Archives for posts with tag: Microsoft

Nokia and Microsoft

Definitely the biggest story of the last week was Nokia. Following new CEO Stephen Elop’s burning platform memo to employees, the company sealed a deal with Microsoft to drop their own smartphone OS efforts in favor of Windows Phone 7. This is a huge coup for Microsoft who can now ensure that there will be a lot of phones shipping Windows Phone 7 across the globe. IE9 mobile can’t come fast enough!

RIM May Run Android Apps

RIM’s Playbook tablet device has yet to be released, but it looks like they are already concerned about having enough of a developer community for the Flash-based UI. According to Bloomberg, RIM is planning to have Android apps run on the Playbook. Building apps for Blackberry has never been easy and many of the top apps for Blackberry such as Facebook and Twitter were actually developed by RIM. Having access to the much larger and more robust Android library seems like it could be a good move for RIM even if it is effectively an admission that there may not be much interest in developing native apps for the device. Interestingly, the article makes no mention of Honeycomb, the tablet-optimized version of Android due out soon.

HP Announces One Tablet, Two Phones

This week HP held a fancy press event, a-la Apple, to announce two new smartphones and a promising new tablet, all powered by webOS. The most interesting product in the lineup is the tablet, dubbed the TouchPad by HP. From PC Mag:

The 9.7-inch TouchPad includes a 1,024-by-768 capacitive display. It will run a 1.2-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and comes with a 1.3-megapixel webcam that supports video calls, Beats Audio technology, and stereo speakers.

From a user experience perspective, the TouchPad looks to be the best tablet released since iPad and I’m actually excited to get my hands on one to see how it performs. The big question is whether or not HP can get developers to build apps for their platform. Fortunately, webOS runs WebKit meaning that Web-based apps built for tablet devices should work on webOS as well. HP did not provide a specific release date or a price, but rumor has it that the TouchPad will be priced at about $699.

Apple Planning to Release Smaller, Cheaper iPhone (WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple plans to release an inexpensive version of the iPhone. Confusingly, they say it is about 1/2 the size of the iPhone 4. Hard to know if that means a smaller screen, thinner phone, or both. If the screen were half the size, I have a hard time believing it will run any of the existing iPhone apps and I doubt they will introduce a third form factor to build for. But who knows?

WSJ also says that Apple is considering making Mobile Me free and moving storage and sync into the cloud. I, for one, would love to be able to fire up my next iPhone or iPad without having to plug it into my Mac. Google has a significant advantage when it comes to cloud storage and sync right now. More details from WSJ:

The person who saw the prototype of the new iPhone said the device was significantly lighter than the iPhone 4 and had an edge-to-edge screen that could be manipulated by touch, as well as a virtual keyboard and voice-based navigation.

The edge-to-edge screen has me wondering if Apple will eliminate the home button as has been speculated after the introduction of new 4- and 5-finger gestures.

If you’ve designed or built products at any medium to large sized company, you already know that creating a seamless user experience can be challenging. Various departments and product teams may be responsible for different aspect of the experience and often an organization’s internal structure will show through in the finished product, generally to the detriment of the user.

As I pointed out in a recent post about the BlackBerry Torch, the initial user experience has a significant impact on satisfaction and can often make or break your product. In the BlackBerry example, it was clear that a variety of stakeholders had negatively impacted that product’s out-of-the-box experience. But the Torch is a physical product. The purchase has already been made, so there’s the barrier of inconvenience that will keep some of your users from returning it. Mobile apps, on the other hand, have a much lower barrier. Your product is competing for the attention of a user with access to hundreds of thousands of applications. Mobile users are distracted and impatient. They need to see immediate value from your application or they will move on to the next one (and possibly leave you a bad review).

Case in point: Microsoft OneNote for iPhone

This week I downloaded Microsoft OneNote for iPhone. Back when I was a PC user, OneNote was one of my favorite applications, so I was excited to see it available for my device. While I haven’t had a lot of time to play with the app just yet, I can say that, like the BlackBerry Torch, the initial experience left a lot to be desired. Below is the step-by-step experience for a new user:

  1. Uh-oh. I need to create a Windows Live ID before I can start? I don’t have one of those.
  2. The app is “Syncing” for several seconds, but I haven’t got anything to sync since I have no account and no data. This should probably say “Loading” instead and should definitely be faster.
  3. Okay, I’m at the registration screen. It’s pretty hefty, but at least they are following some mobile forms best practices such as placing labels above inputs.

