I’m not looking to pick a fight, I do however have some basic questions around what Success vs Fail looks like for an average Wp7 Developer. That is to say, I’ve worked in a few Wp7 App/Game teams in the past two years and I’ve not seen these folks talk up their revenue or commercial success.
Having recently just finished the first beta of an upcoming game, I’m now spending majority of my effort trying to settle on a price and revenue model that will accompany it. I’m also thinking about what my marketing spend should be and where etc.
My research into finding answers to questions around market size, target audience and lastly what a safe price tag should be has come up quite empty . I’ve asked various Windows Phone 7 community “experts” to which I’ve gotten blank responses or some minor links to a blog post from indie developers talking up their Ad Revenue stream(s).
I’ve also asked some Microsoft staffers internally who don’t mind giving me a leak or two of information and they too came back with answers like “come to think of it, I haven’t seen anything internally either. Just lots of adoption metrics but not actual hard revenue related data”.
This now begs the question, which is despite the market share of Windows Phone 7 what exactly does success and fail look like for those looking to target the device?
60 minutes in Australia last Sunday ran a similar interview with iPhone developer(s) and they had a guy from Brisbane on who’s made around $10million off his game(s). Ok, much larger audience but at the same time iPhone marketplace is quite a competitive and saturated user base to target, so to make $10million isn’t an easy thing but at the same time that’s a carrot we can all jump at.
Looking at the various launches / keynotes around Windows Phone, I’ve also not seen someone on stage that has come from a position of “until Windows Phone 7, I was homeless but now, I drive a Ferrari and I have two hot girlfriends” style success.
Ad Revenue is the success metric.
If I cast my browser searches on the interwebz, the likely response to the above questions is simply ad revenue. To me that’s great, it’s I guess a profitable approach but for me I’d rather not make my creation into a digital NASCAR whereby I’m hocking Viagra in-game. Instead, I’d like to either enable in-game purchasing (Windows Phone 8) and/or once-off purchase with additional seasons/expansion packs later (should the audience feel that the game is rewarding enough to invest in).
Today, there is no actual capability for in-game purchasing (ie buy gems/gemstones etc) so you have to rely on your initial once-off purchase. You also are encouraged to provide a trial version of your creation as well, so again, not sure that’s a great revenue model for developer(s) but at the same time it’s a great thing for consumers.
Metrics you can count on.
This probably boils down to bankable metrics that Microsoft is quite cagey in giving specifics around. I doubt anyone will get a clear and concise answer here around what the adoption vs active user metrics are on any given quarter with regards to the Phone(s). If that were to occur I think Nokia’s price would drop and most likely impact on Microsoft’s fumbling share price as well.
That’s of course a pity though, as being a developer you want to size your market, figure out what your potential financially looks like and given we can’t get those specific metrics from Microsoft (in a consistent manner, they do drips and drabs of random stats but they rely on a lot of external inference to size collectively) then the alternative is to come up with another position.
Create a Dust Cloud.
I’ve already committed to the creation of my game, it’s done (almost). I’m ready to hit the launch button and try my luck so right now, I’m a candidate for easy convincing given I already took the leap of faith a month ago. I need confidence that my energy and time wasn’t just a complete waste of time, I want something to hang my hat on and mirror or expand upon around success for the Windows Phone 7 market place.
I want to look at someone’s success, learn from it and expand on it in the hope I can generate my own Windows Phone 7 after glow.
Microsoft simply needs to create what I call a “dust cloud” in that just like in many war novels whereby the horses on the horizon have created such a vast dust cloud that the attacking army looks and sounds a lot bigger/worse than it actually is. Microsoft needs to create a similar affect, that is to bring a few success stories out into the light and shower them in marketing love, followed by infomercial like stories of “Look, he was poor, but now he’s worth $10million USD!!!”
Given there is no in-game purchasing today and yes it appears Windows Phone 8 will fix this, it’s clear to see why a lot of the iPhone game developer(s) haven’t likely ported their success over to the marketplace (Excluding Microsoft investing in this companies via seed funding to do so). That’s a problem and was always one that I think would become a negative for reasons to invest in Windows Phone 7 marketplace. It’s fixed though, well soon to be so I’ll not dwell to much on that one.
Not seeing success around Windows Phone 7 and more importantly getting hints or glimpses of what a commercial reality / viability of spending your time making for the device(s) to me is something that is either really bad or one of the best kept secrets that has the worst reasons for doing so.
I hopefully assume there is a revenue model beyond just ad impressions for Windows Phone 7 marketplace success, I want to see or read a story or two on an indie game developer making their annual wage and more on a single game’s success. I want to see part two of the movie “Indie Game: The Movie” whereby instead of following the success of an XBOX game developer we see the tablet/mobile phone developer.
I genuinely want to believe there’s gold in these Microsoft hills. Show me the money!
