WPF has no Product Manager.

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WPF has a lot of potential going for it, it’s one of these products that you absolutely hate upfront when you first start on its learning curve but over time you grow to love it dearly as it unleashes a lot of creative potential within you early.

There’s been a lot of talk recently around its futures, namely by myself but also in various forums, discussion lists and so on. It’s both healthy but at the same time it’s not being heard by the right people internally within Microsoft.

WPF has a few problems to sort out, firstly there is what I call the convincing phase, in that getting people to initial embrace the latest version of .NET 4.0 is a challenge unto itself – which has next to no marketing attached. The second challenge, is the ask that folks get behind the learning curve / investment of adopting WPF instead of Silverlight for desktop based solutions. It’s a challenge because Silverlight Out of Browser has confused a little on which is best for what and where. The last but most important challenge of all is the learning curve attached to WPF, as it’s somewhat a very chaotic and noisy Google search to undertake.

Why adopt WPF?

In 2007, I was an Evangelist for Microsoft via Australia for this question. I’d probably give you some prescribed marketing spin that went something like this:

“WPF is for ultimate experience, Silverlight is for great experiences and lastly AJAX/HTML is for good experiences”

I’d then throw up a slide and show you the three pillars of Microsoft UX Platform and how we as a company are investing big into the futures of developer & designer productivity. Its obvious that was a lie, and apologies to any who bought it – as even I bought it.

The reality behind why adopt WPF is simple, you have full control over your user experience on a Windows based PC (both Windows XP  and Vista/Windows7). You have more ubiquity (70% of Windows machines today – have at least .NET 3.5 installed) than Silverlight and in many ways typically have more support around API’s then Silverlight. You have a much more engaging interop story (ie access to the quasi 3D now in WPF but should you want to go big, you can again via interop do more). You have  now a descent amount of download size as well, roughly ~40mb give or take to deploy with.

I could list a whole bunch more reasons, but the end summary is that WPF has a lot of positives attached to it today than people typically think or know?

If it’s so good, Why is WPF dying then?

I’ve thought about this question a lot since leaving the WPF/Silverlight teams. I’ve blogged about the fact I think its dead, I’ve explained many times over the reasons why there is internal politics getting in the way but ultimately what it comes back to is simply a Product Management problem. As a former Product Manager of this product, I simply wasn’t doing my job for WPF. I ignored it, it was easy to do so as Silverlight was the main star in this theater.

WPF isn’t being evangelized anymore, it has zero marketing and more importantly the development team within Microsoft are tasked with all of this as well as partner hand holding and actually development of the said product. Scott Guthrie can throw a random 200+ engineers are working on it all he likes, but ask anyone internally if I’m lying about who does what and where, and I will guarantee you the bulk of the work falls into the hands of the WPF Engineering team to do it all solo.

Point and case, Evernote this week blogged about how they abandoned WPF and went C++ instead, citing performance reasons etc. as the reason(s) why. Fair enough, but what struck me is odd was that none of the usual suspects where jumping ahead of this PR issue, in that typically you see something like this you quickly put some spin on it, reassure the masses with your said messaging framework and rinse/repeat until you get downright annoying about how good WPF is still.

Didn’t happen.

Still not convinced? take Windows 7 Launch. I remember seeing an internal memo about how the said campaign was going to work and more importantly how $300million+ in marketing budget was going to be spent convincing the world that Windows 7 is a good bet this time round. “I’m a PC” was born.

I also remember sitting in a team meeting discussing what story we would pitch for WPF/Silverlight around Windows 7? we soon learnt that Windows 7 had the same developer story as it did Windows Vista. This then resulted in the team deciding that since there was nothing new or shiny to talk about, we’d just leave it be.

This frustrated a colleague and myself. The reason being is that who said Windows Vista + WPF got traction? who said we still couldn’t use the same goals as we did back then! I mean our team even re-branded .NET logo to fit into a more up to date branding strategy.

We simply didn’t go out there and market .NET 4.0 or 3.5 along with Windows 7. We should have been hitting the usual channels, promoting how with WPF you can get blah blah potential out the door. We should have been investing heavily into adoption channels, ensuring the future of tomorrows .NET developer was embracing Windows as well as the potential for cross-platform, cross-device and cross-browser technologies.

Learn once today, Use many tomorrow – or a cheesy tag line like that should have been conjured.