  4. And here’s the captcha. These are always a pain, but most especially on mobile devices. Both auto-correct and auto-capitalization should be suppressed here. The auto-correct on my phone is preventing me from entering the right characters, so it takes several tries and lots of auto-correct overrides and I also have to fix the capitalization.
  5. After finally getting the captcha right, I’m taken to a page that clearly hasn’t been optimized for mobile. This looks to be a standard Windows Live ID page. Because it was so small, I wasn’t able to read all the instruction text, so I assumed I needed to click the “Send Email” button to continue.
  6. Confirmation number 2. This time confirming that I confirmed that I wanted them to send me an email confirmation.
  7. I switch over to the Mail application to click on the link in the email Microsoft just sent. The link takes me to the page below. Happily, it’s formatted for my phone. Unhappily, it doesn’t do anything. I need to view the “PC Version” to confirm my address.

What went wrong?

Based on my own experiences designing software, I am going to theorize what I think happened here:

  • The OneNote for iPhone team wants to make a great application, but has a dependency on the Windows Live team for authentication.
  • Further, the team was probably told that they had to use Windows Live ID and not the simpler and more widely adopted Facebook Connect (even though Microsoft is an investor in Facebook).
  • The Windows Live team never optimized their registration flow for mobile phones. It’s not a high priority for them and neither is the OneNote for iPhone project.
  • In addition to being a low priority, the Windows Live team’s release cycle is different than OneNote for iPhone, therefore the problem will likely remain for some time to come.

The Result

Not many iPhone users have a Windows Live ID and, if they do, they probably don’t remember it which means they’ll need to sign up. Most will never make it through the sign up labyrinth, so they’ll never get a chance to use the app that the OneNote for iPhone team worked so hard to produce. The result is a poor user experience and bad reviews as you can see in this screen grab from the iTunes Store:

Creating a seamless user experience in a large organization is tough and I’m sure that the team at Microsoft is not happy about the initial experience of OneNote. That being said, if a mobile application is to succeed in today’s market product teams must overcome the organizational barriers to good user experience design or they risk investing in products that their intended customers will never use.

In the world of mobile, a lot can happen in a week. To help me keep track, I am starting a new series called Mobile Monday. Each Monday, I will highlight interesting mobile news and topics that surfaced during the previous week.


RIM to Launch “BlackPad” Tablet in November

Bloomberg reported that RIM is planning to release a tablet device this November to compete with iPad. In typical RIM fashion, they plan to offer a slide-out keyboard (sounds awkward). They also plan to provide front- and rear-facing cameras for video conferencing in an attempt to one-up the iPad. The BlackPad will run on RIM’s latest Blackberry OS 6.0.


Verizon’s 3G customers consume more data than AT&T’s

In a study conducted by Validas, it was found that the average data consumption for non-Blackberry Verizon smartphones was 421MB per month, compared to the 338MB per month consumed by AT&T iPhone users.


SAP Employee Unveils Prototype “Augment Reality” for the Enterprise

The potential for Augmented Reality applications married to business data are large. Timo Elliott of SAP created a mockup of some potential uses for AR connected to SAP’s database. Information from SAP is overlayed on the user’s screen based on their location and where the phone’s camera is aimed.

Augment Reality prototype from SAP

Story from Read Write Web
Timo Eliott’s original post


Yankee Group Releases Stats on Smartphone Loyalty

The Yankee Group produced some interesting stats on the smartphone market:

- 77 percent of iPhone owners intend to buy another Apple phone
- 23 percent of RIM owners plan to buy an Apple iPhone
- 36 percent of Google-branded Android phone owners say they plan to buy an iPhone


Google Dominates Mobile Search

According to Pingdom, Google now has 98.29% of the mobile search market, up from 95.58% one year ago.


Ballmer Admits Apple’s Winning the Tablet Game (duh)

Last week in a financial analysts meeting, Steve Ballmer admitted that Apple is selling more iPads than he would like. Ballmer says that Microsoft’s answer to the iPad is Windows 7 on a slate (Full story from the Loop). Ballmer’s assertion that the Windows OS is the answer to tablets caused some to question whether he “gets it”.

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