Windows Phone 8 is the entry point.I’ve pretty much said a number of times over the past 2 years around how I think Windows Phone 7 will fail with consumers) and to be clear and to the point, it has. Nokia sales are poor, the units adopted vs. shipped are a mathematical failure and lastly the uptake and adoption excitement hasn’t been as attractive as it could have been - despite Nokia’s positive influence in their brilliant marketing blitz. Bottom line is the Phone itself has and always been a “save my position in line until I’m ready to enter the market” strategy. It had to rely on Silverlight teams work to firm up the UX platform strategy and entice an existing development mindset onto the phone. The early marketing campaigns were just embarrassing to watch, there was no structure to the developer engagement model(s) and it was very reactive and haphazardly handled. I stated in 2010 the phone would fail simply because I got a sense this was about to happen, as the more I looked at the future strategies of Microsoft from an insider perspective the more I could see it wasn’t about consumers or developers, it was more about internal staff shuffling and jockeying for power to appear to be solving these problems. Today, Windows Phone 8 plans have been trickled out, and even as I type this I can’t but help criticize the approach taken during the release keynote - excluding Kevin Gallo, given out of the entire keynote it was one guy’s clarity and approach that provided a sense of confidence behind what was brewing. That all being said, I’m positive about Windows Phone 8 going forward. I think Microsoft are finally starting to suffocate the internal politics and are starting to firm up a coherent strategy around what they think the UX Platform of the future is likely to be. The strategy is still a work in progress and despite how polished that the company appear to be around what’s coming up next they are still fumbling their way through the evangelism and marketing rhythms that still have large amounts of work to be done. Windows Phone 8 is the release we should have had, it’s in many ways like the old historical “service pack that fixed the release” which is commonly associated with Microsoft Windows (ie I won’t install until they release a service pack mentality). The phone itself has a lot of potential successful entry points to help kickstart an economy and adoption curve that could definitely, if architected (and I mean a big if!) correctly. Firstly, the phone finally has a what looks like to be a clear vision around how Enterprise adoption can take hold of the said phone that I’m hoping (yet to clarify this) that Windows 8 tablet(s) can also make use of. This one small but significant feature is what I think can make the adoption cycles stand out from the rest as given there is so much ratcheted excitement around the idea of having smartphones and devices handling complex business focused solutions, this is the first of a united platform strategy that has not only less friction for developer(s) to adopt but also feels more natural within most organisations (given .NET adoption to date is deeper within enterprise than ever before). Secondly, the wallet feature is still a bit of a left of center idea around how to commercialize and monetize future solution(s) with regards to the Smartphone/Device market(s). What I mean to say is this is kind of the “Deep Zoom” functionality within Silverlight whereby at first glance you could see usage for it but it really isn’t something that was widely adopted or specifically asked for. I’m hopeful that this feature will get traction across all device(s) more to the point I am dreaming of the day I can buy my coffee from a cafe via my phone vs having to take out my wallet (given they constantly break my notes into coins or I don’t have actual cash on me when I need a coffee). The technology for a phone-wallet like approach is in place but it will still take a large amount of maturity from both the developer community and Microsoft to get this into the market in a meaningful way (which I’m sadly skeptical will happen - much like Cardspace days, good idea just bad execution). Thirdly the NFC/Bluetooth and App to App functionality is quite a powerful little gem when you stop and contemplate its future potential. This one requires some visionary, go on a leap of trust with me ask. The idea that I can have an application and then “bump uglies” with a fellow phone user to not only get the app i’ve just recommended but also potentially share information on the spot, is something that actually makes sense. I’ve personally sat in meetings where i’ve watched people fumble around with sharing information or better yet in desperate search for the idea of continuous client whereby sharing amongst many as the user navigates the said data would be quite a powerful communication tool. This feature I believe will wash over the consumer base with hardly an impact but I do see in the Enterprise space it will definitely have a lot more potential than it has to offer today - provided the phone gets traction, attracts the right designer/developer mindset and lastly can remove all friction roadblocks that may impact its clear line of communication (it’s hard to isolate these given the specifics aren’t clear at the time of writing this).
So it’s a going to be successful right?I said it has potential and I didn’t say it was going to be successful. There is still some blood in the water around those who own the Windows Phone 7 device today being basically given the “thanks for bleeding on our bleeding edge of discovery”. I don’t think this will be an easy hurdle to jump over and should they succeed it’s only due to the fact that the Phone’s consumer failings are going to ensure this level of distrust / toxic venom isn’t as loud as it could have been. I think it will also require a lot of strategic and careful evangelism on Microsoft’s part to seed this within all those organisations hanging onto their sharepoint / .net way of life with a death grip. In order to solve that problem, Microsoft really need to sit down and have a detailed heart to heart with the developer base on what their plans are specifically around WPF/Silverlight/WinForms development today. Kevin Gallo in the Windows Phone 8 presentation actually gave clear guidance on this but I think his message needs to be broadcasted as clearly and cleanly has he gave it. Kevin in my view should be the one who faces the hordes of Developer(s) out there given Scott Guthrie has been shunted to the geek-celeb fame left. Despite this annoyance that the one guy you’d love to hear the most from (Scott Guthrie) isn’t speaking loudly as you’ve grown acustom to is somewhat of a large mistake on Microsoft developer relations part. None the less they definitely need to give Kevin the stage and make him the consistent face amongst many “who cares who this VP is” Microsoft executive crowd. In order to win this over they really need to pick a team that can be the consistent personalities, it’s why Robert Scoble got success in the early Microsoft days. He was your trusted camera guy who roamed the halls of redmond giving you insight into what’s being published from the Software factory known as Microsoft. Microsoft have lost this element of success, they are producing technical solutions that may or may not win hearts & minds but ultimately they aren't clear on what they want to say about the said solutions. They are preoccupied with letting some random executive get on stage and have his & her say to which you never either see them again or you’re still confused as to who they are and why you should listen to them? In order to have Windows Phone 8 win the day, they need to really just drive home the message calmly, clearly and in a unified voice that builds trust. Lastly the entire UX platform strategy is starting to bend inwards, in that they are starting to unite the teams under the one vision which is why I’ll simply leave off with one last ranty thought. I suffer from bipolar but so does Microsoft marketing, in that their entire website strategy is a confusing mess of stupidity and creates more of a problem than it solves. I truly hope Microsoft abandon the “File-New-Website” approach to messaging Windows 8 and Windows Phone by reversing the engines, that is to say unite the entire vision under just one site. Don’t let internal politics screw this next 1-2 years up, unite and build or you’re just going to be yet another ongoing punchline to a bad technology joke. Windows Phone 8 is the reset we have to have simply because it starts to be an additive to a united vision (whether you like it or not).