Instead Silverlight is and now Wp7 are being pushed as the sole future(s) of Microsoft. It’s no wonder the Windows team aren’t on board with DevDiv, as when you take a step back and look at what they have to leverage from the developer community – then you are left with a solution that basically works in all other platforms as well as their own? the only chance you get of keeping that genie in the bottle is to bake features that are Windows Specific into place – yet this won’t bode well as that level of adjustment to an existing agnostic product won’t happen as it simply deposits large amount(s) of hate debt into the bank from developers world wide (embrace and extend is a known tactic of Microsoft that breeds distrust and disagreement)

WPF needs Product Management 101

PDC has finally got one session in its talk agenda that is focused on WPF. It took the guy in charge of WPF’s development teams to step up and do Microsoft Developer/Platform Evangelism Team(s) (DPE) job. Rob is an awesome guy and I have a deep amount of respect for his work, it just seems downright disappointing that he’s got to focus on a session talk instead of sitting in a bubble thinking up better ways to develop WPF’s future(s).

MIX and TechEd for the last 2 years has had little next to none (I can think of anyway) WPF discussions happening, essentially Microsoft is putting WPF on its ignore list.

What needs to happen is Product Management 101, there needs to be an actual WPF Product Manager dedicated to its future. At the moment that role fits under the Silverlight Team at best, and is thinly spread between Silverlight, Windows Phone 7 and any if not all Rich Platform compete issues ranging from Adobe centric through to the threat of HTML5. There is no one person really owning this problem, just a few directors appearing to.

Product Management is about protecting the brand, it’s about sitting down with partners and figuring out what features worked vs what didn’t. It’s about thinking about how your competitors are doing xyz and then coming up with ways to differentiate from them. It’s about working with community leads (corporate and street evangelists) ensuring they understand your vision for the future of the said product. It’s about crafting a marketing channel (web page, blog etc) that echoes your reasons for why it exists, where its heading and what successes and failures its had. It’s about investing in learning material on features that are rated the hardest and letting developers discover the ones on their own that are less harder (it plays into the psychology of learning, if you learn something that is a little hard but tad easy, your confidence levels rise). It’s about ensuring others are inspired by your products vision and compete with one another to create beautiful experiences that go beyond your initial baseline of expectations.

None of this exists today. It all sits in the hands of the engineering team who are doing all this and actually coding at the same time.

Scott Guthrie said there were 200+ engineers working on WPF & Silverlight. How many are working on WPF and more importantly how many people are marketing WPF & .NET 4.0 today? If its more than one, then tell me, what have they done lately?

As I seem to be the most vocal guy on the planet right now about WPF and nobody has challenged me head-on in proving me wrong?

I’ve often thought about what I’d say if someone actually asked me to move back to Microsoft Corp and take on this role? my first answer would be – I want to sit next to the development teams and I want a ring fenced budget that I spend solely on WPF, give me those and I’ll do the job again, only this time I’ll execute more precisely.

Ruby On Rails has less to work with and they’ve kicked Microsoft’s butt so badly now, that its now considered a competitive threat! do more with less I guess?

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The rise and fall of Microsoft’s UX platform – Part 2

Tribes are something we humans seem to never quite shake off and will often seek out mini tribe clusters in everything we do. If you’re into cars, you will typically find a club or social arena where others like you dwell, same with chess, fishing, running, riding bikes etc. pick your hobby and chances are there are others like you surrounding you.

This primitive trait is consistent in technology today, if you are a hardcore Adobe Flash developer you’ll defiantly be hanging out in a spot where others like you hang. If WPF is your cup of tea, you’ll do the same whether it be online or offline. It’s how we learn, communicate and develop our careers into new areas of expertise and it something large corporations know on some level that this is vital to the future success of the company in questions future.

In this second part to my coverage of Microsoft UX Platform state of play, I’m going to zero in on the first generation of tribal elders – Evangelists. As its important to get this part out of the way as in Part 3, I’ll be talking more about how the Design discussion inside Microsoft has been abandoned – or should I simply say, shut down / suspended.

Every tribe pedigree needs an evangelist.

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This tribal mentality is why Evangelism is commercially sponsored as by hiring a bunch of people who are passionate about sharing and asking them to go off and spread the gospel of the respective companies technology is part of the overall marketing via influence. Evangelism isn’t a sales role, it’s in fact a marketing role. A good evangelist is someone who can market a product from a basis of trust, meaning they actually believe in what they are talking to others about – thus why Evangelism and religion often are similar in DNA.

