Thursday, March 31, 2011

Windows phone 7 - The ITG's take.

So my partner finally decided to ditch the old Nokia phone that had served her well for many years (I personally think she was sick of being the only person at the table with a number pad). Every phone she'd had in recent memory has been a nokia and as far as I can recall, had a symbian based O/S. Being the IT Guy I was naturally the person she came to for advice on what she should get, she had one prerequisite, "I do not want an iphone"

When getting down to it, I understand where this feeling comes from, often hearing apples little masterpiece being referred to as iSheep. When I got my first iphone I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in the country to have one and it was many weeks that passed before I actually saw someone else holding one in their hand. These days it's hard for many minutes to pass from the time you leave your front door till you see someone else playing away on their iphone.

No iphone, Check.

She did go on to say that she's always loved her nokia phones so would prefer one if possible and wanted something with a keypad, I talked her out of both of these things as I didn't see the point of buying her something which appeared archaic by todays standards, early adopter she isn't!

I saw two real choices here, before I got down to handset decisions I had to make the call for Android or Windows Phone 7. I was upfront about this with her but chose the windows phone for a couple of reasons.

     1. Previous to owning iphones I had always had windows mobile phones, they weren't for the masses but as an IT person I always loved having the extra functionality of having (what I considered) a computer in your pocket, so there was a nostalgic element

     2. I love my gadgets and want to play with as many as possible, unfortunately I don't have the resources of David Pouge, Sacha Pallenberg or the increasingly famous Robert Scoble at my disposal so I need to take these opportunities by the scruff. I have a few mates with Android based phones (love the HTC Legend) but I didn't know anyone with a windows 7 phone.

     3. The iSheep factor weighs on me too, I don't love having the same phone as everyone else, and have been looking to make a move from iphones iOS to something else, possibly this year. The news of the recent partnership agreement between Microsoft and Nokia to produce Windows based handsets really got me excited, so I have been looking at a Nokia Windows 7 Phone as a real possibility for my next handset. I needed to make sure that WP7 met my expectations before I could even consider this.

We jumped online to see that my partners cell phone provider supplied one WP7 device, the Samsung Omnia 7, some quick research on GSM arena lead me to believe that this was a quality device that rated well among users, and the requirements that would be put on this phone weren't too crazy so I knew it wouldn't need to be anything too high end.

When we received it, the first thoughts out of the box was that this is a quality handset, solid feeling unit, very stylish casing, nice big 4" screen that, although made the device seem bigger than my iphone (because it is) it didn't have the feeling of "wow, that's too big for a phone" like I feel the HTC Desire (4.3") does.

So down to the OS itself. In a word, WOW. I could not believe how intuitive, responsive and fun it was to play with. Like the first time you had a go on a nintendo Wii, or even the first time you picked up an iphone, I remember a friend telling me his thoughts the first time he played with an iphone, "it's like using a phone from the future" WP7 really has that kind of feel. It got me to thinking about apple's iOS. Although it has a fairly new name, enhancements aside (backgrounder, clipboard, spotlight search, folders) it is starting to get a little long in the tooth. The first iphone was announced back in January of 2007 making iOS itself over 4 years of age, as far as phones go, that is very old!

On the WP7 the setup was enjoyable to roll through, it was easy and the way that it integrates with windows live (and even facebook) to pull all your contacts and info is seamless, its quite a powerful and useful feature. what I probably found the most useful about it was the way you can personalize it to suit you, the live tiles that can be pulled to the front page to make the phone look and function the way that you would like it to is something that the iphone really does not do very well. (and this is right out of the box, not post jailbreaking/hacking).

So you're probably sitting there, reading this and wonder why I haven't run out and got one for myself straight away, with such a glowing review wouldn't I be mad not to? Well, it's like the great man himself, Steve Jobs said during the keynote which launched the Ipad2, it's all about the apps. Apple has done an amazing job at getting a foothold into the app market and I personally believe apps are more important than the mobile phones themselves. Over the years that I have had an iphone i'veiphone / ipad, you can no longer use those apps. This is a fairly big obstacle towards moving away from an iDevice, apple knows this and they love it!

This isn't even taking into account the fact that both the android and (especially) the Microsoft app marketplace is way behind in terms of content. Even if people are in a situation where they are happy to re-spend the money on apps once making a move to a WP7, it's not like they are going to be able to buy all those apps/games again. I made a list of the top 10 apps I use and tried to find something in the Microsoft marketplace that could be a substitute, I was only able to replace one. The most recent numbers I could turn up were that the android marketplace had around 170,000 official apps and the windows phone marketplace under 15,000. In comparison, as of January 2011 the apple app store had over 350,000.