There is just Windows.Today, Brandon announced what will be the upcoming SKU’s for Windows 8, and yes the ye olde “pro” makes a comeback to a shrink wrap shelf near you. Stupid. Why do they need to separate out the product lines as to me they really should reconsider this approach going forward, especially given Desktop/Device are blurring out one another's value proposition(s). Instead of breaking out a variety of comparison matrix that often as a consumer will result in ticking the lowest cost box, why not instead just let everyone buy a Windows core, that is to say you just “buy” windows. Picture a consumer walking into a retail shop of some kind, they walk straight over to the Windows box, pick it up, buy it and then install it when they get home. The installation wizard steps them through various basic features and so on but on the last screen they are asked “what other features would you like to buy? for 0.99c” The end user ponders, and starts to tick or untick boxes that they think they will need for their installation - which is linked to a Azure ID of some kind. That’s it, no confusion around which Windows SKU you own or at times buyers remorse because you bought the wrong edition which had XYZ feature and now you want that feature but then have to shell out for features you don’t want at a upgrade price of XYZ. Furthermore this then would condition them to an initial introduction to the “AppStore” market model which no doubt they probably have already learnt via their iPhones/iPad interaction(s). Just Windows doesn’t stop there either, you also have this same principle applied to Tablet/ARM/Phone hardware as well as now it's less about specifics of Windows and more about Windows as an abstract platform. Ergo this would also underpin their entire content first strategy that orbits Metro today. I don’t see a cohesive strategy within the Windows Teams, I see snippets of success but there appears to be no over arching cohesive strategy. The problem is still there with individual product teams competiting for consumer awareness and attention. Is Windows a platform or not? if it is, how about it start acting like one and become one and not some comparison matrix which leaves you questioning “Do i need that?” vs “Do I want that” Scott Out.
Today I was in the iPhone AppStore browsing the noise in hope of finding some signal, I found a game that caught my interest and then immediately went to the reviews to see if the author of the game can back up what they are selling.
I read the reviews and a few of them were pushing the notion that “save your 0.99c” agenda, and I for one was relieved – thankfully I did not waste that 99c I was saving.
That sobered me up, I thought to myself “I’m about to spend 99c on some bad coffee that I’ll unlikely finish while I wait for a meeting that I’ll no doubt move to a different spot for and buy yet another coffee”
The question I have is whether or not the concept of an AppStore is doing the market a positive or a negative in terms of how its conditioning us In making the purchase decisions.
How far have we come where went from spending $20-100 on games to now agonising over a $0.99c purchase and it appears the trending is pushing closer and closer to the $0.00 value.
Is this why we now are seeing games which are free-ware, you know the ones that haunt AppStore and Facebook. These are the games that get you addicted to their crack and slowly encourage you to spend $50 on diamonds to help increase your gameplay? ..give a little but not the entire farm and let the desperate/gullible micro pay their way to the abyss of content gratification.
Millions are being made on this, in fact the assumption we are often making now due to the various amounts of rumours around overnight millionaires occurring due to $2 micro purchases worldwide occurring. Its fair to say that when you do justify the $2 purchase you are silently telling yourself “Well, I’m only paying $2 but these guys are going to get millions because everyone else is paying and it all adds up”
We’ve switched from being a consumer and now have become their collective profit controller making assumptions and assertions round how much they should be allowed to make in total vs. letting the previous way of life which consisted of “Oh, they made money? Good for them” thinking.
I can’t but help wanting to ask more questions around this space, for instance – is this slowly killing the industry, or is it making it better? If word gets out that the gold rush in game development for devices is probably a false economy given its saturation levels are now encouraging mediocrity to dominate the way in which we gain enjoyment from games?
Is it me or is anyone else bored of Angry birds? Yet each season they continue to be the most prominent “this is how you’re supposed to make money and games” posturing.
I look at Minecraft itself and seeing how it was such a low price point to now being one of the biggest earners in the game industry and continue to grow, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Notch made a game that is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars and he didn’t have to pay Apple a cent or abide by the rinse/repeat formula of game development on devices.
Is there stillroom for another Minecraft? Fortresscraft on XBOX pretty much cut & pasted Minecrafts engine but whacked in a XBOX Avatar, charged a small amount and is now making millions.
Nothing creative happened, just lots of rinse and repeat formulas but the upside is these games are no longer expensive wastes of money; they are instead small micro payments – less of a sting in your buyer’s remorse.
Downside, as more and more of these games abuse the new market channels they in turn drive prices further and further down. Low prices mean that in order for truly exceptional games to stand out they first must meet the $2 or above threshold of quality bands. If they then succeed in that, they are then given a huge assumption of “well they earn $2 from millions of us so I’m not willing to pay $5 for it” thinking.
In 5 years, do you think a guy like Notch can get away with charging $15 for a game like Minecraft? Alternatively, do you think indie game developers are about to get a cold reality shock given the bubble may pop?
Will game studios like Valve have to keep lowering prices to the point where they just can’t justify the expensive pushing gaming envelopes further given the yield doesn’t’ add up to the costs it takes to create. If that were the case then they’d need to create 3-5 games that are money makers in order to build a war chest that funds the next killer gaming engine of choice.
Are game engine developers retreating to charging hefty prices for leasing their codebase thus reducing the mod / expansion on innovation from occurring? Why fight the war when you can build the bullets J
Now comes the next question, is Application development about to get worse or better given these market conditions today?
Today I read that Apple iPhone makes more money than Microsoft does all up, that is to say the phone that Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft used to mock – generates more revenue than his entire company does (who is laughing now).
It got me thinking, let us assume you were inside Microsoft today and you heard this news for the first time, how would you react? How would you adjust your core strategies overall and how do you think this will play out?
Inside Microsoft they have a vision, it centres on the Windows 8 or bust mentality, and that for me is something of a concern given, they really have not done anything new to be openly honest.
Yes, there is Metro which is new, well not really, the initial design execution is new but the concept of taking a minimalist approach to the desktop has been around for quite some time (Adobe really did this well with their CS5 and CS4 product UI’s which you’d be an idiot if you assumed had no influence in design today).
The web has been also doing grid based design for as long as I can remember, so that’s nothing pioneerish going on here either. The idea of some NUI effects and control, sure that’s new I guess but not enough to flip the world into a new way of doing software interaction and development in fact it probably falls down when it comes to data density.
