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Microsoft: Take care of Windows Phone owners!

The window Nokia's flagship store  displays an advertisement new NokiLumimobile phone Helsinki Thursday April 19 2012 .  Mobile

The window of Nokia's flagship store displays an advertisement of the new Nokia Lumia mobile phone in Helsinki on Thursday, April, 19, 2012 . Mobile phone manufacturer Nokia published its weak first quarter 2012 results on Thursday. (AP Photo/LEHTIKUVA / Markku Ulander) FINLAND OUT

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Updated: April 24, 2012 4:18PM



Why do you do this to me, Microsoft?

I love the latest edition of your Windows Phone OS and I’m excited about Windows 8. So much so that I keep telling my friends and my readers that you’re really on to something and that Apple isn’t the only company that’s producing powerful, simple operating systems that are nicely tuned in to how people define computing today.

I have even — after considerable thought — suggested that there is much in Windows 8 and Windows Phone that Apple would do well to emulate.

I have done this at considerable risk to myself. A kid threw half a tangerine at me for expressing such flaming pro-Microsoft opinions this. On Easter Sunday, no less. The little punk my best seersucker jacket but I bore the dishonor proudly…for I was speaking Truth.

So please, please, I’m begging you: Don’t screw this up.

I mean, from the public statements you’ve made last week, it really looks like you’re determined to screw this up.

First, you’ve been waffling about the future direction of Windows Phone. There’s definitely going to be a Windows Phone 8. You’ve been clear on that. But your employees have been sending mixed messages about what’s going to happen to the many Windows Phone handsets already in the field.

Like the Lumia 900, which was just released a week or so ago. It’s a handsome flagship phone and all reports suggest that it’s selling extremely well. I’ve spoken to people who’ve bought one and they’re extremely happy with the phone and with the OS.

But will the next major edition of Windows Phone run on the Lumia? A “trusted source close to Microsoft” told TheVerge.com point-blank that there’s no upgrade path from Windows 7.5 (Mango) to 8 (Apollo).

Oh, dear. It was time for you to scramble and make an official statement! You assured the world that...

(No, this can’t be right. Let me check another source…)

(...Oh dear.)

“We have stated publicly that all apps in our Marketplace today will run on the next version of Windows Phone. Beyond that, we have nothing to share about future releases.”

Well, it’s important to keep developers happy and faithful in your up-and-coming OS. But really, you’re meant to be assuring the people who are now locked into two-year AT&T contracts. Most of these people are eagerly showing off Windows Phone to their friends. Why would you want the last line of this endorsement to be “But for God’s sake, don’t buy one: Microsoft will release a major update in the fall and only new phones will run it. In fact, you might want to give Windows Phone a miss entirely, if their ongoing policy is to deny their existing users access to future OS features.”

You don’t want people do say that. Hell, did you enjoy seeing those words written by a technology columnist? Users are even worse. They’re allowed to use all kinds of colorful language that a columnist for a family newspaper can’t #@$&ing touch.

OK, fine. I acknowledge that many new phones ship with outdated versions of Android, and that many phone carriers don’t bother deploying updates to their customers. But look: You should be emulating the good phone operating systems, not the bad ones. Users of three whole generations of iPhone hardware could download and install iOS 5 on the day it was released.

And what about these rumors that you’re about to grant carriers a lot more control over the appearance and functions of the OS? NetbookNews.com has published what they claim to be the agenda of an upcoming summit between your Windows Phone team and your partners. The scary item: “Customization & Differentiation opportunities.”

Wireless carriers are devoutly interested in setting their hardware apart from their competitors. That’s a natural response to the problem of getting the public interested in their 4” Android 4.x phone instead of a competitor’s. But it’s turned Android into a bumpy, sticky mess. Google ships a fine handset OS. By the time it lands in the consumer’s hands, it’s been skinned and customized without remorse, and all kinds of useless bloatware apps have been loaded in and locked on.

