Nokia Announces New Windows Phone With Ridiculous Camera, Not Much Else

Tom Warren reports for The Verge:

The Lumia 1020 is a big upgrade over Nokia's previous Windows Phone efforts for one reason alone: a 41-megapixel camera.

Okay, that’s cool. What else has changed, though?

Camera aside, the Lumia 1020 is largely unchanged from the specifications of Nokia's Lumia 920 and 925.

Huh.

I can’t help but feel Windows Phone is in for a tough time ahead. If the flagship hardware device for WP is seeing no CPU change this generation and there’s not going to be an update to the software until next year, it won’t be easy for Microsoft to claw back any market share.

PC Shipments Shrank 10.9% in Second Quarter 2013

“We are seeing the PC market reduction directly tied to the shrinking installed base of PCs,” Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in the statement. “In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC.”

This can’t be good news for Microsoft: they won the desktop PC market, but they’re not winning the smartphone or tablet market.

Why can’t Microsoft get their products right on the first try?

Owen Williams calls it how he sees it:

It’s easy enough to argue that the iPhone 1, for example, shipped without many features we have today as they were added over time, but Apple at the time were creating their own market. The popular phones were the kind that flipped and slid open, or had a stylus. Microsoft is executing the same strategy – release now, fix later – that their competitors use but they’re five steps behind the rest.

Microsoft Launches Windows 8.1 Preview

Frederic Lardinois, for TechCrunch:

Windows 8.1 represents a chance to fix some of the issues with Windows 8. The fact that Microsoft is bringing back the Start button and now allowing users to boot right into the desktop is a sign that the company has been listening to its users. In many ways, 8.1 — even in this Preview version — is what Windows 8 should have been.

It looks like Windows 8 is full of fixes, rather than new features. I can’t fault Microsoft for improving their product based on customer feedback, but it is a shame there are so few new and exciting features for users. Frederic agrees:

It’s a shame that many of the features Microsoft is introducing now weren’t in Windows 8 already.

My take? Windows 8.1 is what Windows 8 should have been.

“Comparison: iPad vs. Windows 8 Tablet”

My recent article, “A Tale of Two Adverts”, received a bit of attention online. Since publication, I’ve been keeping a closer eye on certain tech adverts because I think how a company advertises their product speaks volumes about how they view the product in the world. Microsoft has a new advert, so now’s a great time to analyse it.

I find most of the points raised in this ad to be questionable. Here’s a chronological list of them, along with my thoughts.

Thickness

The iPad is a staggering 0.05” thicker than the Asus VivoTab RT. This seems like a weak first point to make to potential customers? That’s 1mm.

Weight

The iPad weighs 0.28 lb. more than the specific Windows 8 tablet Microsoft has chosen to compare it to. How convenient! (Microsoft’s own tablet, the Surface RT, actually weighs more than an iPad, but who’s keeping track, anyway?)

Microsoft’s poor software support for iPad

Yes, really! Microsoft criticises its own software in an advert — specifically, the lack of Office on iOS. This is an especially weak argument which is only getting weaker with time. Who actually enjoys using Microsoft Office? For me, the lack of Office support is actually a plus — the (hundreds of) alternatives available on iOS are much more enjoyable to use. (I appreciate I’m in a fortunate position not having to use Office, but how many people do actually enjoy using the suite? My guess? Not many.)

Multitasking

Support for multitasking in iOS exists, but Windows RT can display multiple apps at once — side by side. This is the first real point I feel is worthy of being presented in an advert, even though I question whether the tradeoffs made by this UI decision are actually worth it — every Windows Store app should be made to work full size, 1/3 size and 2/3 size. I imagine this isn’t trivial for developers to code. Considering Microsoft is struggling to gain marketshare in the smartphone and tablet world, adding complexities for developers to deal with may not be the best idea.

MicroSD support

The Windows device shown in this advert has a microSD card slot for extra storage — just like the Surface RT. Whilst I appreciate the conveniences a microSD card can provide, it’s solving the wrong problem. The future is ubiquitous online connectivity, cloud storage and streaming — not memory cards. These portable storage cards require careful file management, something Apple wants users to avoid.

AirPrint

Criticising the iPad for not supporting as many printers as Windows RT devices is quite rich, considering what Microsoft considers “support”. Many Windows RT devices include support for cable-based USB printing — but wireless printing is a completely different story.

On iOS, the only way to print is wirelessly. Who wants a cable? Nobody, right?