What is new then? The most obvious piece to what is new in this saga is the reality that Microsoft faces around its future. The industry has grabbed Microsoft by the shirt and dragged them into focusing on User Experience first, Technology second and what is so striking about the metro + Microsoft story is that its hinting at some new thinking.
What hasn’t changed though is the technology first approach, Microsoft continues to retreat to its initial bad behaviour, that is to say it thinks in technical terms and not in experience terms. What hasn’t change is that each team is left to interpret the experience strategy and what hasn’t changed is that Product teams make, marketing / evangelism sustain and the divide occurs resulting in both teams looking at one another as if “its your fault we don’t have adoption”.
Allow me to illustrate.
Games make up for about 64% of the current Windows Phone 7 sales, which is a little bad given if you’re an Application developer depending on your category of choice you stand to only tap into around 8% of the audience purchasing power.
That aside, Games are the golden ticket in the Windows Phone 7 way of life. Ok, so let’s build a game? Open up your browser and start typing search terms for Windows Phone 7 game tutorials and XNA or whatever you feel is appropriate.
You should be coming up short on examples that mostly live in a small spread across Microsoft random websites that constantly change context and when you’re done there, you should also be drowning in blog posts that are either extremely detailed or very shallow (not quite in between).
That for me is a problem, if I were in the team I’d be looking at this from a perspective of two things. How can I market the potential of this platform in a game centric device world and secondly assuming that thread is off and running how can I sustain this momentum once the devs have taken the bait.
I’m not saying that the key to Windows Phone 7 overtaking the iPhone is games, there’s probably a thousand or more things that need to occur before you even embark on that discussion, what I am saying is the grass roots fundamentals aren’t in place.
Lets say I click my fingers and the $500million spent on marketing to date actually worked, you have an audience of Windows Phone 7 folks over the next 2 years running hot in potential sales of the device. Congrats, 1 in 5 mobile phones sold today are Windows Phone 7.
How do you sustain that momentum, how do you encourage more and more solutions to be built for the phone and lastly how do you retain control over the entire experience.
This is a huge problem today within Windows itself, there is so much energy spent on promoting the entire vision of WinRT and its future(s) but there is no on ramping to help the solutions delivery for this vision. Instead, it is a lot of wait and see?
Android has had next to no marketing but yet its retaining a steady share and I’d argue that its developer base of java and mono geeks have really taken this bad boy out for a test drive. It’s not a huge learning curve either, in under a week I was mucking around with the Android development and I’d say the community backing for this phone is quite loud despite the randomness of Google.
It’s still just as bad as Windows Phone 7 but that’s fine, reason being this is typical with any Google solution – Microsoft however can be better than that? They can on board people faster and with more energy than their competitors do as they are staffed worldwide better.
If you ask me, the phone itself is one thing but if the experience at the developer to consumer is filled with random noise and less signal around getting solutions to a mature level of quality, then that’s just the first strike and more to come shall follow.
There is a reason why the Windows Phone 7 marketplace is filled with crappy games or apps, some are good but they aren’t as rich as the iPhone (even then iPhone has crap to).
I’d argue that the competitive advantage Microsoft has right now that isn’t being capitalised on is the stark reality that they have a development experience that is quite rich and inviting the downside is once you get past the Powerpoint style development and want to actually build a Minecraft / Voxel Engine on a phone well you come up short.
If Microsoft’s vision is to ramp developers onto C++ then where is the investment on learning C++? DirectX? XNA? OpenGL? Etc. etc.
This phone needs much more than guys dropping the phone in a urinal as way to entice the masses to the cause. It needs to start at the experience level and work its way back to the technical detail(s). Its not just about building yet another Microsoft website that doubles down on Tutorials its more about thinking and engaging developers in ways that they understand or need massive leaps in thinking around. If Windows 8 and its device strategy can’t sustain the developer base and relies heavily on the market to teach the masses, then its yet another failure on the horizon. Same tactics as last time only more glitter.
The calendar increments by 1 year now and as it does I think about the last year and ponder what I liked and disliked in my sandbox that I call the Microsoft ethos
Windows Phone 7
- I liked Nokias approach to branding the product; they really took what they saw and made it the focal point of what the experience for consumers should be. That is, they did what I asked at the start of the year; make the metro design your familiar face in the crowd.
- I liked the WP7 Design contest; I rarely ever give an endorsement to contests as they are a desperate response to bad marketing, in this case though the designs that came back were actually tidy and immediately wanted you to explore the apps. Now to see if they make it into the appstore.
- I disliked WP7 marketing from Microsoft, it was chaotic, it lacked depth and $500million in marketing spent later, I still can’t put my finger on one message that you could hang your hat on. Compare Apple iPhone / Android marketing to Wp7 and it baffles me as to what is going on in that team – I think they just carpet bomb SeaTac / LAX airports with it knowing that Microsoft Execs travel through there and hope that’s enough to convince them they are “everywhere” – reality is, Bus shelter ads aren’t putting the wp7 logo on the bottom of their “get our apps” signage – which is a fail.
- I disliked the WP7 app store pricing model, fact is they are charging the same rates as iPhone devs or there about and in the end you have a marketshare that Samsung is even beating. I agree with Laurence Moroney – Reality check for two please and can we have that to go.
- I disliked the compete b.s that came from Staffers at Microsoft around WP7, fight the internal metrics and rise above the whole “heh did you see that, Apple just copied us!” mentality. Its very weak and if you are to beat the competition then you need to stop watching their every move hoping and praying for a weakness to occur. If Apple copy you, great, internalize that victory but keep it internal and instead move the bar higher as the best way for people to absorb that reality is when someone who doesn’t have an MVP or Blue-badge says “Did Apple just copy Microsoft?”.
Windows 7 and 8
- I liked the intent for Microsoft to bring balance to the UX force, which is a consistent looking brand / feel across all products from now on.
- I disliked the execution of the consistent branding. I wished they would keep all design decisions in a central team, which is everything from website design to UI design(s) for products. Allowing individual teams within Microsoft to interpret Metro outside of the central team at this early critical stage is clearly not working. If you want to attract a design enriched audience that want to take inspiration from your work, stop farming it out to agencies who nickel/dime their way through design creation and instead double down on providing a central experience.
