The launch of Windows Phone 8 was the most well directed, feature stuffed and well played launch event from Microsoft to date. Also stabs at the competition were open, pointy and directed at the heart mainly of Apple’s iPhone but also indirectly towards the Android camp.
I’m at Build Windows in Redmond this week where I also on Monday had set up a viewing event for the launch of Windows Phone 8 from San Francisco (Which I just noticed I spelled San Fransisco in my invite ). Here is me trying to summarize the impressions I have from over here both from a consumer angle but also from a developers’ perspective.
iPhone user loyalty is declining
According to a very recent loyalty survey (Iphoneanvändarnas lojalitet minskar – Swedish) 79% of iPhone owners would consider competitors options for their next phone purchase. This is a record number which has been rising lately. I have said for a long time that iPhone innovation has stagnated and the massive advantage Apple has in the smartphone segment is feeling increasingly hollow. Now, clearly, the fans are starting to get the same sinking feeling.
The best phone for a Windows 8 user is a Windows Phone 8
Naturally Steve Ballmer and Microsoft have not missed the fact that iPhone is lacking in innovation and it’s users loyalty is wanning. The extremely powerful launch I saw on Monday had an underlying very clear, serious and significant message:
If you’re a Windows 8 user in the future, which hundreds of millions of PC users will be, the BEST Phone for you will be a Windows Phone 8. (Steve Ballmer)
The user experience on the Windows Phone 8 is completely in sync with your PC and it’s Windows 8 OS. This means that the services you will be using and the content you will be sharing between devices will also be in complete sync, thanks to for instance Roaming Profiles using Windows Azure as a back bone and Microsoft SkyDrive. This is true both for business and consumer usage. Further down in this text there’s a long list of really great new Wndows Phone 8 features, some new and unique to the Windows Phone 8, that consumers will be very happy about!
Shared code phone <-> desktop: a developer’s dream come true
This ‘feature’ for developers was not part of the official launch event for consumers, naturally, but it is an extremely important feature for developers! This little tid-bit of information was demoed during the developer focused //Build/ key note; Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share a common core! This means that you as a developer can write shared code libraries that you don’t even have to recompile to deploy to a Windows Phone 8 or to a Windows 8 device. The demo from the key note showed an old graphics library written in C++ used this way. The library was compiled into a code library that could be called direct from C# without using any of the old narly P/Invoke drama. The library was then deployed with an app to the phone which applied a grey-scale filter to an image. Right after that a Windows 8 application was launched and did the exact same thing with the same code library.
I have been saying for a long time that if I was Microsoft I would make a BIG number of the fact that Microsoft is the only company in the world that have a truly complete stack from the smallest devices, including the smartphone, that stretches all the way to the largest Cloud based global server systems. And with full integration between the two so that for instance mobile apps can easily take advantage of the Cloud; Windows Azure Mobile Services. The fact that you can share real code libraries between the phone and the desktop is a developer’s dream and a real power card for the Windows camp!
If you have a fixed data plan for your phone you might have concerns about not using your phone to do, say, too much gaming? Or Browsing for that matter. Well you used to have this problem. With Windows Phone 8 Data Sense you get an easy to use counter that shows your data consumption. The feature will warn you when you are coming near to your monthly data quota. That compared with the fact that this feature also compresses web pages via a special service which can lower your browsing data usage by as much as 45%. Data Sense also helps you find local WiFi HotSpots where ever you are.
Instead of your kids playing around inside your phone, accidentally calling your boss on a Sunday or sending a funny update to all of your Facebook friends. Windows Phone 8 comes with a Kids Corner. This is like a phone within the phone that allows you to set up a safe area where you define what apps and games your kids can play with. Instead of logging into your main phone space the kids now play in that safe zone. This is a real “problem” for all parents. A very welcome and cool feature!
You can set up "Rooms” of friends or co-workers or one for you and your partner, where you can share messages, calendars, lists and your location etc. Cool way to interact with the right people at the right time without broadcasting it to Facebook or Twitter. This feature also allows a limited feature set for on-boarding an iPhone user!
I have to say that it is completely cool and brave of Microsoft to actually include sharing features with competitor products!
You can now customize the information on your lock screen to include custom apps and data form other applications than your calendar. You can put data here from Twitter or Facebook or what ever you like. This is part of Microsoft’s strategy for what they call “Live Apps”, meaning your applications in the phone are alive with interaction with the phone and even other applications. Compare this to other phones that have application silos that cannot interact or share with each other.
The Windows Phone Store now has over 120 000 apps. That’s not so many? Well how many do you need. Besides the 120 000 apps include a higher percentage of “good” apps than the other app stores. There is also more opportunity left in this Store to create a cool app that is not in there yet. 45/50 of the top apps in the competing stores are also in the Windows Phone Store!
Can’t wait to play with the new Windows Phone 8 Skype application! It is supposed to integrate with the phone to run in the background without sucking your battery dry. You can make Skype calls to your friends from their contact cards and receive Skype calls just like regular calls!
Speech support for more features like audio ‘notes’
The speech support has received an upgrade making it possible for instance to take audio notes to One Note which get stored as text as well as launch an app or make a call.
Make a backup
With the Phone you can make a Cloud based backup of the important stuff like messages, photos and videos for safe keeping.
The Sky Drive integration in the Phone is complete so that you can create a document on the Phone and continue writing in it from the same location in the document on your PC without having to manually sync anything. Sky Drive is also used to automagically transfer photos from your phone to your desktop while safely storing them indefinitely in the Cloud! (Unlike other phones that only store the photos for 30 days.)
These are just some of the new featues folks but I’m out of breath! Go ahead and read more about all of this on the Windows Phone All Features Page!
Jessica Alba – OMG
One of my all time favorite actresses is Jessica Alba. In fact name the male, hetro geek with a pulse that does not LOVE Jessica Alba? Why am I saying this here in this post? Well Microsoft were smart enough to include this gorgeous superstar in their launch and marketing campaign. OK so Jessica did portray the “working mom” in the launch which is slightly humorous. She is a working mom but clearly not just any working mom. Still she did a GREAT job in the launch to sprinkle both beauty and grace as well as a stable and trustworthy end user angle that Microsoft have not been able to speak to in a convincing way before. The powerful user group of “women on the go”. In this marketing segment there is no other phone showing up on the radar today than the iPhone. Good thinking Microsoft!
This is the best launch event I have ever seen from Microsoft. The message was very strong, very clear and very well directed. The strong line up of end features and the great developer opportunity cannot be overlooked by anyone. Apple and Google should be fearing this and most likely they are.
I am Magnus Mårtensson and this is my Windows Phone 8: