Windows Phone 8: The Next Generation

My Grandfather Rockhill once reminisced over his life in one elegant sentence (this was a rare occurrence for him, like me he tended to talk constantly, mostly to hear his own voice, but occasionally he had elegant sentences), he said, ‘When I was born [1916], man was taking his first flight, by the time I reached my midlife, we were on the moon, and now everyone has computers in their house’. He died in the 1990’s (for sake of keeping my personal life personal, I’ll keep the exact date from the web). But were he still alive, I often ponder what the old bugger (said in a loving way) would think of the smartphone that sits in my pocket. Knowing that he was a gadget lover (a trait he instilled in my Father and me) he’d probably complain about it first (If you’re genetically British in any large amount, you’re required to complain about how unimpressed you are by everything when you first meet it, either claiming the old ways are better, or you could design better if you wanted to) and then he’d play with it constantly, and eventually love it like me. (This was also my reaction to the Windows Phone).

‘Bugger! I hate everything! And yet, I can’t live without any of it’.

Granddad Rockhill was, of course, commenting on the massive technological developments made during his lifetime, a time period he felt very grateful to be alive during. I’m becoming increasingly grateful to be alive during this time period, even though it’s still my second favourite over-all. (Victorian Era has so much more… class, aside from all the racism, of course, racism is bad). Think of all the rapidly developing technologies during our time!

Windows Phone 8

In my last post, I already mentioned the piece o’ tech that I’m in the most anticipation for: The Microsoft Surface. What I didn’t mention, and what I should’ve mentioned is the lovely side-project that’ll launch with Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet: Windows Phone 8.

Between this and the Surface, I sure hope my girlfriend isn’t anticipating Christmas presents this year…

Aside from the introduction of a ‘Google Wallet’ like system, (that will probably be more useful than Google Wallet), aside from an updated Microsoft Office mobile suite, aside from Internet Explorer 10 mobile, aside from the improved ‘Music’ and ‘Video’ hubs, and the improved Xbox live hub, and the Direct X and Havok cores that’ll bring more advanced games to the phone, and aside from the support for even higher screen resolutions, and aside from the ‘Xbox Glass’ that will allow you to stream music, videos, and even games from your phone to your Xbox or Windows 8 PC or Tablet, and vice versa, what’ll the Windows Phone 8 offer? Well, I would hope all of that would be enough, but the most important thing that Windows Phone 8, the updated Xbox interface, and Windows Phone 8 all bring to the table is Microsoft’s new message, and it’s strangely Jobsian.

For the record, I am still a critic of Steve Jobs’ business practices, his ego, his dictatorship, his ego again, his fanboys and girls, but you have to give the man credit for improving the way we look at technology.

And whether or not you like the Metro UI that is now found on Xbox and Windows Phone 7, and will soon be found in Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, it all hints in a change in Microsoft’s focus and overall business strategy.

‘I also want it to dance around and whistle like R2D2, why can’t it do that yet’?

The key word to achieve all of this is connectivity. You want your Phone, your Xbox, and your computer (and mayhaps your tablet) to all talk to each other, do it all automatically, and to share all the info quickly and without you asking, so that it’s all available. Thanks to Microsoft’s SkyDrive, I can already do this, I can edit a Word doc on my computer, save it, and the computer automatically sends it to my Windows Phone where I can also edit it and save the updated version to my SkyDrive, which’ll update the version on my PC automatically. The problem here is that SkyDrive wasn’t built into Windows 7, you had to set up Windows 7 to do that. With Windows 8, the theory is you’ll introduce your Mobile and your Xbox to your PC and they’ll all be BFFs that’ll share data, settings, colour choices, Internet Explorer bookmarks, games, and Apps with each other seamlessly. You buy an App on your Windows 8 PC, and since it’s written using the same AP and UI as your Windows Phone 8, you’ll get the mobile version automatically, and both versions will communicate.

‘Wait, that means I have to buy at least two Windows 8 products for this scenario to come true’, you say, (I’m assuming you’ve already got an Xbox 360 since those things have been around for a while). And you’re right, and Microsoft will make big £££, $$$, and €€€ for that fact. (Indian Rupees and Japanese Yen as well, I know, I know). But guess what: they’re a business, that’s their role in the whole thing. What you should be grateful for is that in an era where Android and Apple no longer feel the need to innovate to compete, just sue each other to bits in order to hurt the other’s bottom line, is that someone is still innovating and they are still releasing quality products for you, the consumer to buy. That’s how capitalism is meant to work (in a world without lawyers).

Lawyers ruin everything, from democracy to capitalism.

Besides, when Apple pulls this kind of stunt, no one complains, aside from the Oatmeal. But that’s because the Oatmeal is pretty funny.


Why I like my Windows Phone 7 Better than I did my Android…

Contrary to what some of my posts may seem to show, I used to be in camp Apple. Then my MacBook Pro died VERY prematurely, Apple wouldn’t mind their half of the warranty agreement, and I found out that the EULA agreement you sign with Apple basically makes your computer property of, well, them. Contrary to what the former dictator Steve Jobs may think, I’m not paying for a computer that he owns. I’m paying for one I own, and can customise, and modify without any major to-do on their end. A computer I can ‘jail-break’ legally to use. So I gave Apple the finger, sold my iPod Touch, gave my iPad to my mother, sold my MacBook for parts and bought an HP TouchSmart tm2 as my new Laptop, custom built my own gaming computer, put Windows 7 Professional on both of them, educated myself in the world of computers, and then bought an HTC Evo 4G from Sprint. It was the only non-Windows device I owned.