- I liked the energy that the Windows teams have around device development, we’ve asked for this way back in the days of Surface birth. I think that’s healthy for the industry and will put touch enabled devices into more and more people’s hands sooner rather than later.
- I disliked the artificial inflation of the metrics (Windows and Wp7). Inside Microsoft you gauge success based on your ability to ignore qualitative data and instead focus on quantitative given it looks bigger. This often spills over into the marketing engine(s) at Microsoft resulting in just bad reality checks thus creating more distance between the ability to trust anything the brand states.
- I disliked the development experience required to get access to the touch enabled world. A friend of mine sent me this break down of tag trends over at Stackoverlow, basically if you are working with Silverlight and/or WPF the chances of you not using Stackoverflow in some form of way is next to zero. WPF and Silverlight dead? Can I have an extra order of reality check for team Sinofsky please?
- I liked the notion that Windows 7 is on the rise over Windows XP, the growth you have is great, and the sooner we can stomp on the neck of Windows XP the happier my development sandbox will be.
- I disliked the fact that Windows 7 has a huge market share right now, today, that I can’t access and instead am told to “chill” until Windows 8 AppStore comes online via Windows 8. It’s like the Microsoft team decided “How else can I really fuck my customer base over” then some clown in the back puts his hand up and tells them of an idea to hold back AppStore whilst everyone just sits there nodding like he’s telling them that touch will be the future for Microsoft back in 2007 – oh wait… has anyone seen JJ Allard lately as that guys going places.
Silverlight / WPF.
- I liked the fact we got some releases for these products, shows there is still someone within the company stoking that release fire.
- I liked Silverlights new 3D capabilities, it hints at what could have been possible had we had it sooner. We back in the early days would often discuss how 3D would be our next frontier of innovation for the product and my hat goes off to the engineering efforts for pulling it off – they worked hard.
- I dislike that Silverlight release was late and I especially disliked the way it was done. Microsoft phoned in the release, let it happen in the dark of night instead of the grandeur we’ve been used to in the past. That for me sent a clear signal to the developer base – it’s time to move on, finish up your creations and wait for next shiny object to come to a install near you.
- I dislike WPF feature list, it was less than we were promised (technically it was more tease / flirt) and lastly the release itself was more of an internal upgrade spilled over onto external HDD’s – that is to say, the features were more derived from internal needs than external. MIC check, is this thing on, WPF is dead in the eyes of Microsoft but its far from dead in the eyes of your average .NET code jockey.
- I dislike the energy spent on HTML5 is the future, I’m yet to meet a developer who uses Silverlight/WPF get excited at the idea of abandoning this for HTML5. It must be the other developers I don’t’ see who want it – well that’s what we may be assuming amongst each and everyone one of us “must be the other guy needs it” (ie “Pretty girl syndrome”).
- I liked the SDK experiences that come with this ….product? … I think it is much easier at times than people give it credit for. I’ve used Amazon quite extensively this year and often will grow impatient that its not like Azure.
- I dislike the pricing models for Azure. I’m a fairly intelligent guy but even today I’d not say I can for certain grasp the pricing model needed for me to respond to a work order request from some of my clients (mining companies who pay very large sums of money may I add).
- I dislike the fact Scott Guthrie is running this only. In the short time he’s been the custodian of this product its gotten better, great, but Scott should be a higher power across all products. Steve Sinofsky you suck the life out of Microsoft development.
- I liked the way Bizspark program is breaking down the pricing barrier of entry for Azure, I was skeptical of this program when it first started (My office was near the creator of this program back in the day, wand watched its birth). I think this program is what stands between adoption and non-adoption but at the same time it has really piss poor marketing behind it so unless you know someone who knows someone, it needs more help (See Catherine Eibner in Microsoft Australia, she’s got her head screwed on tight around how this should work going forward. Promote her to lead the charge here).
I liked the fact IE6 is hated in a more formal fashion at Microsoft, but overall I just wish this product in its entirety would just die. Everyone else is embracing Webkit, stop fighting the obvious and bend over accept you lost proprietary way of life and jump into the stagnant waters of Webkit FTW.
- WCF team can rot in hell. I think there is enough issues around this product to simply state, stop what your doing and think about its effects on your audience. Until then, rot in hell.
- Entity Framework team, make a decision and stick with it or at least promote the reasons why you change APIs and their pro’s / con’s.
- Zune. Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
- Surface 2 – Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
- Bing. I googled Bing, enough said but the fact you didn’t have a Santa Tracker at Christmas – you are dead to me.
I was waiting for the train with the wife this morning and could hear her mutter a few curse words under her breathe. I stop reading my twitter stream, look over to her and am immediately greeted with a look of “Your to be blamed” for this.
I stupidly incite the upcoming verbal beating with a simple question “What seems to be the problem now?”
Wife: “Your stupid Microsoft friends have made a stupid phone!!!”
Me: “Oh? How so, like what is your beef missy?”
I soon realize that the time for joking with her and ending the sarcastic response with “missy” was not my brightest moment and definitely isn’t my great starting to a new day.
Here response is in the video below, but she has reached a point where she is over the HTC Mozart Windows Phone 7 phone. That is to say, she has made up her mind based on small bits of information around who is to blame and why.
I tweeted the saga live and saw a lot of responses with “That doesn’t happen to me” and “it must be hardware related” which is fine, I guess, yet you have to remember this is an average consumer who buys phones based on “pretty” and “angry birds” decisions only.
To her, this phone is broken and its Microsoft’s fault, end of story.
As an informed person of the whole Windows Phone 7 meets HTC hardware issues, I could easily sway her to the righteous side of things and explain how Microsoft relies on hardware vendors meeting quality bands and so on.
I did that.
Her response was simple and it was brilliantly executed in my opinion.