The downside with Microsoft Evangelism is that recently I think it’s lost its way, that somehow it’s gotten into this rut of now being metric focused evangelism. It’s now become obvious that depending on each fiscal year the evangelism team(s) within Microsoft will often suddenly switch gears and start talking about a completely different product than they would have before – simply because it’s new and has to be seeded.

The metric system suffocates evangelism.

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Let me explain what I mean by that having been both a Microsoft Evangelist and Product Manager.

Firstly, as a Product Manager the goal for us as a team was to find Evangelist to flood the market in and around what’s coming up and why it’s important everyone in the field as we called it, paid full attention. Asking the field to do this without a metric attached was simply a weak posture for us as a team to have, as it meant that any who did evangelize our products did so for free, but on the flip side when it came to these said Evangelists handing in their homework for the year (i.e. the fiscal metrics and commitments) they could really only use this kind of work stream as "extra credit".

Extra credit was the carrot you would dangle, but the harsh reality is that being an Evangelist you have basically nearly every team inside Microsoft asking the same thing of you "Please Evangelize this new thing". This in turn would give you some interesting and often absurd metrics to go after when it came to figuring out what you as an Evangelist was about to do for the year.

For example, one year I picked the metric "Grow Silverlight by 20% in the community" and committed to my manager on this. This was essentially me gaming the metrics as in truth, if others world-wide did their jobs I’d get a 20% bump in developer share simply by turning up to work – so it was a low hanging metric. I also had to pick a harder metric like find "5x Silverlight case studies" back when Silverlight was just given its name let alone had teeth around being an actual product. It was an almost impossible metric to have, and so it mean my entire year would be focused on finding or enticing someone in the community to not only adopt Silverlight but make a professional product out of it all within a fiscal year.

I look back on my Evangelism metrics and almost laugh at how easy they were compared to being a Product Manager where the stakes were now higher, but my point is Evangelism lost its way in that it has become metric focused and less on well natural Evangelism?

Product Team vs. Evangelist

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It’s not the said Evangelists fault either – actually they are the innocent ones if you ask me – it’s really more the Product Team(s) in question fault (that and the DPE overlords). I say this, as being in a Product Team we used to set metrics for DPE to go off and fight knowing full well they’d either make them with next to no effort or there was no way in hell they could even come close to the benchmark’s we’d set for them (as we’d set the benchmarks high knowing full well our goal metric was much lower, but felt if we gave them the said metric they’d back off the pedal as soon as they hit it? – reverse psychology kind of thing).

This doesn’t sound bad if it’s a 1:1 relationship between an Evangelist and Product Team? If only that were a possibility, the reality is that an Evangelist gets this same kind of dosage from multiple product teams so in this in turn creates the inherit flaw in the overall system – as if the Evangelist is smart, it’s now a case of gaming the metrics to give them ticks in the boxes they need to in turn focus on what they originally were going to do anyway? evangelize a product they have a strong preference / interest behind?.

Confused? don’t be, but watch a TV series called "The Wire" and the above will start to make more sense, as in the end the overall internal culture within Microsoft is pretty much the same – figure out how to game the metric system(s) internally first, figure out how to do what’s actually important to you second as this will ensure you survive the mid and end of year reviews – as this is where the stupidity of the overall system really comes home to roost (read this article for a better explanation of how retarded this is).

Sponsoring an Evangelist vs. Hiring one.

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Evangelism shouldn’t be about this? it should really be about finding individuals for a given technology set and hiring them or even sponsoring them to evangelize the said topic. Microsoft and other companies realistically shouldn’t make these individuals full time staff? if you ask me and you do simply by reading this post, Evangelist should be put on a 2xYear contract that has very basic level of metrics that are focused on gauging enthusiasm for the said technology and less on faking it. Once the 2year is up, go find others who are then interested in the next wave of technology and so on…

That’s at the subsidiary or geo-location level. The product team’s in question should then be focused on creating street evangelism at the core? in that how do you arm anyone who’s both Microsoft and non-Microsoft with both information, presentation materials and demos etc. so they can in turn evangelize on your behalf? As out of that pool you can then find really good ones to sponsor!

It’s more of a natural evolution, it gets rid of the fat cats who are given this role of a life time and lastly it insures a fresh perspective is put into a community that retains both trust and enthusiasm.

