“Its nice of you to ask, but it doesn’t really matter what I think”
Last Sunday the smartphone market witnessed the birth of the Lumia 900, the latest in a line of Nokia manufactured, Windows powered smartphones marking the re-entry of two tech giants that haven’t been significant players in the mobile computing sector in nearly a decade. With Windows Phone 7.5, Microsoft looks to advance its best foot yet with a sleek new handset and a completely overhauled operating system that looks to be a good match for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, the current alpha dogs of the market.
However, it takes more than new hardware and a business partner with a 150 nation customer base to make a mobile OS successful. It needs a big pool of apps and a solid community of people to develop them, and it is here where Windows Phone struggles. Microsoft’s long absence from prominence in this sector has relegated most of its products to the back corner of app developers minds and with only 70,000 or so apps to its name its finding a tough time wooing the consumer away from Android and iOS. But, Microsoft has embarked on an ambitious campaign to attract developers to Windows Phone, it’s paying out for apps, and paying well for big titles like Foursquare and Linkedin. If this strategy pans out, we could not only see Microsoft and Nokia return to the light, but a dramatic shift away from protecting product patents, and instead protecting the best and brightest that Objective C has to offer.
World, Meet Windows Phone
The first thing that jumps out when a Windows Phone device is powered on is the few seconds it takes to boot to the “Start Screen” and the brand new user interface called “Metro” by Microsoft. When it comes to the interface itself, user data is organized into either a “Live Tile” or a “Hub” both of which present on the Start Screen. A Tile acts as a link to assortments or individual pieces of data such as a missed call, unread text message, or user-installed applications. Tiles can be added, removed, or rearranged at will, and update in real-time provided the phone has an active Internet connection via Wifi or 3G/4G. Tiles are useful for allowing quick access to frequently viewed content or information that the user would prefer to be able to access immediately upon startup. Hubs are collections of both user-entered and web based data that are automatically compiles and arranged by the operating system and Windows Phone features four main hubs for user data: the Pictures Hub, Games Hub, People Hub and the Music+Movies Hub.
The Pictures Hub serves as the primary library for the users photos, housing both photos taken with the phone’s camera and ones that are imported from social networks like Twitter or Facebook. Users can upload, tag, and comment on photos within the hub and as such do not need to actually open another application.
The Games Hub manages the integration of Xbox Live content with Windows Phone. It gives the user access to many function of their console Live account as it displays the users gamescore, avatar, leaderboards, and allows for messaging between friends. Additionally, a live member can be signed in on their Xbox console and their Windows Phone device at the same time without interrupting service on either. Currently, there are only turn-based multiplayer games available for purchase but Microsoft does have plans for real-time multiplayer games in the future.
The People Hub collects data from manually entered contact, registered email account, Facebook friends, Linkedin connections, and Windows Live contacts. . Each contact has their own entry featuring their picture, news feeds from their Facebook, and a section that imports and updates photos that are added by that contact. If a contact’s card is moved from the Hub onto the Start Screen (which creates a Live Tile for that contact) the user sees a brief readout of that contacts current Favebook status, registered social networks, and if a contact has multiple accounts these can be merged onto a single card or tile for eay viewing