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Phones

Microsoft needs more to save Windows Phone 10

By Adam Doud January 29, 2015, 10:00 am

Microsoft had some big announcements last week. Announcements that left your head spinning, once you took Marty McFly Jr’s headset off that is. Microsoft even let the phones get into the picture, which was pretty cool. But it left me wondering if Microsoft shared any truly compelling reasons for people to come to the platform.

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Cortana

First of all, let is be said that Cortana alone is a compelling reason to come to the platform. Microsoft’s digital assistant is accurate, fun, and a joy to use. Cortana is one of the things I miss most about Windows Phone, and quite honestly will be a large part of the reason I go back, someday.

Bringing Cortana to the desktop is a great move that will introduce the public at large to the voice of Windows Phone. A little interaction with Cortana might be enough to bring some people over. But make no mistake, Cortana on a desktop will be no more successful at bringing people to Windows Phone than sticking an HP sticker to a tablet brought people to webOS. It won’t hurt, but it’s unlikely to help significantly.

This…is…Sparta(n)!

So what did Microsoft bring to the Windows Phone table to help move people to the platform? Spartan browser seems like one biggie that will help. Internet Explorer on Windows Phone is not the greatest in the world, so updating the web browser to be lighter and more mobile friendly could go a long way toward winning back some lost market share in that arena – which again doesn’t necessarily translate to Windows Phone boosts.

The one major benefit we saw was Microsoft bringing a new version of Office that will be mobile friendly and included on Windows Phones. The quick glances of the UI we saw showed a very mobile-friendly and robust experience, which will allow real work to be performed on a phone. Some might argue that “real work” shouldn’t be performed on a phone, which is not an invalid argument, but it will be nice for those times when one needs to perform real work on their phones – for whatever reason. Better to have it and not need it right?

Mobile?

So these were some of the positives we saw from the presentation, but not a lot of that amounted to helping out Windows Phone. Windows 10 looks to be a pretty great update to all of Windows, from phones to the Surface Hub. This will help stabilize Microsoft in its primary market – PCs, or more specifically software for PCs. But what about ‘Mobile first, cloud first’? ‘Mobile’ is in there, right?

This much is true, but I for one did not see many more compelling reasons to give Windows Phone a new look. It’s true that all Windows 8 phones will receive the Windows 10 update, so that’s something. But that in and of itself won’t bring people to the platform.

One of the great things Apple has done recently is making all of its devices work together, in what it calls ‘continuity’. Microsoft had an opportunity to do the same thing. All the talk at the event was “seamless” and “easy”, and yet the most obvious thing staring them in the face went unanswered.

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Tired

But whether or not a continuity-like feature is the answer, Microsoft has gone through two Windows 10 product announcements and has yet to significantly advance its own platform. Microsoft Office isn’t going to be enough. What Microsoft needs – I hate to sound like a broken record – are apps. But it doesn’t just need apps. It needs major app developers embracing the hell out of this platform on all form factors. It needs major app developers developing universal apps for all platforms and it needs to announce them at the next conference, whenever that may be.

The Windows App store, whether you’re talking about Windows 8, or Windows Phone is not a pretty sight. Isn’t that what it always comes back to? It sounds like a tired argument doesn’t it? Well that’s because it is. But the fact that it’s a tired argument isn’t the bad part. The bad part is that this is a tired argument that Microsoft has yet to address. I may be repeating myself from a previous article (or two, or three), but it remains a valid argument. And it will remain a valid argument until it is addressed.

Overall, Microsoft had some pretty great announcements. The products and services unveiled will enhance the Windows brand quite a bit. Windows users should be thrilled. But what it failed to do was entice new users to come over and try the platform – especially when it comes to Windows Phone. Maybe this is just the next step in a grand plan. I hope so. But for now, we wait for Microsoft to show us why Windows Phone is the platform for us.

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