How does this relate to UX Platform?

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Evangelism is the core of what will make WPF/Silverlight and more importantly design audiences pay attention to the future of this product. It needs to be the machine that sustains the said technology within their respective communities. It also needs to be that area of influence and advocacy as well, as having an Evangelist you can reach out to and discuss things is important – as these are the individuals who should know how to find ways to convince the Product Team(s) on how important xyz feature request or bug is!

Majority of evangelism inside Microsoft has been abandoned and is reduced to random twitter/blog conversations that in truth hold little weight. MSDN Blogs are an abundance of noise and at times Evangelists are more preoccupied nowadays at being geek-famous then they are helping others figure out why xyz product is a good/bad bet!.

Evangelism is a contact sport, individuals need to be on planes/buses etc all heading to technology events and cubicles around the country, informing a variety of decision makers of the said technology they felt passionate about – whether it’s showing Silverlight/WPF to a CIO, Creative Director, Developer, Receptionist whatever…

This fiscal year, you’re going to see most of the Evangelist focus in around 2 main products, Windows Phone 7, Windows Azure and lastly Internet Explorer 9 (with a focus on Php compete). I dare you to find an Evangelist who talks about WPF 24/7 as if it was their only metric?

Scott Out

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Windows Phone 7 – Where is Don Draper when you need him?

I’m looking at the latest in many of bad experiences found on Microsoft.com regarding the new improved Windows Phone 7. My first thoughts are, I guess the budget was low this year for the website but then thinking on it i’m probably going to wager that around $200-$500k USD was probably spent on this site via some internal global vendor.

Let me deconstruct the site so you can maybe get a sense of what I see (Lots of visuals). I’ll also compare it to the already entrenched and spark of creation for this phone – the iPhone and its respective site.

Value Propositions.

If you’re taking a product to market, you pretty settle on what you would call the “Value Proposition” in that its your initial promise that you want people to remember the most – it’s what I call the impact / aka upper cut. Windows Phone 7 isn’t clear on what its main value proposition is, its a phone OS which is fine, but what does this phone do that all phones don’t do. More to the point, why did Microsoft spend so much time and energy getting this phone ready for market – what’s the secret sell or sizzle that I’m about to be knocked over in its sheer awesomeness?

Comparison.

Microsoft

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The very first entry page of the site (assuming I come in from here) puts me through approx 5sec animation of what the introduction to the phone is. The first parts are a bunch of squares or tiles which overload me with brands ranging from Bing to Zune (care factor, as these aren’t a household name as yet world wide)?

 

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Secondly I’m hit with what I can only describe as Dr Suess style messaging.

…Say hello to Windows phone
the only phone with live tiles.
less stop and stare more glance and go
less out of touch more in the know?..

I don’t even know what that means. Live tiles? stop and stare? is that even a problem? its less out of touch and more in the know? what do you mean?

It’s one thing to open with a question to trigger an action, its another to completely ignore you and confuse.

Looking beyond the animation and assuming you can read the sequences fast enough, let’s assume the user scans down to the bottom, where I can only guess as being the main hubs of navigation.

  • Explore my choices.
    I’m guessing this is a good start for me to shop for the said phone, important if i already know ahead of time about the phone and i just want to jump straight into purchase mode.
  • Make Windows Phone Yours.
    Demo area, good, so you have a virtual phone I can play with. I’m liking this, as rather then sit through silly marketing speak, i can just play. I click on this, boom, Facebook.com – guess what guys, most corporations around the world specifically block Facebook as a URL given the ample amount of time waste that goes on there (hey i disagree with this but it is what it is). Furthermore, why am I now on facebook? and why aren’t i able to just play with this inside the same website? what If I want to explore what else you have to say? where are my options?
  • The place to shop?
    Oh so this is Microsoft’s “AppStore” ok, I’m seeing some potential here, but can we first establish what the phone is first? I’ll get to that a bit later maybe?

Where is the navigation? oh its the small text above in vertical stack formation with poor spacing.

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Apple

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The first thing you see when you visit the iPhone website is a highly impact visible slide show presentation on the value proposition of the iPhone4. Its bright, its impactful and no branding overload. They could of went to town here on Google maps, iTunes, eBay, Safari etc.. they didn’t, they kept it on point and you focused – here’s what the phone can do that we think is important  upfront.

