MIX 10 - the Phone Conference
<P>Every year, MIX is focused on web development and design. This year it was no different, but with a little twist.</P>
I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my time, usually as a speaker back in Sweden. But this time, I got to pack my bags and head over to the States for the MIX conference – the biggest conference I have attended yet.
MIX is focused on web development and design and generally there is a lot of talk about Silverlight, MVC, Visual Studio and so on. This year it was no different, but with a little twist.
A couple of weeks before MIX, Microsoft announced that they were getting back into the mobile phone market. After a quiet patch, they finally revealed Windows Phone 7 Series, the operating system that will replace Windows Mobile 6.5. MIX was obviously a great place for them to push it out to the developers, which they did.
Having looked into the Windows Phone 7 Series platform on the web, I was very curious. So when they opened up a whole separate track of sessions at MIX, covering the phone, I decided to focus exclusively on these. And here’s what I thought.
The Microsoft platform is now pretty much a thing of the past. They aren’t bringing any of it into the new Windows Phone 7 Series. No more tiny stylus-based input. No more settings that require a PhD to use.
This is a good thing! Well, mostly. Starting from scratch will of course take a lot longer than reusing parts of an old system. However, reuse can be very limiting. Even though the Windows Mobile platform was very flexible and powerful, it was also hard to work with. The main reason people liked it was because it was so flexible that they could change it into what they want. With Windows Phone 7, this will not be the case. It will not be flexible in that way. It will not be possible to change it very much. Instead, Microsoft has decided to try and build something that is so good you don’t want to change it.
I see the Windows Phone 7 Series platform as an interesting insight into where Microsoft is heading. Windows Vista and Windows 7 showed us small glimpses of this as well. It is a future where design, usability anduser experience are put first on the list of requirements.
Fading are the days when a lot of functionality was the goal. Now, a well polished interface that is easy to use is everything, even if that means sacrificing some functionality or flexibility.
Will this new direction appeal to everyone? No, it won’t. I think there might be some techies out there who will think it is the wrong way to go. But to be honest, as technology starts to appear everywhere in everyday life, it has to be user friendly. It has to appeal to the user. And the user is not some hacker living in his parent’s basement. It is regular people. It is everyone. And because of this, it has to be understandable. [It has to be a lot different than what we are used to.]
There are a couple of key reasons why I think the phone will succeed. First, I think the interface is very interesting. It is different from a lot of other phones – in a good way. I also think it is different for a reason, not just to differentiate from the masses. Secondly, the development platform is based on Silverlight and XNA, so applications can be built by anyone who knows .NET, which will offer the end user a wide variety of extensions to their phone.
Finally, it is very rare for Microsoft to make an effort to enter a market and fail. And in this case, they have made a great effort and I think the general public will be impressed when the phone is released later this year.