What does this mean for someone wanting to get a new phone? I think the WP7 is a great option for someone about to make the jump into the smartphone market for ths first time. Seriously though, how many of them are left? I guess for someone who doesn't really care a lot about apps and just wnats to make calls, check email and surf the web then it's a great option. Unfortunately, for me (at least for now) this rules out a WP7 handset as a competitor for my money, at least we are seeing a lot of the popular apps/games migrate from the apple store to the android marketplace but for the WP Marketplace this has yet to become a reality. It's a shame really.

I think that Microsoft is finding itself in the exact place apple did back in the 1980's, with a better product but much less of the market share. Like that famous scene towards the end of the 1999 film 'The Pirates of Silicon Valley'* where Steve Jobs looking confused over Microsoft's success said to Bill Gates "We're better than you are, we have better stuff" to Bill Gates' response of "You don't get it Steve, That doesn't matter". All that happened in that scenario was, Microsoft beat Apple to punch, well in this situation it is exactly the other way around. Sure, I believe WP7 can peg its way back slowly over time with what I believe to be a better product but it will be a long road, and they will never have a majority share, just like apple and the Mac.

I know a lot of readers of this blog don't come here for the tech talk so sorry for getting my geek on :)

Cheers, The ITG.

*The Pirates of Silicon Valley was a TV movie that centred around Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (and the birth of both of their companies). It's really a brilliant insight into some of the goings on at the time both Microsoft and Apple were formed, and how they came to be the institutions they are today. I highly recommend you check it out! I believe you can see it all on youtube.

Monday, March 7, 2011

South African techfast

I had originally planned on doing regular blog posts from South Africa but apart from the first few days in Johannesburg and then the odd half hour here or there I've had a bit of a techfast forced on me. Being an IT guy away from the Internet is hard work, my partner has turned to me a few times and said "you're really struggling aren't you" ... I didn't realise it was that obvious!

I am currently staying with one of my partners aunties in Durban and when I came up the stairs last night you could imagine my joy when I saw a wireless router sitting on the table near the phone. I knew I couldn't ask for the wireless key straight away as I had just met the uncle for the first time and hadn't seen the auntie in years so we had to do the pleasantries, we ate, we drank then they explained they'd just yesterday had a death in the family and had to go out for a couple of hours to spend some time with grieving loved ones, most unfortunate indeed but I thought I could try to use this to my advantage!

I asked the uncle for his wireless key, he looked at me like I was speaking Chinese, he said we don't use wireless here (spewbuckets), I asked him if he had a computer I could use, and he explained yes but it isn't working (spewbuckets part two), I asked if I could plug in my laptop to the cord where the computer normally plugged in to, which I was interested to see as it was no where near the router, which they apparently didn't use wireless on. He took me there and it was indeed connected via a wireless network, also the computer appeared to be operating fine. On further questioning he explained to me that I could use the internet ok but his outlook was broken so i wouldn't be able to send any mails ... this guy really had no idea ;)

Not only did I fix his outlook, but used the routers default password to log in and improve his wireless network, at the same time getting the wifi key so I am happily sitting on my bed right now writing this on my laptop (and not a computer downstairs with a keyboard where neither the x or ? keys work, how do people live like this!)

I told him that he would need to buy a new keyboard, as he thought it was the computer that was causing those two key's to not work, and put a shortcut to 'on screen keyboard' on his desktop to tide him over until then.

so, the ITG breaths a sigh of relief ... sweet, albeit slow, interwebs ... how freaking good!

Also, I woke up this morning to see a monkey looking at me through the bedroom window, he had as much of a "what are you doing there" look on his face as I did, this place keeps on surprising me. I wasn't quick enough to get a pic of him but I have since been told that this is common place in Durban so I will attempt to get one over the next couple of days. I do have lots of great pics from the trip and plan to share some with you all when I get a chance to sit down and sift through them at home.

Hope all is well with all my readers and my heart goes out to all those suffering the after affects of the devastating quakes and subsequent tremors in New Zealand, according to my stats page quite a few of my frequent visitors are from there, including the good 'doc' so I hope all is well with you guys, my thoughts have been with you.

Lots more South African stories to follow, back home on the weekend and looking forward to writing some stuff down after reflecting on the trip.

Cheers, The ITG

p.s. just yesterday my blog quietly slipped past 2000 page views, wow .. I didn't expect that to happen in the first couple of years let alone the first 6 months. I've been interested to see the breakdown of stats by country / operating system / browser and plan to put together a post on it some time, hopefully you'll find it as interesting as me :)

UPDATE: my partners tech savy uncle asked us last night if we were on facebook. He explained he had just managed to work out how to set up an account (like he had just scaled Everest.) That right there is the exact reason i'm not! I could see the look on my missus' face when she begrudgingly admitted "yes, yes I am"