Today, I had the pleasure of following the live press conference broadcast by Microsoft’s Steve Balmer and Joe Belfiore introducing the new Windows Phone 7 Series. I was astonished by the overall concept and how Microsoft plans to counter the recent success of Apple’s iPhone and possibly Google’s Android.
First of all, as you might expect given that Microsoft has fallen behind in the market, the user experience on the new Windows Phone is quite different. Microsoft has finally realized that the replication of the PC experience on mobile phones is not working well. Now, the user experience is oriented far more along contemporary concepts that have been established by their competitors.
For instance a new Windows Phone has just three buttons on the front panel (Start, Search and Back), it features so-called “Live Tiles” showing updates on people, social networks, messages, etc. And of course it is entirely touch-enabled. In one aspect Microsoft is going further than the iPhone and that is in customizing the home screen with quick links to people, pictures, web pages, etc. But these are all minor features compared to how the phone enables users to maintain links with social networking websites.
Microsoft has realized that there is a weak link in the current Application and AppStore concept resulting in fragmentation of content, social networks and user data. Each social network has its own app. But they are not linked and aggregated. That is one major issue that Microsoft has addressed. With the new Windows Phone 7 Series Microsoft is defragmenting all the networks and content. On the new Windows Phone, user connections, links, social network updates, pictures, etc. become aggregated through what Microsoft calls “hubs”.
For instance all social networks and address books are aggregated in the “people” hub. Pictures from all services and storage points are aggregated in the “pictures” hub. 3rd party Internet radios can become part of the “music and videos” hub. And so on. Microsoft refers to this approach as “no more in and out of apps”.
Where Apple for instance is channeling all content and services through iTunes and the AppStore Microsoft is countering with a far more open concept offering developers, social network providers and content companies the ability to plug into the “hubs” on Microsoft Phones. That is a strong conceptual differentiation.
I believe Microsoft has finally found a proper conceptual answer to its competitor offerings and I am looking forward to seeing the mobile operating system battle unfolding. I trust Microsoft has now significantly improved its chances of increasing market share and I would not be surprised if they eventually strike a winning blow in this competitive market.