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Microsoft and Mobile at MIX – MIXed results.

By David M. Smith | March 17, 2010 | 0 Comments


As expected, MIX10 was home to a lot of excitement. lots of cool stuff.  Front and center was the grand unveiling of the developer story for
Windows 7 phone. As outlined in my post about the earlier announcement I was looking for certain things at Mix and I said I would revisit after Mix.  So what better way than to grade them on what i was looking for? Here goes:

1. Focus on the Web:

Grade: I have to split it into two.

For mobile, Grade: C: It’s a decent mobile browser, similar to that in the Zune HD, based on what has been described as "IE7.5". Nowhere near as bad as what they’ve had on windows mobile, nowhere near as good as IE9 looks to be, and falls significantly short of Safari on the iphone. Caveat: I have not been able to actually use the windows phone browser yet, only see it live.  Without a strong web browser, they will be at a disadvantage as leading edge html5 web apps become more than a curiosity. I believe that 5 years from now, the mobile web (browser apps) will be a major force, accounting for half of mobile apps. That doesn’t mean that native apps won’t matter. They absolutely will. but less than today.  And those with strong web browsers will be better positioned than those without it. Microsoft is clearly years behind Apple (and even Android) in the apps race.  They are also behind them in the web apps race.  They would have been better positioned if they were ahead in something.

For Windows desktop, Grade A-: IE9 looks to be a good step forward and a strong endorsement of HTML5. Much stronger than I had expected just a few months ago.  The one area of HTML5 that they were silent on is the offline capability.  While the nuances of offline are many, much of HTML5 is not straightforward, and discussion of the topic and public commitment to the offline capabilities would have made this stronger.

2. The role of Silverlight.  Grade: A-.  Tremendous potential here and some really cool stuff especially for developers.  The tools are great and free. Features like deep zoom are awesome.  only held back by the browser issue (the wp7 browser does not render SL content.  That’s right. So all the SL sites on the web (like the Olympics and other sports sites) cannot be experienced by wp7. What’s up with that? Also as the SL story is POTENTIALLY cross platform, today it is for all intents and purposes, a Windows Phone 7 only environment. However it also remains a potential great bridge between native and web apps. But not today. A really solid native dev story though.  clearly an A there.

3. The desktop play.  Grade: B. The story here is primarily around hardware accelerated HTML5 via IE9. Which is not a bad thing, but has yet to be proven and also has yet to be a proven differentiator. it also
makes for some interesting discussions around how and when other browsers on windows may be able to do this as well.  There was a good buzz around SL in general, including SL desktop apps but not a lot of discussion of windows desktop apps especially Microsoft’s consumer offerings such as media center, and windows live. I expect to hear more on the live front shortly. Media center? I’m not holding my breath…

4. And last but not least, content. Grade: Incomplete but Promising. They clearly have time to do this and I’d expect anything here to be launched with actual product later in the year. In hindsight I can say that it was  unrealistic for me to expect that for a developer conference.  But the possibilities are there.  I see the potential largely for two reasons: the experience with the Zunepass subscription strategy and the fact that Microsoft does seem to have content providers’ interests in mind more than do Apple and Google. Keep watching this space.

I was left with one final thought. The world could have been so different had Microsoft done this with the portable media center and added phone to it the way Apple did.It’s amazing how a platform company had such a non-platform strategy in mobile and media until now. It’s good to see platform thinking arrive. A little more web thinking and some aggressive actions in the right places and Microsoft could be a real force to be reckoned with.

What was your impression? Did Microsoft do what they needed to do?

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