MIX10: No User-Replaceable Memory on Windows Phone 7

We found out from Todd Brix of Microsoft that Windows Phone 7 Series will eschew user-replaceable memory. Memory cards may still be used by manufacturers and OEMs, but those won’t be easily or readily accessible to the end-user. This will allow, as Microsoft puts it, for a better user experience on the device, and we’re not sure that the primary motive for locking down storage memory is for a better experience–we’re guessing it has to do with DRM though the strategy would go well with Microsoft’s move to remove a file management system.

Company reps say that storage cards can still be implemented by OEMs and manufacturers though the cards won’t be accessible to the end user. One scenario of this would be manufacturers using a memory card to augment storage in the device rather than using a dedicated memory chip–we’ve seen this strategy implemented on the Android-based Barnes & Noble nook electronic books reader.

Though we understand the vision and strategy of removing removable memory cards to the end user in simplifying the user experience, especially with Dorado synchronization and the lack of a file manager making the need for files and drag and drop management to memory not relevant to the Windows Phone 7 arena, we’re second-guessing the company’s decision. Close competitor Apple and Palm have both eschewed removable storage for built-in storage of varying capacities between 8 GB to 32 GB on current generation phone models, but that decision was met with upset users who may want to augment the storage capacity on their devices or swap memory cards. With the case of Apple, the iPhone’s lack of removable memory is probably due to the fact that the company doesn’t want users to access the file structure; rather files are handled through synchronization and we’re seeing a similar strategy with the removal of a file manager and implementation of synchronization via the Dorado engine.

Eliminating user-replaceable storage cards would also mean that some of the confusion–for the average consumer–would be gone. With Windows Mobile, when a user tried to install a CAB file on the device, the user would be presented with two options–to install to device or to storage memory. Also, with a few apps not being able to function when installed to storage memory, that headache would be gone for the casual smartphone users.

Additionally, the move to remove removable memory capabilities on Windows Phone 7 Series may stem from the need for a closed ecosystem to combat app and music piracy, despite a new DRM technology being used.

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Chuong Nguyen