Whether you're a fan or not of the new Windows Phone 7 Series interface, one thing's for sure – it's made quite a stir this week. So we went along to Microsoft's hotel in Barcelona to meet Oded Ran, the Head of Consumer Marketing for Windows Phone in the UK.
Was he happy with the reaction to the launch? "Yeah, it's been accepted really well. It really is a different kind of phone... we really went down a different path. We've been working on that for a good period of time. We chose Congress as the unveiling moment... we know there's a lot of work to do."
About the experience
Can Microsoft make Windows Phone 7 Series appeal to enough consumers? "Consumers care about the experience they're getting. We've got to balance three things – consumers, developers and phone manufacturers. The first thing that Steve Ballmer said was our business is very simple - it's about the experience consumers are getting."
And it looks like there shouldn't be any problem getting hold of a Windows Phone 7 Series handset in the UK: "For the UK audience it's perfect news, Orange is on board, T-Mobile is on board, Telefonica (O2) is on board and Vodafone is on board. And then there's the manufacturers as well. How are they going to differentiate? That's their story to tell."
Why didn't we announce and ship straight away? Well we could have. We've been able to keep the UI quite secret which was quite an achievement. Theoretically we could have continued. Why didn't we want to? In the Microsoft DNA there flows this idea of [working with partners]."
Developers play their part
Ran is keen to talk up the part that developers will be able to play in the evolution of Windows Phone - more details will be announced at Microsoft's Mix developer conference in March.
"[Apps] are a broken story, we need to manage the right experiences and let developers do customisations but still maintain a certain bar. We'd love to see a plethora of customisations on top, we'd love to see creativity there."
[Developers] care about doing three things – building great apps, doing it with easy tools in minimum time – using things already developed for the PC and web – and they want to make money. They shouldn't be ashamed of that and we hear that."
Ran intimated that Microsoft will help developers realise their ambitions. "Show me a company that makes tens of millions of dollars from mobile applications and I'd say 'wow'. I don't know any."
"It's not just about the number – the consumer doesn't care if there are 6,000 puzzle games available. How do you differentiate and build immersive experiences? That will be much of our focus. Long term, we'd love to be the platform of choice. We're not there yet."
On the Games and People Hubs
We also asked Ran when we would see more of the Xbox Live integration. "Probably Mix, also GDC (Games Developers Conference) is coming up. We haven't finalised plans, but it would be a great place to speak about that."
Ran also spoke about the integration of other third-party services aside from the basic Windows Live, Facebook and Yahoo integration we saw on the demo. "The UK is a really lucky country for us (Hotmail and Messenger remain the most used mail and IM services) but that's not everywhere."
We'll show a bit more later. I would probably say that Microsoft has heard of Twitter! But seriously speaking, our goal is very simple – we want to build a great experience. And we want to make sure that the partners out there can build on top of that. "
Ran also outlined Microsoft's ambition for the People Hub: "Let's say I met up with you today and I want to find out a bit more information about you. I need to go to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and so on. There's now a case where I might be playing a puzzle game and I want to play with you, you'll even be able to nudge and say 'hey, it's your turn now'. I think again it will change what game publishers are able to do and what consumers can start doing."
Start, search, back
Finally, we asked Ran for some thoughts behind the hardware spec behind Windows Phone 7 Series. All the phones will have three buttons - Start, Search and Back. "I guess you want a combination of giving manufacturers flexibility, but we also wanted to raise the bar in user experience. Search changes upon where you search. [The buttons] are a minimum requirement, like the capacitive touchscreen, GPS, camera and whatnot."
If a phone manufacturer decides they're going produce do a phone which is brilliant for gaming or music or photography, that's up to them. We're building a platform for that and working really closely with them. I really want to have a phone that does this, this and that. I really hope the huge creativity that's out there will be channelled towards that."
Once you're mobile that's your connection to the world. It's not about a search button that just pops up Bing. It's about if you're in the People Hub wanting to search for people, if you're in your email client that's different. Calendar, different. You don't need to think about what you're doing. It's intuitive right? I'm really interested in how that's going to play out for the UK."
Liked this? Then check out Hands on: Windows Phone 7 Series review
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