They also underpin the value propositions with clear well spaced list and palatable enough read around what the said slide show probably just told you should you still not pay full attention. The point is, they are reinforcing what they think you should be focused on and not distracting you off the site. They are making the pitch to you, and are working hard to retain your full attention.

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Looking below this page, notice how they break the navigation into areas of interest. It essentially is attacking the user from a matrix of context as in for those who just want to know what;s inside the phone, features is probably a good bet. For those who are interested in the design of the phone, again, feast your eyes on that link called – Design. OS itself your cup of tea? here you go, here’s whats new and old in the operating system. Apps, Gallery and Technical specs again clearly partitioned and you can at a glance get some deep understanding of what this phone story looks like.

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Apple are very good in their website design comparison to Microsoft, but my points above here is that you are immediately left with a sense of both what’s potentially inside this new gadget as well as given a sense of spatial awareness around finding out ways to find more information should the value propositions still not convince you to go into a store and play.

The main important piece here is getting you into their stores, buying online is fine but lets face it, you will most likely want to play with this phone physically first before you buy. Once I have you in my store i can attack you from all points via customer service reps through to convincing you my promise (value prop) is true. Trust.

Less is More.

Moving beyond the initial sell, let’s go deeper into the site and explore true functionality of the phone. Having a sense of awareness of the depth of the Windows Phone 7 is important  but at the same time you don’t want to overload them with excess information. Let them play with the phone in store or virtually if you can will answer a lot of that excess data but the most important thing is to attack them in a way that they will appreciate in that – give me the basics, give me what i get that i normally wouldn’t get and lastly how does this look visually!

Comparison

Microsoft.

If you click on Discover you are given what I can only describe is a list of random points that dont seem to have a sense of grouping and lastly a sudden need to cram branding overload into the pitch.

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Why do i care about XBOX Live? Bing? Windows Live? Facebook? and more importantly where is Twitter? hey since we are in the mood for name dropping why stop with these.. point is, it’s Microsoft teams pitching themselves first customers second here. It’s obvious and shallow and unnecessary.

The headings are ok, I’m fine with the three (3) sections of break downs, but keep it simple stupid?

It gets worse, I can’t even click on the phone it’s inviting to me that the phone looks virtual, but wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for me to play around with it? explore it? go deeper? ignore your sales pitch and play? as you’re probably not helping me anyway?

As I click on each of the “Discovery Points of Interest” I soon realize that i am first meet with a tagline followed by another click on reading more? I’m all for white space Microsoft but really, this forces my reading habits to slow down to a pace that I’m probably not as comfortable with. Give me the opportunity to speed read through the areas I think could be interesting vs the ones I probably think aren’t? instead I have to go through a 3 click uninspiring process of both reading text and keeping an eye on animation(s) at the same time – i think this may actually qualify for cognitive overload.

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More importantly, what is a hub by the way? (I know because I’m an early adopter and its my job to know) but have we clarified what a Hub is on the website btw? I can’t seem to find out the story behind that? Ignoring the Hub definition if you then click on the Music + Videos Hub you will be meet with the similar looking tagline followed by a more action..clicking on the more action you are then given a fairly reasonable looking paragraph about the story of Music + Video. It however still wants me to click more on finding out about this thing called Zune (living outside the US, Zune isn’t known, so wtf is a Zune?). After that click, I’m now taking to a different area of the site with really what I call a “Well good luck, hope you figure the rest out” purpose. There’s no elegant hand off to this part of the site and more importantly you just broke my concentration.

Shallow experience here in the discovery of this phone. Microsoft are being lazy and not really delving deep into an immersive experience that gives me clear precise clarity around what this phone has or hasn’t got. I can’t skip ahead and i’m reduced to a pace that probably isn’t going to make impact.

Apple

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Let’s not muck around, Apple are good at their feature break-outs, but the thing I liked the most is you can watch a video on the phone itself (Good entry point to watch that expensive advertisement you put into TV/Online no?)

Furthermore, the page asks one thing of you, and that is “Are you happy to scroll down?” and to be fair its a habitual ask meaning its already baked into all users on the web as part of their day to day muscle memory.

The more you scroll down the more you see what’s inside the phone and its simple, Tagline, paragraph, big visual and a learn more point which takes you to a deeper insight into that feature. They position the phone well, they treat you with respect as a potential consumer and they are working hard to entice you into areas of your interest and less Apple’s.

