone finally arrived three years after the iPhone debuted is indicative of this.

Well, one can argue they’ve changed it. But we’ll see how fast they can iterate WP7.

And, of course, if WP7 fizzles despite a $500 million ad campaign, will the knives come out and internal politics bog down iteration and/or commitment?

I don’t think it’s a given that WP7 can pass RIM in a year. Microsoft, while understandably so, seems to be downplaying WP7 in an enterprise role at this point.

To me, Microsoft’s strategy appears to be incremental. Windows Phone 7 is going to merge into Windows Embedded Compact 7 at some point. (Rumored to be 7.5) This is Microsoft’s replacement OS for Windows CE. It will then be adaptable to tablets and other products (Maybe Xbox 3). Allowing app writers to deliver their products on a variety of platforms, much like Apple is doing today with iPod, iPhone, iPad.

When you see it like this, Windows Phone 7 is an early first shot in a series of new products based on WEC7 that Microsoft is giving to device makers to take on Apple’s (And Google’s) market. Not just for phones, but all the other devices too.

Which is all fine and good except their two giant competitors have already been taking this same road and are like 3000 miles ahead of where Microsoft is and MS doesn’t appear to be moving anywhere near fast enough to have any hope of catching up even if the race goes on indefinitely.

Yes and no. MS definitely iterates too slowly in some areas, and has missed key milestones (Vista was very late, but Windows 7 arrived on a decent schedule that balanced stability/longevity with getting a new OS out before the last one got really stale). IE is another big problem - IE9 looks good so far in beta, but it took too long to get there and they need to keep up the pace.

On the other hand, look at software updates for Xbox 360, which have been both frequent (though not over-frequent ala PS3’s neverending updates) and substatial. Zune software has actually been updated quite a bit:

There’s a balance between updating frequently enough to keep up with the times, and updating so often that it feels like nothing is every finished, stable, reliable. Even Google admits Android releases have been too frequent and a pain for the market to bear, and should really happen more like once a year.

At least MS has stated that the updates won’t quite have the same problem Android phones do, where some phones get updates and others don’t and it takes forever for the phones to get them sometimes. MS’s agreement with the hardware makers and carriers is such that all phones will get all the updates (so they say), and it shouldn’t take forever for carriers to approve updates and roll them out.

Seems the stock markets agree.

They’ve answered it countless times, across countless demos, and more. Have you actually watched any video of this?

Going feature-by-feature misses the point. It’s about how it all comes together. And Windows Phone 7 has already proven itself as a remarkable achievement at bringing together tons of big teams in very impressive ways.

-Xbox Live
-Windows Live
-Internet Explorer

And that doesn’t even touch on the external stuff like Facebook, Netflix, and other stuff that’s already been demoed, and integrated in a way that’s much more than just a stand-alone siloed application.

It’s not just that all of those teams are there, it’s how they were integrated. The actual comprehensive experience of going from one thing to another seamlessly, intuitively, and smoothly.

The fact that the hardware shown today is in some ways just as impressive as the software is very promising.

What? Windows Phone 7 is the polar opposite of fragmentation. Every single device shown today has identical system specs - and those identical system specs are the base minimum that Microsoft mandates. Every phone out there will have at least those specs.

Furthermore, since Microsoft controls all OS updates, there won’t even be any fragmentation as new versions come out. Every single phone will get every single update. It’s not up to AT&T or T-Mobile or whoever else to decide if you get to upgrade and when.

And the development tools are pretty amazing too. And free. Just download them already!

Man, and to think people bitch about Apple fanboy-ism around here.

He’s right about fragmentation. MS is being a lot smarter than Google with respect to creating an open market for hardware vendors without making life hell for app developers. Still they’ve caved on a few points that I find irksome.

Otherwise, I think it’s clear that Windows Phone has a long way to go to catch up to Android/iOS and I’ve heard people from MS admit this straight up. I think their goal is to get something out, try to make a dent with some of their social applications, their slick UI and good marketing and then chip away at Apple/Google’s lead. Whether that’s going to happen will have to be determined. Yes it’s somewhat ironic/startling that Microsoft is trying to rely on marketing and UI design to sell a product.

Personally I think they’re overselling a lot of their “killer features” but I expect them to throw a lot of money at the marketing side of things and that could be enough to catch a market.