I shouldn’t presume that a similar disaster awaits Windows Phone. “Customization and Differentiation Opportunities” could mean, I don’t know, shipping a Windows Phone Apollo phone with a free Ben 10 case. Still, honest to god, Microsoft: go into any Verizon or AT&T store and pick up any Android phone and tell me that anything good can come from allowing carriers to tinker with the Metro UI. The whole point of Metro is simplicity and elegance. I don’t want to contemplate imagine the Metro interface with a big honkin’ NASCAR live widget spanning the top third of every screen.

And now we get to Windows 8. Boy, am I keen on your upcoming hybrid desktop/mobile OS strategy. I understand Apple’s reasons for their locked-down distinction between mobile and desktop operating systems. But I see that as simply their choice and not as the only correct approach to a mobile OS. I like your idea of an iPad-like slate device that runs apps that are also appropriate for use on different kinds of computers.

You posted an update to your official blog this week (http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/04/16/announcing-the-windows-8-editions.aspx) that clarified some basic things about Windows 8. The big question, of course, was always “Will these slates — defined as “tablet computers that are wicked thin, wicked light, and run for a wicked long time on battery” — also run desktop Windows apps?

We were prepared for the answer “What, are you crazy?” and of course, that’s the answer you gave us. Computers packing full Intel x86 processors — desktops, notebooks, and the sort of traditional Windows tablets that won’t get 10 hours of battery life — can run both Metro and classic-style apps. Devices with mobile ARM processors can only run that slick Metro software.

Fair enough. But why oh why are you calling this ARM version of the OS “Windows RT?”

Oh: you say it stands for “Windows Runtime.” OK, that makes sen...

Wait, no...that’s even worse! If the customer isn’t tech savvy, it’s a meaningless and confusing technical term. And an experienced user will look at that and think “Huh? This new OS doesn’t run compiled code? What, is all of the software written in BASIC? Isn’t that going to be crazy-stupid-slow?”

Get back to what I said earlier: I love the idea that I can have a cheap, ultramobile slate computer that’s intimately connected to the work I do on my desktop. I’m writing this column on an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard, in fact. This is currently my favorite “working away from the office for the afternoon” setup and it works well, though it introduces a few management hassles. It’s up to me to keep these mutually-incompatible iOS and MacOS word processors working in sync.

You need a name that makes it plain that in late 2012 and beyond, Windows is Windows is Windows no matter what computer you’re running it on. At the very minimum, you do not do not DO NOT want to give your exciting new slate OS a name that harkens back to the Bill Clinton-era Windows NT and the decade-old Windows XT.

I mean, I dunno: how about just calling it “Windows Metro”? And then Windows 8 becomes “Windows 8 With Metro”? It seems to me like this would underscore that users can buy a set of apps for their Windows 8 tablets and use them on their desktops, notebooks, and Intel-based tablets as well.

Listen to me, talking crazy.

OK.

None of this week’s little kerfuffles are what you’d call “damaging.” But, look . . . I’m worried, Microsoft. I’ve always said that I owe no allegiance to any one maker or manufacturer: I just want hardware and software that works better than anything else, whether it was the final passion project of Steve Jobs or Kim Jong-il. I’m greatly encouraged by the news that Windows...

Windows...

(Maybe it’ll be easier if I just sound it out phonetically, and try not to mentally process the name)

...that Windows arrr-teee slates will include a mobile edition of Microsoft Office. I’m encouraged to hope that it’s an ambitious suite that supports many of the desktop edition’s formatting and collaboration features. Apple’s iWork suite for iOS is terrific, but it isn’t Office.

So don’t think I’m discouraged. Nothing you said today is cause for me to lost faith. But it’s enough to get me to write this column and offer a warning: if you people screw up the mobile and desktop stuff you’ve got planned and you make me look very foolish for having expressed early enthusiasm for what you were doing...well, there’s going to have to be some kind of reckoning.

I don’t know what I’d do. Something perfectly legal but noteworthy.

All I’m saying is that if your daughter’s high school basketball team has an online vote to decide the name of the new tiger mascot and the winner is “Amber’s Dad, The One Who Works On Microsoft’s Mobile Strategy Team, Is A Big Stupid Jerkwad Idiot” by a margin of 1.75 million botnet-generated nominations, you’ll immediately recognize this as the Godly Fist of Justice.



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