Apple also won’t burden you with brand overload here and when they do, they do so in a way that is digestible. Constant re-use of the phone and screens within the phone that highlight areas of interest. Clicking on iPod you get a good sense of what Music will look like under the iPhone regime and yes they introduced the brand iPod – but they are allowed to, know why? iPod is ubiquitous around the world its an established brand. Zune isn’t.

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Conclusion.

image Microsoft Marketing need to wake the hell up, get back to basics and find a Don Draper style character to head-up their online presence. Loose the Barney & Friends commercials and treat this product like it was the first time in the world you’ve told people about the story of Microsoft and Phones. Stop playing a game of hide and seek with information and more importantly down-play other brands if they aren’t as well seeded.

Everyone in that team needs to pick up a book “Don’t make me think” and learn usability 101 mixed with marketing 101. Get people to stores to play with the phone, make them promises online but make sure you can back them up world-wide. This isn’t a US focused product, its a world-wide one and you need to entice the consumers in a way that makes sense to them as well as keep up to speed with your competitive issues.

This phone needs to beat iPhone and Android, and it needs to win.

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Windows Phone 7 – A phone without individuality and coming soon music?

Microsoft has announced the Windows Phone 7 officially, it’s the coming out party for this late to the market device. I’m on record saying that I think it’s a “meh” release, in that its rushed and not cleanly delivered as it could of been had there more time, but given SteveB underestimated the true potential the iPhone had on the market – here we are, today, new phone.

The phone itself technically has a lot of potential in terms of what i can and can’t do, I for one am going to buy one because this is the space I dwell in. As for consumers, i don’t see it being a rush to buy thing given a few issues with the phone that i’ve noticed already.

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The first issue is lack of individuality, as i scope out the various hardware manufacturers idea of what their Windows Phone 7 world is going to look like there is clearly a lack of remarkable differentiation between the said devices. In that so far, there’s not a lot of personality to the phones other than some minor slide-outs (some opt for physical keyboards etc) but overall it seems very lack luster in range.

Having not a lot of sizzle outside the operating system to me is an early sign of caution, as phones are really part function but also equally part form (it’s a fashion item as well as a worker focused technology).

The most important aspect that I felt the phone has definitely come up short on is the lack of Zune subscription world wide. I’ve got a Zune subscription in the US via my US Credit Card, so for me I’ve been leeching off this cheap approach to solving my music issues. I pay approx $15 USD a month or so, and I get all the music i want for free via my Zune Device and Desktop (It’s DRM and expires in 3 months unless i reconnect to the Zune Marketplace with a content sync).

Not having this subscription channel straight out of the box basically makes the phone part-brain dead as for me this and XBOX-lite games are probably the two focal points of differentiators for “reasons to ditch Andriod/iPhone” for average consumer.

Why is Zune Music subscription important to Windows Phone 7

It firstly seeds an entrenched market, iTunes currently holds supremacy over our music purchases online, and having to pay $2 per song basically creates a polarizing effect on individuals as on one hand buying the album is cheaper than a physical one in stores but on the other hand why buy when you can pirate?

Piracy is an issue that has a lot of tentacles but one component of piracy is lack of access to a credit card. I mean, take an average 15 year old kid who no doubt is into music to get them through puberty blues. These kids don’t have access to credit cards all the time, so the moment they need to buy a song or two, its a case of bugging parents for the said funds. I’d wager most parents give the kid the brush off and so they are left to pirating off their friends etc for the said songs.

Zune subscription however allows parents to buy a monthly/yearly subscription model. This in turn can then be a gift based approach which in turn can also mean the whole house not just the one child can access the said subscription.

It gets better, having this one child gain access to a library of music is one thing but then freely being able to send the said music selection to other friends is also a potential body punch to piracy amongst this said target audience. It also creates a natural evangelism for Zune subscription and if marketed and managed well it basically can put some much needed pressure on Apple iTunes etc, point is this story can be told in a number of different ways all pointing towards an interesting differentiation between Apple and Microsoft.

Combine the subscription model with Microsoft Points (ie XBOX Live etc) and you also have an abstracted currency exchange that can mask users from emotive based purchasing (who knows how much 923pts translates to in real dollar terms off the top of their heads!)

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Zune needs to go global first time out, it sends a strong message about being feature complete for version 1. Failing to do so and via the usual trickle in late to the party progressive disclosure marketing – aka Microsoft Marketing 101 – simply fails to gain awareness as much as it could or should.

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