Windows Phone is a fine mobile platform.
The interface is innovative and gets you in and out of tasks more quickly than the menus and icons that Apple and Android use. Its email app is top-notch.
Its on-screen keyboard is actually better than the iPhone’s. (I know this because I’ve been using a Windows Phone that Microsoft loaned me as my primary phone for the last two weeks — I make far fewer errors, and when I do, the auto-correct is much better.)
The September update, code-named Mango, will add cool features like app multitasking, a speedy new browser with HTML5 support, voice commands, augmented reality, the ability to identify songs that are playing…and on and on.
There have been a few glitches — updates aren’t getting pushed out as smoothly as they should be, and some obvious features like cut and paste won’t be added until Mango. Plus, it needs more apps, but that’s to be expected given that it came out more than three years after the iPhone and two years after Android.
But overall, Windows Phone doesn’t have a quality problem. It has a perception problem.
And there’s one quick and easy way Microsoft can start to fix it.
Stop calling it “Windows Phone.”
Windows Phone has nothing to do with the traditional desktop Windows. It doesn’t run Windows apps. It requires different hardware (ARM instead of Intel x86 processors). It’s based on different technology, all the way down to the kernel.
Windows Phone isn’t even a windowing operating system like Windows. (Or the various Mac OSs over the years or the Xerox Alto which started the whole windowing thing.) It uses a system of horizontal and vertical menus with big words filling up the screen. There are no “windows” to collapse and move around, unless you consider an app running on a full screen to be a “window.”
Every Windows Phone has a physical start button that mimics the Windows icon, but Microsoft ought to scrap that, too. Nobody cares. Just call it a “home” button and be done with it.
A long time ago when Windows ruled the world, naming other products after it seemed like a good idea. But now that Windows PC sales are declining among consumers, why burden what’s supposed to be a future-looking product with a backward-looking name?
There’s some precedent for the move, too. Microsoft launched its search engine in 2005, and by 2008 it was pretty good — its accuracy was better than Google for some results, worse for others, but it wasn’t horrible.
But it had a horrible name. Windows Live Search. Then Live Search. Meaningless. Forgettable. No fun.
It wasn’t until Microsoft renamed it Bing in 2009 that people started paying attention. Bing versus Google — that suddenly sounded like a real battle.
Microsoft knows how to come up with catchy names. Bing. Silverlight. Lync (much better than its previous names like Live Communications Server and Office Communications Server). Xbox. Zune. (Which is a tarnished brand because the first version was so much worse than the iPod at the time, but at least it wasn’t Windows Human Ear Professional Edition or something.)
For Windows Phone to survive, it has to be a great consumer product. And every great consumer product has a great consumer name.
Here’s a suggestion: Mango.
Or better yet, build Skype into the OS and call them Skype phones.
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