How does Messaging work on Windows 8?

On Windows Phone, I tap on the Messaging tile and from there I can see who’s online, all my previous message threads and an option to change my chat status. So you’d expect the same experience or similar options when you click on the Messaging tile on Windows 8, right? Wrong.

The most important option when it comes to messaging is to see who’s online, which is sadly not present on Windows 8’s Messaging app. In order to see who’s online, you’ll need to open the People app and if you click on an online contact Windows 8 switches you to the Messaging app to chat. So essentially, you’d have to keep flipping back and forth between the Messaging and People apps.

Am I the only one who believes that this messaging workflow is completely flawed?

That being said, and as I mentioned before, the experience and workflows between both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 aren’t always consistent and often confusing even for people trying to use Windows 8 whom already own a Windows Phone.

As much as I like Windows 8’s new modern Start screen, the way I currently see it and from a developer’s point of view, it certainly shows that this was a quick first iteration that Microsoft had to release on launch day. The built-in apps feel like they’re still in beta which further confirms (I hope) the rumor of an upcoming major update that will bring all Microsoft’s Windows platforms closer to one another in terms of features and UI consistency.

Where is the consistent “Windows Everywhere” experience?

If I recall correctly, Microsoft promised us a “Windows Everywhere” experience that is quite consistent in its nature, especially when it comes to the user interface. So far, it’s been “modern UI” and tiles everywhere but sadly that is as far as the consistency goes.

I’d love to see the same live tiles everywhere. I’d love to see my own settings and accounts being brought up from Windows 8 to Xbox to Windows Phone. I’d love to see the same apps available in all Microsoft platforms. More so, I’d love to see consistency in developing apps for all their devices so that developers can easily deliver the same apps across many Microsoft products. That’s the “Windows Everywhere” experience that I am anxiously waiting for.

What’s the deal with Xbox Music pass on Windows Phone 8?

So let’s assume that at least a million people out there own a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, and let’s also assume that a quarter of them have an Xbox Music pass. Well, most (if not all) of those people are suffering including myself. Apparently, Microsoft seems to have released Windows Phone 8 before it entirely matured cause you simply cannot sync or properly use your Xbox Music pass on it.

Microsoft’s Zune/Xbox Music support representatives keep telling me that in order to fully make use of my Xbox Music pass that I need to use it with the Xbox Music app on Windows 8, and that’s the only way. Whatever music I download on my Windows Phone 8 device doesn’t get synced on the Xbox Music cloud collection and I cannot just simply hookup my phone with Windows 8 and expect all my Xbox Music collection to get synced automatically without any issues (DRM issues specifically).

It’s an ongoing issue that has plagued Windows Phone 8 since its launch. I am hoping that Microsoft is working on a major update for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 that will enable them to talk ‘better’ with each other.

Bridging the gab between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8

I hope that Microsoft is working hard on bridging the obvious gab between Windows 8’s modern UI and Windows Phone, especially with the built-in apps. If Microsoft is really after a single consistent experience, when it comes to the user interface, on all their platforms then they still have a lot to work on at least when trying to bridge the gaps.

Here are a few things I’d like to see Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone teams working on:

Like Windows 8, Windows Phone also needs a screen rotation lock option.

The same experience we get with Xbox Music & Videos apps on Windows 8 must be consistent on Windows Phone 8. “Music + Videos” app must go.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 are mobile products at heart, which means that IE10 on both of them deserve a reading mode.

Windows Phone’s built-in apps should be updatable from the Windows Phone Store like on Windows 8, including Internet Explorer.

Apps on Windows Phone 8 should install the same way as on Windows 8, they should immediately be pinned to the Start screen.

The super easy way of changing tile sizes on Windows Phone 8 also needs to be implemented in Windows 8. Not sure why this isn’t the case.

Windows Phone’s “Me” tile needs to be added to Windows 8. Having it hidden in the “People” hub doesn’t make sense.

Flickr, PhotoBucket & SmugMug for Windows Phone

Windows Phone’s market share is growing, no doubt about it, and it might be growing faster than you think despite what those pessimistic analysts may have told you. One of the clues that proves this is the fast pace of the platform’s adoption from major companies including those in the image hosting sector.

As of today, users can find Flickr, PhotoBucket and SmugMug apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. So if you are a user of one of those services and own a Windows Phone, you’ll be glad to know that you are now covered and can start uploading those priceless Kodak moments of your cat.

One of the unique things about Windows Phone is its metro interface that got positive feedback all over the world. That same metro interface experience is used in most of the apps in the Marketplace including the three mentioned in this post. The experience is so delightful and fluid that it almost makes you feel guilty for not uploading photos.

No dice for Skype & Netflix on BlackBerry PlayBook

It’s crystal clear that the BlackBerry community want both Netflix and Skype apps on either (or on both) their BlackBerry smartphone or PlayBook but their wishes and requests have always gone unanswered and for reasons that are still unknown.

We keep hearing from BlackBerry (unofficially) that they are willing to help Netflix or Skype to build those apps on their BlackBerry PlayBook QNX platform if they just asked but still their tweets get no replies (as far as we know). Why? Why is it almost impossible to get Netflix and Skype on board the BlackBerry platform considering that BlackBerry has been around way before iPhone, Android and Windows Phone? This might come as a shock to all of you but even Nokia’s old, slow and outdated Symbian OS has an official Skype and Netflix apps.

