Microsoft’s announcements on the new Windows Phone 7 Series (can someone find a short, easy to type, easy-to-write name for this please) has thrown up a lot of turbulence in the Windows mobile modding and hacking space.
For one, Microsoft says that manufacturers will not be able to tamper with the new user interface. Clearly, Microsoft is after a unified experience across all Windows phones. Which, we think, is a very good thing. Microsoft has also announced that app development will be in .NET; not C++.
The questions are:
- Do consumers really care if a handful of geeks prefer a user interface they can skin and mod around, or are they more concerned about a user interface that works?
- Do consumers care about what programming language is behind the applications, or are they more concerned about apps that actually work the way they should? (Hint: see how successful and loved Opera Mini has become, and it is just J2ME)
- Do consumers care about hunting geek websites for the latest hacks and mods for their phones, or do they just want to buy the phone and actually put it to use?
Your guess is as good as ours. It is the same scenario of Windows (or Mac) versus Linux. Linux is only popular with a handful of geeks who want to type out command line instructions to use their phones as modems with their Linux boxes – something that consumers do not want to do.
While the efforts of HTC with their Sense UI layer on top of WP6 are commendable, we must not forget that such efforts sprang from Microsoft not taking the bull by the horns. While we love to see and play with custom ROMs from the modding community, we must remember that such customizations were necessary in the first place because the WinMo 6 user platform did not deliver on certain features.
But now, Microsoft seems to have risen to the challenge and taken responsibility for its product. Those stop-gap solutions must of necessity give way to the new order. Only a tiny percentage of WinMo owners over the years have cared for a custom ROM. Hunting through pages of ROMs to narrow down options and then flashing one ROM after the other is not what the average consumer (who make up the huge chunk of mobile users) want to do, or are competent to do.
Oh, plus no-one grows a larger market share by dancing to the gallery of the minority of users – in this case, geeks. RIM made a smart move by evolving their BlackBerry devices towards the consumer market, and it has paid off for them. Apple hit it by targetting the consumer market, and we all know the story.
Microsoft wants a larger market share. They are going after the consumer from the very word Go. They are going in the right direction with WP7s, it seems. How well they execute it though is going to be another matter. In addition, we now have three (3) Windows phone options:
- Windows Mobile 6.5.X,
- Windows Phone 6 Starter Edition (we absolutely think that this one is a bad idea)
- Windows Phone 7 Series
But perhaps having 6.5.x and 6 Starter Edition still leaves the small geek communities with toys to hack and mod all they want. One thing is certain, providing consumers with choices never seems to be a bad thing.
All we have to do now is with till the end of the year to see how well WP7s pans out.