Five iPhone Gifts to Windows Mobile
Last fall, I purchased an iPod Touch in order to understand the iPhone phenomenon. The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without the phone, similar to a phone-less Pocket PC. I found the iPod Touch to be both intuitive and fun to use.
Many observers believe that Apple blindsided and leaped ahead of Microsoft in the smartphone market with its launch of the iPhone. However, based on a Windows Mobile roadmap briefing I sat in on in 2002, Microsoft is right on schedule.
The first versions of the Pocket PC were developed for the early adopter. Microsoft did a nice job of creating a network of enthusiasts who gradually introduced these PDAs into the workplace. Then, starting with Windows Mobile 2003 through Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft’s goal was to create secure, connected, full-featured devices for organizations. As in desktop computing, Microsoft’s initial focus was for business users, while Apple concentrated on consumers.
According to their roadmap, starting with Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft’s focus will shift to the consumer, as PDAs and smartphones become mainstream products. In that context, Microsoft has much to gain from Apple’s groundbreaking launch of the popular, user-friendly iPhone.
1. For most consumers, simplicity is more important than features
Microsoft designed a powerful Windows Mobile handheld operating system with lots of built-in features and an open platform. Windows Mobile devices have proven to be a great boon for computer-savvy professionals and for organizations needing specific handheld solutions.
On the other hand, Apple focused on fewer but popular applications, and its number one design goal was to make the user experience fun and easy. The iPhone demonstrated that applications as diverse as e-mail, music, video, and Web browsing can exist in a phone without overwhelming the user.
Since the rich Windows Mobile feature set has already been built, Microsoft can follow Apple’s lead and focus its engineering resources toward creating a better user experience.
2. A touch screen is for touching
The use of touch is a prime example of Microsoft learning from what works on the iPhone. After using a stylus for years, I was initially shy to physically touch and drag my finger on the iPod Touch’s screen. However, it only took me a few minutes to realize that touching is the most natural way to interact with a handheld device. See Nate Adcock’s article on Vito Technology products (page 27) to learn how physical touch is already being used on Windows Mobile devices.
Prior to the iPhone, Microsoft developed two approaches for how users interacted with Windows Mobile devices. Both of them had real weaknesses.
Initially, all Windows Mobile devices had touch screens with the stylus replacing the mouse as the pointing device. Microsoft’s alternative to this physically awkward two-handed approach was to offer non-touch screen devices that supported one-handed operation. On the Windows Mobile Standard smartphone, the user holds and manipulates the device with the same hand by pressing buttons or keys. Even with an emphasis on usability, this one-handed approach is at best, serviceable and at worst, cumbersome. In contrast, physically touching the iPhone screen is fun, involving, and intuitive.
3. Phone companies don’t always have to be king
The iPhone broke the carrier-centric structure of the wireless industry. In doing so, it unlocked benefits for consumers, device manufacturers, and even the carriers themselves.