The BlackBerry community has been very vocal about this issue through tweets, Facebook posts, petitions and even sending letters to Netflix and Skype’s headquarters to spread the awareness hoping it gives them the push they need to start the development but we haven’t heard or seen any positive outcome.

Look, before I say anything more I would like to mention that as a Canadian I am proud of the BlackBerry brand and support RIM. If it wasn’t for them we would probably still be using dumb phones today. That being said, I must say that I believe it isn’t completely Netflix or Skype’s fault for not building apps for the PlayBook’s QNX platform, RIM is to be greatly blamed as well.

Ponder about this for a minute. Those Twitter and Facebook apps on BlackBerry smartphones weren’t even created by Twitter nor Facebook, respectively. They were built by RIM. So it isn’t just Netflix and Skype that aren’t interested in developing apps for the BlackBerry OS (or the PlayBook’s QNX platform), it seems that both popular social networks aren’t interested either which is probably why RIM took it on themselves to create Twitter and Facebook apps.

Here is another point to think about. As I mentioned above, BlackBerry has been around way before iPhone, Android or Windows Phone, yet all those mobile platforms got official apps from Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Netflix either at launch or during a period of at most one year after launch yet BlackBerry still gets neglected. So how did, for instance, Microsoft get Netflix and Skype to develop apps for their Windows Phone platform even though Windows Phone’s market share is below all mobile operating systems on the market? The BlackBerry PlayBook is in this same spot right now with a small market share (just like Windows Phone) yet, a year later, there isn’t a single evidence that says both Netflix and Skype are working on a PlayBook app. Why is that?

Microsoft, Google and Apple all seem to have that power or influence (or whatever you want to call it) that pushes third party companies to support their mobile platforms. Microsoft definitely did something behind the scenes to get those deal breaker apps on board the Windows Phone platform before the OS had any decent market share. So it is obvious that RIM has a role to play to get those ‘must-have’ apps on their PlayBook as well.

In other words, we can’t just blame Netflix and Skype for not developing apps for the PlayBook or the BlackBerry OS. RIM, just like Microsoft, Apple and Google, has to play their part of the game or else it will always be ‘no-dice’.

Microsoft Xbox, it’s all about entertainment

My problem with Microsoft at the moment is with their entertainment division. Xbox, Zune, Games for Windows, Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player, etc. They are scattered everywhere and each has its own store or software that runs of it.

Why not consolidate? I mean, it’s all about entertainment in the end.

My suggestion is a unified experience and software across multiple platforms (Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone) that is simply called Xbox. Yes, Xbox. It’s time for Microsoft to piggy back on the Xbox’s success and make it the official place and store to download and play movies, TV shows, music and games.

Windows Phone Feature Suggestion

It’s great that Microsoft gave their customers the ability to share their ideas through UserVoice to help improve Windows Phone. But is that enough? Absolutely not.

Microsoft allowed Windows Phone owners to add feature suggestions on the website since the product launched (or maybe a few weeks after) but never really showed us how those features are ever taken into consideration or even being talked about among the Windows Phone development team.

There are feature suggestions on the website that have been at the top of the list for over a year without any indication that they will be added in a future release or that they’re being discussed yet Windows Phone received several updates since it launched without including those items. There is a clear missing link between those feature suggestions and the development team.

Just like Windows 8, the team shows the world how they’re taking customer feedback into their next major release through Twitter, YouTube and even adding many detailed blog posts. Why isn’t Windows Phone following the same approach? In the end, Windows Phone is an operating system that is currently powering more than a million of smartphones today.

All I am saying is that Microsoft can’t just tell people to go and add their ideas on another website and then be completely silent about it. They need to engage and converse closely with their Windows Phone customers just like the Windows team are doing with Windows 8.

Windows 8 on ARM

The thought of Windows on ARM based devices is great and opens up a lot of new areas for Windows to live on. But will it be a real competitor to other popular tabular based computing devices (shall I say iPad, Android tablets)?

The new Windows on ARM may definitely prove worthy but it could be for a niche market (initially), but then again we did say the same when Android started to show up on tablets.

I must say I always wanted to use Windows through a touch experience but it never did work out the way it meant to be through all the iterations of Windows and including Windows 7. Now that Windows 8 is ‘reimagined’ for an elegant metro style touch experience, I couldn’t be more excited to get some serious hands-on experience.

Having said all that, maybe Windows is finally at a stage where people need it on ARM hardware. Something super light, highly portable, consumer based and (most importantly) FUN to use for all ages. I mean when you think about, it’s all about the experience in the end.

Tuesday, August 9 2011

As mush as I love the original concept behind Windows Phone’s start screen, I still have a few things to complain about.

There just seems to be a lot of wasted space on the start screen. You will notice there is a quite spacious black empty space at the top and at the right of the tiles. I understand why the top was left blank (for toast notifications) but it just doesn’t look right with all that space left blank.

The same thing applies to the empty space to the tight of the tiles. It just doesn’t make sense to me to see all that wasted space for displaying an arrow.

I don’t know if you also noticed, but the length of the home screen doesn’t fit the amount of tiles it can display. When you first see the start screen in its default position (scrolled all the way to the top) you will notice that your screen will only show the complete length of 3 tiles with part of the 4th tile covered where you have to scroll to see the rest of it. Even though it’s only a tiny part of it that is covered, that still feels like a flaw in the UI design.

Apart from those three design flaws (in my opinion at least) Windows Phone has proved itself to be the most enjoyable experience you can get on a mobile operating system.