In order for devices to qualify as AirPrint-enabled by Apple, they must meet some quite tough standards, such as not requiring any drivers. (Perhaps Microsoft is so okay with filling their devices up with crap that a bunch of printer drivers crammed onto the device seems fine?)

Say I own a Windows RT device and want to print wirelessly. Surely it must be much easier than on an iPad — after all, this advert shows wireless printing working perfectly, with the iPad dubbed as “Needing a special Apple printer”. The official Microsoft Surface support page answers my question:

Surface RT is compatible with printers that are certified for Windows RT. Some printers might not work with Windows RT or might not support all of the features of your printer. To find out what's compatible, find your printer in the Windows Compatibility Centre.

(Emphasis mine.)

I checked my printer (which isn’t AirPrint-enabled), but it isn’t supported for Windows RT. Looks like you “Need a special Microsoft printer” in order to print wirelessly from Windows RT. Huh.

Considering AirPrint has been around longer than Windows RT, I imagine the wireless printing ecosystem is actually stronger on iOS than Windows RT — and that there are more AirPrint-enabled printers than Windows RT Wireless Printing(™)-enabled printers. I call foul.

Better luck next time

There are certainly some problems with Microsoft’s branding and advertising, but this article exaggerates them for comedic effect. I hope to see future Microsoft adverts showing products in use, being loved by people who feel real. Apple’s new ad, “Music Every Day”, just like their previous effort, focuses on exactly this. It’s compelling, touching and feels real. What more could you ask for?

A Tale of Two Adverts

I’ve touched on the differences between Apple and Microsoft before, but here’s a more visual example of the two companies; namely, their adverts for smartphones.

Update: I felt I’d been lazy and not fully explained my thoughts about these two ads. I’ve updated this article with some thoughts below the videos.

Microsoft’s “Switch to the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone” Ad

Apple’s “Photos Every Day” iPhone Ad

I think these two adverts speak volumes about the companies behind them.

Microsoft’s ad lets us know they’re not even remotely afraid to acknowledge competition: Windows Phone’s two biggest rivals are mentioned by name: “Galaxy” and “iPhone”.

It feels to me as if this advert is far too focused on bringing up competition. There’s no mention of any Windows Phone features which might be a reason to switch: the only reason given is the dogmatic and weak motto “Don’t fight. Switch” — which doesn’t even make sense.

50 seconds into Microsoft’s advert shows a man with a large Apple logo tattooed on his chest. This logo is (amusingly) pictured larger than any other logo in the ad, including the Windows Phone logo.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think bringing up competition is always a mistake: Apple has done similar things in the past, with the “Get a Mac” campaign back in 2006. However, these adverts were always carefully written to show the advantage of a Mac in different situations. Further, actors were used to represent the two camps, as opposed to Microsoft’s approach: using real iPhone and Android handsets in their own marketing materials. (And big Apple logos.)

If your biggest competitor’s logo appears larger than your own in an advert commissioned by you, that’s a pretty good sign that something is wrong.

Apple, with its advert, is focusing on how the iPhone fits into people’s lives. Their ad is exactly 60 seconds long — not a word from a commentator (about the iPhone) is spoken until 54 seconds in. Even then, it’s one simple and true statement: “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.”

The iPhone is being shown fitting into lives, being used by real people. Real people who don’t fight about the device they’re using; real people who care more about what they’re doing than the device they’re using to do it.

“Windows 8.1 Will Include Boot to Desktop Option to Bypass Metro Interface”

I’m reminded of the difference between Apple and Microsoft:

Apple’s products say, “You can’t do that because we think it would suck.”

Microsoft’s products say, “We’ll let you try to do anything on anything if you really want to, even if it sucks.”

Surface RT Versus iPad: Apps

Chris Gonzales agrees with Shawn about the iOS world being empowered by apps:

The iPad started looking more and like a suitable and legitimate replacement for a laptop, although admittedly, it couldn't have gotten there without the help of the App Store.

I’m reminded of a line from the Egg Freckles piece I just linked to:

The Windows [app] Store is void of choice and polish. Most entries appear to be experiments in Microsoft’s latest development framework. Most iOS developers benefited from years of Objective-C Mac programming experience before releasing their first iOS apps. With the release of the Surface RT, even veteran Windows developers need to tackle an entirely new application development framework, and it shows.

Boy, it does show.

“A Compromise Between a Tablet and a PC that does a Better Job at Being Neither.”

Egg Freckles’ thoughts on Microsoft’s Surface RT:

It is ironic that the hardware this good would come from a software company on their first try, while the operating system and third-party apps require a second attempt.