Before the entire blogosphere becomes an arm of Apple’s Marketing team for 48 hours or so after today’s event, let’s look at a somewhat singular event that occurred today. One of my favorite real tech columnists, Ina Fried, actually called Windows Phone 7 “elegant” yesterday after working with the OS for about a month now.
Now in the past I have called Microsoft products “useful”, “comprehensive”, “inexplicable” “powerful”, “infuriating”, “possessed by dybbuks”, even “intuitive” once or twice, but never elegant…and that she is doing so is a very good sign. Fried posted her “Beyond Binary” column on CNET yesterday with a very good summary of where Windows Phone 7 is at currently, just a few weeks before release.
She qualifies her remarks with the fact that she is working with one of the preview devices so there may be changes in the final OS and the actual hardware may make a difference in what we see at release…but overall she really liked the OS. Most of her problems with it she states would normally be acceptable in a “first effort” (remember that first Android version on the G1? Blargh!), and some others might hopefully be corrected in the release version (cough*cut&paste*cough). However, this is not a normal release.
Here are a few lines summing up her feelings at this point…
Microsoft often throws around the phrase "it just works" as a design goal for a new piece of software. In practice, however, the products rarely live up to that billing. That said, Microsoft appears to be pretty close with Windows Phone 7. Although the software is not final and it is running on prototype hardware (in my case the Samsung Taylor), its clean look isn’t interrupted by error messages, hiccups, or other form breaks.
Above all, Windows 7 is–dare I say–elegant. Even my foreign-language spam looks beautiful on the device. It almost makes me wish I understood all those messages in Japanese, Korean, and Arabic.
Its beauty is more than skin deep, too.
One of the things I demand in a phone is that it behave like a portable consumer electronic device, not like a tiny computer. It should be instant on, easy to navigate without too much thought, and hide nearly all its complexity. To me that’s what made the original iPhone and all its successors such a hit. (It’s also why I think the iPad poses a serious challenge in the market for highly portable computing, but that’s another story.)
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft doesn’t make up for all of its years of lost ground in this area, but what it does, it does very well.
The consensus amongst early reviewers has been first and foremost that Microsoft has its back to the wall, and considering the marketing budget Microsoft has set up to support the WP7 release, they have gotten that message. Beyond that, most agree that the OS is “good” with a few glaring errors. Many have said that this OS would have been a slam dunk hit even two years ago…however a lot has changed since then and many people, myself included, have been given cause to doubt Microsoft’s resolve and ability to execute for the mobile market.
It boils down to two major questions now, since Windows Phone 7 is clearly not the technical disaster many expected…
1) “Good” is nice, but is Windows Phone 7 “Good Enough”?
2) If it is Good Enough…will it matter?