Please note, the original title of this post was going to be "Should Windows Phone Learn From Android?" but I chose otherwise ;-) The Interweb has a fascinating article today on News.com penned by Matt Asay on the topic of how Microsoft should learn from Google and the Android community in terms of how to make Windows Phone 7 Series a success. I thought it was a great article. So great that it gets to be the latest article to get the infamous "Crack" tag on this site.
So let's start at the very end of this article. Matt Asay is the COO of Canonical, the folks behind Ubuntu Linux (by the way, my favorite version of Linux). The point is, if anyone believes in the whole open source, open development vision, it's going to be someone like Mr. Asay...he clearly has a bias. But to say that Windows Phone 7 Series should be more like Android? I have to completely disagree.
First off, let's look at the other extreme from Android...the iPhone OS. That's a completely closed environment and you have to do everything the way Apple dictates. Like it or not, I read somewhere that Apple has done OK by that strategy. (No sarcasm in my tone...none)
Back to Mr. Asay's comments.
"Microsoft couldn't afford to not be open."
I will start my response by quoting Mr. Asay again (actually nearer the top of his article):
"I suspect it simply wants to create an Apple-like experience where everything "just works" because the experience is tightly controlled."
Exactly. The problem/reality is that you can't have an open strategy and ensure that everything "just works." In order for things to "just work" you have to set "tight" parameters. The "problem" I have though is that Microsoft requiring developers to use Visual Studio, Silverlight or XNA doesn't really strike me as tight. Mr. Asay says Microsoft chose these technologies
"...rather than more industry-neutral options."
So, I'm not a developer, so someone please correct me if I am wrong. I was under the impression that Visual Studio (especially in the enterprise context) is one of the most - if not the - popular development platform. Like it or not, XBox is a popular gaming platform, and again like it or not, Silverlight is a popular tool. Heck, if you believe the Steve Jobs reality distortion field (RDF), then it has to be better than Flash. (Again, no sarcasm here)
Let's however look at a greater context. There's no question that Android is a highly popular platform today for smartphones. We have devices from HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Dell among others. The problem is that in just a couple of years, the Android world has already made the same mistake that occurred in the Windows Mobile (not Windows Phone) world. Too many different devices with different screen resolutions, add-on skins and behaviors that make it a developmental nightmare. At least with the iPhone, you have the Henry Ford approach: "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black." My sense is that the short term gains that Android has made to date will cost it long term growth and sustainability if it does not reign things in.
Let's also look at the Android Marketplace. It has a bunch of apps, but there were some stories recently where the applications actually had embedded malware (or some other "bad" thing)...because the requirements on inclusion in the Android AppStore are far less stringent than those over at Apple's. I'm not suggesting Apple's approach is the right one, but allowing "bad" applications to be downloaded is a bigger mistake in my opinion than being overly stringent as is Apple.
OK, enough ranting. My key take-away for you is that Microsoft absolutely need not learn from Android. It needs to learn or remember lessons from two (maybe three) companies:
- Apple for the amazing consumer experience
- RIM for the incredible battery life and security/management capabilities in the platform
- Palm (this is the maybe) for the most valiant effort to date at striking that balance with webOS.