“Well when your iPhone smashed it screen, I didn’t see you finding the place in China or wherever it was made to figure out the solution. You took it into Apple store and you got it fixed.”
She has a point and to be fair, it is true. If iPhone has issues no matter what the case, I look at Apple and growl.
If a Windows Phone or Google Android has issues, we have three brands to look at and give a menacing growl at – Google, Hardware Vendor, and Carrier.
At some point, you have to figure out which of the three caused you the pain and then try to reconcile the problem with them and so on.
In the case of the Windows Phone 7, sure let us say it is hardware to be blamed? What do I do? Do I attempt to spend my entire lunch hour negotiating with Telstra drones who often hide behind the “look we just sell phones, we don’t do tech support, you need to contact this number…” and wait it out hoping and praying someone gets what you’re saying and either replaces the hardware or gives you some crap excuse about warranty.
In the iPhone land, I walk up to an Apple reseller like NextByte or Apple Stores direct, meet with their “Genius” (which is definitely an overloaded term in Apple Store setting) watch them attempt to figure out the issue followed by an immediate “we’ll have to send this way to get fixed for you” response.
You wait 3-5 business days and then you get an email saying your phone is ready but on closer inspection you soon realise it is not your old phone after all but a new or refurbished phone instead.
The point overall is this. The game has changed, Apple have reset a lot of the rules around not just the shape and operating system(s) of these devices and their features, they’ve also introduced us to a support workflow that despite it still having a lot of flaws and negativity attached after you meet with them, is still the one-stop shop.
My wife has seen me return iPhones due to cracked glass, she has seen me get them back brand new and has only noticed me getting angry at having to be without a phone for n-days.
To her, this is the way it should be to now encourage her to sit down at a Telstra store and figure a way around this issue is simply to hard basket thinking. She’d rather just withdrawal $799 from our back account, drive over to the Apple Store on the weekend, buy the new iPhone 4s and re-join the herd with all her other friends that own one.
You cannot argue with that either, its fair and reasonable thinking given the market conditions and aspirations being made around phones.
Thankfully though I still have an iPhone 4 without the “s” so I was able to convince her to not spend $799 but take my old iPhone4 given I now have an iPhone4s.
Now to buy an XBOX 360 Kinect with the money I saved…
I just noticed something about the overall Windows Phone 7 community outreach story. Well I’ve noticed a few things, but the main thing I noticed was the designer haven is non-existent. Looking at the Create.MSDN site which for me appears to be the front-door to “getting-started” with Windows Phone 7, there appears to be no upsell or solicitation in anyway for the “design” community to pay attention to Windows Phone 7.
Huge mistake firstly.
The reason this is not a bright start to the phone, is if you look at all the successful apps on the iPhone and even Android market-places, there actual apps clearly have someone with design muscle flexing their wares proactively. Inside the Windows Phone 7 ethos, it’s admittedly paint by numbers style design (Metro) but still there is potential vein of richness here should you but show some bread-crumbs.
The major selling point for Windows Phone 7 is metro, folks inside the WP7 marketing team can flog “apps” all they like, but in my opinion I’d declare the phone having apps as hygiene (i.e. Well? I expected you to have them so what? you want a high five?..what else you got?). Metro is the differentiator, despite my grievances with User Interface experience(s) I do recognize that pushing these bitter points aside, the phone needs to focus on this and this alone when it comes to the consumers?
Sitting down and having designed a UI for this phone for an upcoming (reveled later) I’m a little frustrated at the amount of Googling (Yes, I said Google, not Bing. Bing is an ass backwards Search engine imho) I’ve had to spend in finding vector icons, inspiration (design stealing) and lastly techniques / resources others have framed when it comes to handling design related issues.
For instance, I’m not a fan of accent colors inside the phone – in that I like certain amount of colors but Red, Green and Orange are imho off-limits. The reason being is most situations that call for “state” often rely on a stop-light palette. If you have your entire UI Green and you have “You’re now connected” green highlight somewhere, well..it gets lost in the accent theme.
On top of that the dark/light auto-inversing is a funny beast to tackle. I get that it inverses the color palette's in a fairly smart way at the same time it catches you a little off guard when you sit down to design. As now you have to keep that in the forefront of your mind whilst designing and at the same time accommodating for foreground and accent color adjustments as they occur.
To a developer this is simply state flipping in and out but for an average designer that’s a lot of conscious palette planning / thinking going on there and not a lot of resources around hinting at that either (Try googling that now, tell me what you find!).
These are the typical scenarios you’re likely to face as a designer, the techniques that go beyond “Look mah, I used the default color palette and I managed to ship! gimme my $1million app store sales now mkay!” moments. It goes deeper and you can’t rely on external blogging threads to carry this workload. As they also have a habit of becoming out dated mixed with spam sites re-gurgitating your blog feeds as their own in order to sucker punch you with Google ads.
My point is simple, the designers are clearly not part of the conversation here and whilst developers, developers and developers is the normal mantra of Microsoft it’s also the major reason you’re failing at the products. If you want proof, go check out he MSDN metrics around Expression sales and uptake of Silverlight solutions that go beyond the default theme(s) created by either Microsoft or Telerik, ComponentOne, Infragistics etc.
Paint by numbers gets you the default positioning of your product and nothing is wrong with prescribed UI. That is until you scope out the iPhone AppStore reviews long enough to see that your application now needs to do something beyond Tip Calculators / FlashLights and Twitter feeds. If you come up short on Function then you better at least deliver on Form.
Microsoft’s AppStore is filled with overloaded function it now needs personality and it needs more design focused bloodlines to underpin the Metro differentiation. If Microsoft can’t factor this into the outbound marketing today, then at least make a start as this will also set Microsoft up for a stronger position for when Windows 8 arrives (given Metro seems to be full steam ahead).
Point and case. Try for giggles, re-create the Office UI inside Wp7 today without leaving Create.MSDN.com and using the default Icons out of the directory found buried inside Program Files (which somehow we’re supposed to inherently know)?