Because who could say no to a cute mascot like that? …Oh God, why’s there a dead one in the background?

I liked the hardware behind the Evo 4G, and at first I even liked the software and the OS. Then by the second month I realised something about the Android OS that I should’ve noticed before.

Look, what I hate about the Macintosh OS (Operating System, for those not in the ‘know’) and the iOS (the OS on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad) is that the user gets no real control over the OS at all. None. They can change a few (very few) colours here and there, put up a custom wallpaper or lock-screen, but they have no control over the behaviour of ths OS itself. All that power lies in the hands of Apple, Inc. in Cupertino. That’s why no matter how much you know about the workings of your Apple Mac and its software, if something goes really awry, you have to take it in to the ‘Genius Bar’. For people who know nothing about computers this is great. For people who know a lot (like myself) this can be a bit… annoying to say the least.

Because they’re always hipsters who look down on you and judge you, no matter what you do or did.

The problem with the Android OS is that it is the opposite. You see the user has total control over it, and has absolutely no one to help him or her when they get into trouble, which since there is a lot of shovel ware (that is to say shit software) malware (intentionally bad software) and just generally incompatible or poorly coded that will most definently wreck your phone, or at least a lot of the other apps on your phone. Basically you put together your Android, probably with a lot of cellophane tape, or masking tape, and hope to God almighty that everything plays together nicely and turns on nicely, because Lord knows the OS itself isn’t going to help you out with anything, and oh yeah, Google (the makers of the Android OS) is always watching.

C’mon, their name is Google, you’d have to know they’d start spying on their users sooner or later.

So Google’s past privacy breaches aside, Google always watches, but Google rarely helps, and so everytime your phone stumbles you have to turn to the great and deprived mind that is the world wide web. The problem with the internet is that every Android forum I came across gave the same piece of ‘advice’ about how to fix my Android. Namely, I should take away the last layer of control the OS did have, and ‘root’ my device (a breach of contract with Sprint, and most other major carriers, btw, and a voiding of warranty with HTC).

For some odd reason, I felt no real desire to potentially brick my device, lose all the data on it, and possibly cause Sprint to be upset. (As far as US Data Carriers go, Sprint is the best, since their Unlimited Data Plan is the only real Unlimited Data Plan. Considering how AT&T acts, and how Verizon acts, I feel no desire to upset Sprint).

So I eventually got fed up with my constantly infected and sick Android phone, (which started phoning it in! Ha-ha). And traded it in for an HTC Arrive (I liked the hardware, just not the software). The HTC Arrive ran the third runner in the Smartphone race, Windows Phone 7.

Let me show you three charts, comparing how the OSes run themselves on the three comparative platforms.

The Android OS Architecture

Apple iOS Architecture

Windows Phone 7 Architecture

Now, some of you may notice that compared to Android and Windows Phone 7, the iOS Architecture diagram seems over simplified. And I agreed, when I searched for all three of them, that was the only one I could find for iOS, so let’s just call that ‘argument one’ against iOS. Apple is over protective of it. So over protective that even the developers for the iOS, that is the people writing apps for it, get no breathing space whatsoever, and no real knowledge on how iOS runs. Apple keeps it all under lock and key, giving those of us who want to know a really dumb answer.

The main difference though between Windows Phone 7 and Android is that Linux element. Linux is a homebrew OS, built completely by volunteers (and now Google staffers, apparently). The problem with Linux often is lack of real collaboration between the builders of the software and the builders of the hardware. So Linux becomes subject to ‘patches’ that cannot be put out by the makers of the OS alone, but also by the makers of the Hardware and the providers of the cellular service, etc, etc. Linux’s openess is its achielles tendon. Everyone has to modify it and teach it to behave before the public gets its hands on it. This leads to OS fragmentation. That is, your friends with the Samsung on Verizon will probably get updates from Google for their phone faster than you HTC users on Sprint, etc, etc.

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft created a very specific set of hardware requirements for Windows Phone 7. This means that when they released the Mango (7.5) OS update, basically everyone got it within a month. Versus when Android released Android OS 3.5, 3.7, 4.0, etc etc, where some Android users are still waiting several months after it’s release.

Oh, that’s why the dead one.

So Windows Phone 7 wins, not just because of its tight Metro UI (which I have admitted in the past, I think is the greatest thing to hit computers since the GUI first debuted) but also because its the comfortable inbetween when compared to iOS and Android. Android, where anything goes, and Apple where nothing goes. You get the comfort of Microsoft supporting you, and the benefit of Microsoft trusting you with their product, something Apple won’t do, what is more, unlike the Android OS which lets the Apps do whatever they damn well please, the Windows Phone 7 OS actually can, and will take charge to make your phone usuable.

Plus, with my Windows Phone, unlike with my girlfriend’s iPhone, I can actually make phone calls.

Apple has already promised this ‘revolutionary, magical, new’ phone call making feature in the iPhone 7.