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’.

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.

Should the mobile industry look for a new USB standard?

I remember when the world turned to micro USB ports as a new standard for cell phones and everyone, including myself, was glad to finally use a standard port. The conversion was quick specially with the cellphone manufacturers and consumers started using a single charger and the world seemed to be a better place.

But now, cellphones aren’t like before. They aren’t dumb phones with small screens that require little power. They are smartphones with larger than 3.7″ screens (now up to 5″ for smartphones and up to 10″ for tablets) and they get charged mostly everyday. Once you start holding your new smartphone to plug it in, you might start seeing a problem.

The micro USB port on your mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, is tiny. Once you’ve connected the cable it might feel loose and most of the times you could hold the micro USB connection while it’s connected to your mobile device and wiggle it from side to side. It’s not a solid snappy connection anymore.

To make my point even clearer, compare the thin micro USB connection with the iPhone’s 30 pin connection. Which one would you think has a better, solid and firm hold to the mobile device? Without any doubt, Apple’s proprietary connection wins this argument.

The problem is that our smartphones and tablets are large these days that they cannot continue using these tiny and flimsy micro USB connections. The industry might have to look for a new USB standard.