How about Brandon (Marketing Director for Wp7) take the $1k ransom for Scott Adams (Dilbert) and put that towards the funding for hiring a designer minded person to run the wp7 community outbound initiatives. There’s a lot of people who could lift that burden and if anyone in Microsoft want some recommendations, ping me, I’ve got a list of candidates.
I got word of a leaked email early yesterday that confirmed what I had been told in passing gossip – the XAML team being disbanded.
This morning I awoke to not just one email but five of them from my various sources all attached with mixed opinions on what it means. Here is my famous (internally in Microsoft, I would send these style of emails about Adobe and their competitive threats) "What Just Happened" response.
We're pleased to announce the transition of the XAML
platform team from the Developer Division to the Windows team. While the
team has been working side-by-side with the Windows team for the entire project,
this step brings them into our team formally.
It is time to start moving the battleships into the attack formation. In that time to start the consolidation into the new ux platform we are about to remake again.
On the upside it means you have a consolidated outcome likely to hit our hard-drives in the next 2-3 years on the downside you have what I would call a technology freeze in effect. If the new iteration of WPF or Silverlight does not comply with the vNext vision, do not hold your breath for a new announcement anytime soon that does not involve Windows 8 future(s).
The team will continue their work on Windows 8 as planned
and will join our Developer Experience (DEVX) team. This transition allows us
to bring together our platform development team in a single-management
That doesn’t sound to bad, I mean on the surface its just a single management restructure. A day in the life of a Microsoftee where every fiscal year or often more than once you are given new managers because the strategy - scratch that – tactics have changed. That in itself is probably your biggest hint of all around the word commitment, this is not just a case of waiting for a restructure to occur once every 5 years – it happens often.
To clarify, do you keep swapping your generals around in war to the point where the troops effectively stop caring who they are reporting to? Probably not a smart idea but nonetheless.
The dev, test, and pm leaders who will be leading the
team reporting to AlesH, YvesN, and LindaAv are:
• Sujal Parikh, Development Manager
• Eduardo Leal-Tostado, Test Manager
• Joe Stegman, Group Program Manager
The leads and individuals joining our team are receiving
this mail and have received communication on next steps.
If most of you who have been involved in the Silverlight ethos are reading then the name, Joe Stegman will probably stand out the most. Joe’s background in the .NET space goes back a ways but in the end Joe’s really been one of the guys under the hierarchy crust of commitment pledges keeping things in the development side of things in check. Officiating his role further in this equation for me is a bit puzzling as it’s kind of the same thing different org tree?
These changes in leadership and organization are
effective today. For the purposes of finishing out the fiscal year and
the performance review process the team will operate under the existing
That is a swift maneuver. Nothing surprising though.
Now onto Soma’s email to the troops which kicked the previous email off (Notice how VP’s etc all pile on from one another with "what he said was.." like somehow being apart of the thread is being seen as a role of importance. Classic Microsoft Victory Email formula, just once I’d like them to send out just one email outlining the change. This is what I’m talking about when I say Microsoft Culture is retarded.
Over the last couple of years, our Client and Mobile team
has done a fantastic job of building a number of XAML related technologies that
have been a huge value add to the Microsoft client platforms and an
instrumental part of delighting our developer customers. The agility and
customer focus that the team has demonstrated over the years has been a
pleasure to watch.
Ooops. Btw this was supposed to be confidential. So do not tell anybody.
Over the last couple of years? From memory, I recall WPF being around for more than a couple of years? Never mind, I keep forgetting everyone internally has forgotten about WPF.
Soma is kind of saying, "thanks for the hard work troops, you managed to outpace most products in Microsoft with your constant brilliance around the word agility, which being said here comes the but to that placating statement.
Today, we are making some organization changes to bring
our platform technologies under a single management structure. These
changes are centered around three focus areas:
• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows will
move to Windows.
• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows
Phone, Xbox and browser plugin will move to Windows Phone.
• The Client and Mobile tools teams, including Windows
Phone tools and XAML tools, will stay in DevDiv.
These changes are all effective immediately. From a
performance review perspective, we will do this year’s performance review under
the DevDiv organization model.
"Today marks a new day troops, for we storm a new beach" is kind of the response to that next piece.
Firstly you have parts of the XAML team(s) parked inside the Windows organization. First impressions on twitter are that "Way to go! Means XAML and Windows are finally going to get along and create awesome XAML experiences"
Have I not shown you the Annie video? Moreover, have I discussed the Orphan Syndrome? "My dad’s going to come for me, he’s rich you…you..you just wait and see"
To me that read as being a case of cherry picking parts of the team to socket into the windows division and their new coding charter will come next. If it involves XAML it will be based around what XAML vNext is likely to be – HTML5 meets Jupiter.
Same with the Phone team, it is what I would call "please standby for further orders" moments.
As for the tooling teams, well you got Cider and Expression Blend team is what that really comes back to. Given most of the Client employees have left, I am not sure what that means suffice to say I am not holding out for a new release for Sketchflow for starters and I am guessing that the Blend teams are not exactly getting high fives for poor sales and download rates to date. If I were in that team, I would be updating my LinkedIn account quickly.
I want to thank Kevin Gallo and the team for all the
great work that they have done over the years. Moving forward, I'm very
excited to bring the client platform efforts closer to the platform
teams. There is a lot of very exciting and critical work underway as part
of our next wave of platform releases and I am very eagerly looking forward to
seeing the team’s work in the hands of our developers and customers.
Remember when Mary Jo posted a while back on how Kevin Gallo would be taking over the reins of Scott Guthrie. That’s probably the quickest promotion and I’m not ready to say demotion but I’m not ready to say continuance either – that I’ve seen?
The positive part there is the "next wave of platform releases" that sounds a lot like a continuation of what we have in front of us. Make no mistake there will be a Silverlight 5 and a WPF vNext released next fiscal, its already got most of the code done and it would be foolish to not release those when they can – especially after MIX2011.
Releasing those two would also buy you time for the next 2 fiscals at most. As by doing this you create this calming effect around "see, we’re still working on it..honest" to placate the developer hordes.
