Back at the beginning of April I wrote a blog post that posited Windows Phone’s biggest App problem was the absence of key applications for interacting with the physical world. So I found it really interesting that in the same week that the Windows Phone Marketplace broke the 100,000 app barrier one of my friends commented over dinner that he had “just about given up on Windows Phone”. Why I asked why he replied that the apps he really needed, like those to manage his Fidelity and Schwab accounts, are still not available. Ah, more anecdotal proof that Microsoft needs to focus more attention on wooing this class of application developers. To be clear my friend loves Windows Phone, but in the end all that really matters is what you can do with it and not the beauty of the interface etc.
Anyone who keeps tabs on the Windows Phone space has certainly seen its momentum building ever since Mango was released last fall. The app marketplace is growing fast. New and more exciting devices are hitting the market and having apparent success, particularly the Nokia Lumia line, and some markets are real bright spots (e.g., Windows Phone is more popular in China than Apple’s iPhone, although Android leads by a wide margin). Soon Windows Phone 8 will be revealed and along with whatever goodies it brings itself the likely integration with Windows 8 and Xbox hopefully make the must have mobile OS. Of course there are dark clouds on the horizon, such as the upgrade policy for existing Windows Phone devices, the introduction of IOS 6 (which may steal some ideas from Windows Phone, such as Live Tiles), and even Microsoft’s own recognition that IOS and Android are platforms they can’t ignore. But even with these dark clouds things seem to be looking up for Windows Phone. Except for that physical world interaction app problem.
At the end of dinner my friend and I agreed that we are both going to give Windows Phone a little more time. We want to see what happens with Windows Phone 8 and if Microsoft can use it to bring more physical world interaction apps on board. But if that doesn’t happen, then 12-18 months from now I’ll be writing about my personal experiences with some other platform. I may love my Windows Phone, but the novelty is wearing off. There are now over 100,000 apps in the Marketplace, but not the ones I need.
It’s a chicken and egg problem. They need apps to drive volume, but without volume many developers aren’t interested. I think they’re just too far behind at this point to recover. Too bad, because it is a good OS.
I’m willing to re-sign with my carrier for two years when Windows Phone 8 comes out. If the apps I need aren’t on Windows Phone by the end of my contract, I’ll also be looking for something other than a Windows Phone. Some of the apps that are available on Android and/or iPhone but not Windows Phone include a pharmacy app that let’s me reorder medications and one to report infrastructure issues such as pot holes or malfunctioning traffic signals to the appropriate entity. I can do the former from a PC, but it’s much easier to scan the medicine bottle as the last dose is removed from the bottle. For the latter, I can call the city on my phone, but the app can use GPS to automatically pinpoint the location of the issue.
Finding apps in marketplaces is also harder than one might wish for. One way to learn about cool apps is from friends, and with most of them using Androids and iOS devices, a Windows Phone user has less opportunity to be introduced to apps that way.
So, reading about cool apps via blogs can be a surrogate info source.
Hal, what are you looking for? Perhaps we followers could point you, and all of eachother, to some interesting apps?
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