Microsoft, if you can’t solve the Windows Phone app gap, no one will
The biggest problem with technology is that technology alone is not enough. A computer is dead without software, and software is useless without hardware that’s molded to interact with it. Imagine buying a car and getting it without a steering wheel, or having a steering wheel and no engine to power it. Either scenario is both useless, and even ridiculous by today’s standards. That said, let’s not be too dramatic, and let’s focus on the ability to buy something usable, that’s not necessarily desirable. If you’re like me and you like fast cars, driving a 1.2-liter engine on any little bug will definitely drive you nuts. No matter how much you wanted to push the poor thing, you simply get what you paid for.
Lucky for us in mobile technology, phones are more than just their guts. There are cases where a phone has much less horsepower than its competitors, and still, it performs better than many of them. This is clearly the result of great and efficient thinking, and at times when the higher the horse power, the more you pay, it’s always great to find an affordable solution that’s also as functional. For me, this is Windows Phone. It may not carry the V12 engine of a Ferrari, but you don’t really need it anyway. This is like a Lotus Elise, which can perform in a similar fashion on a 1.6cc engine, simply because it’s composite design weighs much less than its competing counterparts.
Sadly, what’s bogged down Windows Phone for the longest time is the same music that most of you are already tired of hearing, and it’s called apps. Most of you disagree with this, since your app needs are probably already met by what’s available in the store, or because you simply passed your return window for the device. As much as you want to ignore it, there’s no denying that educated users don’t want any compromise for the span of their two-year contract.
What I’ve always found even more ironic about this whole app problem in Windows Phone, is that Microsoft is the first and biggest software company in the world. It just doesn’t make sense for the company that invented the whole “software company” ideal, to have a software problem hinder their hardware sales.
That said, I did applaud Microsoft when they built their own Facebook and Twitter apps. They weren’t the best, but they showed the world that they could take matters into their own hands and solve the app problems they had. I can’t confirm if they did the same for Angry Birds, but for the longest time the app has said “Microsoft Studios” when you buy it, so I do believe this is another example I will applaud. The same happened with YouTube recently as well.
Then we have those third-party solutions, which are hit and miss. Cases like MetroTube and Instance are the positive exception since, let’s hand it to these guys, they’ve done an awesome job with their offerings. Sadly, once you move those apps aside, the rest of the third-party solutions are simply terrible.
The problem is when the services that Microsoft plans to bridge the gap with don’t want to play nice. We’ve all recently read, and have even dealt with YouTube blocking Microsoft’s app, even after extensive collaboration. Before that we even heard about Instagram (owned by Facebook), who’s also blocking Instance from most of its features, or in some cases, even deleting the photos that you uploaded with the service.
So, if Microsoft can’t solve the problem with their own apps, and even third-party solutions have a problem, what’s there to do in order to grow Windows Phone to the results it deserves? Here are a couple of my opinions on the matter:
Microsoft’s competitive history just kills their ability to negotiate
Do you really think that Google wants to negotiate with Microsoft after the creation of Bing? Let’s face it, Microsoft’s “me too” attempts at every single product that the market has, have killed their good faith with everyone. Why do Google and Apple get along? Well, Apple isn’t trying to compete against Google’s core business. Google does maps, Microsoft did Bing Maps; Google does Translate, Bing now translates; these are just a couple of examples of Microsoft’s desire to compete, which are all legal, but which won’t garner them good faith anywhere. You could say that judging by Microsoft’s history, it’s in Google’s best interest for Windows Phone to flop.
Some of you have told me previously that there’s always the option to watch YouTube on the browser in Windows Phone, which I do find to be a good solution, and still, if you try to navigate away from the video to multi-task, or even if you just press any of the capacitive buttons by accident, I hope you don’t get upset at having to watch the video again from scratch, and not being able to move the play-head forward.
Microsoft’s competitive mentality is good for us end-users, since competition is always a benefit when it comes to pricing and innovation. The problem is that Microsoft has been notorious for destroying competition in the 90s (anybody remember Netscape?), and therefore, I do understand Google’s lack of trust in them.
Microsoft alternatives suck
I still chuckle when I complain about the fact that Windows Phone doesn’t have Dropbox, and people quickly respond with SkyDrive. Or when I complain about the terrible integration with Gmail, and people quickly recommend that I get an Outlook.com email address. I’m sorry guys, but I don’t want another email address, or another cloud-storage service, I want to use what I have, where ever I want, and currently, only Windows Phone has a problem supporting the things that I want.
We go back to the same point that I’m trying to make in the previous section. Microsoft wants to compete with “their own” thing, and people don’t want it. Why should I migrate to something different, regardless if it’s better, just because Microsoft can’t get developers to care about their platform?
The bottom line
With the launch of the Lumia 1020, and options like a true YouTube client, Instance to solve my Instagram desires, and also with the launch of Spotify, I had everything I needed to take the plunge and become a full-time Windows Phone user. Sadly, I wonder if Microsoft is aware of how deterring it is to the platform, to have all this bad publicity regarding the blockage of apps. The same can be said about the terrible adoption of Windows RT by the developer community, which I still can’t understand why Microsoft has chosen not to allow it to run Windows Phone apps.
Microsoft has a relationship problem that’s bigger than their app problem. No matter how you want to see it, unless they stop trying to compete in everything, and focus on allowing others to succeed, they won’t solve their problems, and their products will be affected by this.
I’m sure the comments will be full of hate mail because we’re all somebody else’s fanboys here, as some may say. I’ve even lost track of who I’m a fanboy of anymore, since I get called a different thing with every shift in editorial focus on a daily basis. That said, you can call us all the names you want, and that still won’t end the concerns that fall on the shoulders of Microsoft with Windows Phone.
Microsoft needs to admit that they’re solely responsible for what’s happening to them, and they are the only ones that can fix it. I’ve already provided my opinion on what can be done, but I’m not necessarily right, so please leave your thoughts in the comments as well.