That is up to you, you can buy into that sure, and it is hard to debunk given there is not much visibility behind what we are likely to see next – especially given this is tradition within the Microsoft roadmap(s).
For me personally, I’d like to corner Microsoft If I could into giving more concrete assurances that whatever the next wave of bets are that they are either backwards compliance or have parity around what we have today in terms of conceptual features today.
Features for me are not will I be able to still hit F5 without changing code. Features for me are the concepts that are on the table today, around how one manages the out of browser and in-browser functionality – everything from casual gaming through to enterprise ready features (printing, isolated storage, data binding etc).
I think what has happened in this email is the equivalent of me saying "I really like this car, now can we take the wheels and put them over there. In addition, can you take the steering wheel and dashboard and put it over there. Lastly, can you take the engine and well. Just leave it in place for second; I’ll get back to you later on where we can put that next"
It’s clear there is a consolidation happening that I think we can all agree on early. How will the consolidation impact the average .NET developer is likely to be dramatic enough to warrant some applications having to have code refactored down the track – you will not escape that sorry.
Does this mean .NET is dead? Who actually knows what .NET vNext will be so it is hard to simply say "yes" and it could very well be a reset of .NET to fix a lot of pent up frustration in the way it sticks together today.
What I am certain of is WPF is definitely officially done. The chance of WPF going beyond what it is today is slim. Some journalists etc. will gloss over this as its not news but let me be clear in saying at Microsoft we really had no clue just how deeply seeded this product became.
In Australia it’s used quite heavily and it’s something I personally noticed whenever I used to travel around the country meeting Microsoft customers (both as an Evangelist and Product Manager). I used to send emails internally stating "I think we underestimated is usage, as it definitely appears to have more devs using than Silverlight" which was later brushed aside as being "Not realistic".
I think post September the announcements that are to follow will give these warnings probably some second thoughts around what parking WPF in the retired bay is likely to mean for Microsoft when it comes to the words "trust" and "commitment"
The product and developer satisfaction surveys for the last few years haven’t been something you’d brag about internally which for me indicates a strong sense of "fatigue" within the ranks of our beloved .NET developer communities.
It’s now one thing to announce what the next version of .NET will be its entirely different thing to convince and sell these fatigue customers that this is defiantly the bet this time. Silverlight, WPF and WinForm are available today and millions are shipping software solutions using them.
Microsoft now has to figure out a way to convince the millions that the "Windows 8" wave of vNext will fix all of these problems and more – and – will not require a reduction in feature parity along with extra boost in tooling.
If I know, my Microsoft and I like to think I do, good luck J
Full email below:
From: Julie Larson-Green Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 9:35 AM To: Grant George; Jon DeVaan; Julie Larson-Green; John Cable; Yves Neyrand; Craig Fleischman; Bambo C. Sofola; Scott Herrboldt; Greg Chapman; Julie Bennett; Jeff Johnson; Ales Holecek; Mohammed El-Gammal; Chuck Chan; Michael Fortin; Eric Traut; Jensen Harris; Linda Averett; Alex Simons (WINDOWS); Gabriel Aul; Dennis Flanagan; Iain McDonald; Samuel Moreau; Dean Hachamovitch; Michael Angiulo; Antoine Leblond; Tami Reller; Chris Jones (WINDOWS LIVE); Jonathan Wiedemann; Ulrike Irmler; Adrianna Burrows Cc: XAML Team; Kevin Gallo; S. Somasegar; Terry Myerson; Sharman Mailloux Sosa; Brad Fringer; Steven Sinofsky Subject: Please welcome the XAML platform team to Windows! We're pleased to announce the transition of the XAML platform team from the Developer Division to the Windows team. While the team has been working side-by-side with the Windows team for the entire project, this step brings them into our team formally. The team will continue their work on Windows 8 as planned and will join our Developer Experience (DEVX) team. This transition allows us to bring together our platform development team in a single-management structure. The dev, test, and pm leaders who will be leading the team reporting to AlesH, YvesN, and LindaAv are: • Sujal Parikh, Development Manager • Eduardo Leal-Tostado, Test Manager • Joe Stegman, Group Program Manager The leads and individuals joining our team are receiving this mail and have received communication on next steps. These changes in leadership and organization are effective today. For the purposes of finishing out the fiscal year and the performance review process the team will operate under the existing management structure. There will be an informal Q&A session today to welcome everyone and answer any questions that folks might have. • XAML team welcome – 2:00-3:00 in building 37/1701 Please join me in welcoming these folks to our organization! Julie From: S. Somasegar Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 9:16 AM To: Client and Mobile Team Cc: Developer Division FTE; Steven Sinofsky; Julie Larson-Green; Terry Myerson; David Treadwell Subject: Bringing together client platform efforts MICROSOFT CONFIDENTIAL Over the last couple of years, our Client and Mobile team has done a fantastic job of building a number of XAML related technologies that have been a huge value add to the Microsoft client platforms and an instrumental part of delighting our developer customers. The agility and customer focus that the team has demonstrated over the years has been a pleasure to watch. Today, we are making some organization changes to bring our platform technologies under a single management structure. These changes are centered around three focus areas: • The team working on XAML technologies for Windows will move to Windows. • The team working on XAML technologies for Windows Phone, Xbox and browser plugin will move to Windows Phone. • The Client and Mobile tools teams, including Windows Phone tools and XAML tools, will stay in DevDiv. These changes are all effective immediately. From a performance review perspective, we will do this year’s performance review under the DevDiv organization model. I want to thank Kevin Gallo and the team for all the great work that they have done over the years. Moving forward, I'm very excited to bring the client platform efforts closer to the platform teams. There is a lot of very exciting and critical work underway as part of our next wave of platform releases and I am very eagerly looking forward to seeing the team’s work in the hands of our developers and customers. The follow-up emails will provide more details on the changes to those impacted. Please join me in wishing Kevin and the team all the very best as we move forward. If you have any questions about this change, please let your manager or me know. -somasegar