Windows Phone 7 reviews out

gato

状元
Seems like they are botching the launch with an unfinished product. No copy & paste even in Word?

http://www.engadget.com/2010/10/20/wind ... -7-review/
Windows Phone 7 review
By Joshua Topolsky posted Oct 20th 2010 7:01PM

FACEBOOK

Windows Phone 7 doesn't have "contacts," per se -- it has a People hub, and there's quite a difference. This is a thoroughly social platform, and it doesn't really seek to make any sort of differentiation between people you talk to / text / email, those you just casually observe, and those with whom you're "friends" in name only. For example, once your Facebook account gets added, everything gets added to the phone. And when a contact of yours uploads a photo, that image appears in your photo hub whether you like it or not. That means, for example, that your Pictures app could have a bunch of shots of your ex's aunt's new boyfriend's dog in it (more on that in a bit), and there's not a whole lot you can do to stop that behavior without completely removing your Facebook account from the phone.

With Exchange or Gmail, this strategy is probably fine in most cases -- contact sync is one of the main reasons you use Exchange ActiveSync. But seriously, Facebook is another matter altogether. If you're a normal human being with maybe a couple hundred or fewer actual contacts, you're used to just flicking through your contact list to get to whomever you need. Having all of your Facebook contacts mixed in with the rest of your friends and family could be a real mess, right? Microsoft has thoughtfully provided an option to remove Facebook contacts who aren't represented in one of your other contact lists (like Gmail or Hotmail), which seems like the route Android took to handle Facebook contacts... but this is a bit of a ruse. Though the names are removed from your big list, when you do a search in the phone, everyone who's in your Facebook list (real friend or not) turns up.

SAVED STATE

In day to day use, the lack of multitasking proved to be an even bigger annoyance than we expected. Not only is there no third-party support for the function, but if you lock your screen while you're in a third-party app (say, Twitter), the software must reload when you unlock! This can be especially annoying when you're playing a game which has a substantial load time (more on that below). It doesn't freeze your state, so you have to reload the app and your saved game all over again. It's not just bad -- it's nearly unforgivable. We'd be a little more lenient here if everyone hadn't already seen the light on this, but coming to the table with such hampered functionality just seems sloppy to us.

OFFICE

Instead, we came away feeling that Microsoft may have spent too much effort focusing on the collaborative side of Office and not enough time on the actual document editors themselves. Though Word seems to do a decent job rendering pages onto the small display, the editing capabilities are weak at best -- you can't change fonts, for example, and you can only choose from four font colors: orange, green, red, and black. Though there's a spell-checker (you'll recognize the familiar red squiggly lines), there's no copy / paste capability -- and in an app like this, it's hard to imagine being too productive without any sort of clipboard whatsoever.

THIRD-PARTY APPS

Unfortunately, we have to report that Microsoft has a serious third-party issue on its hands right now given the software we've seen. In almost every application we used besides some of the Xbox Live titles, there were major problems with either loading, rendering, navigation, or stability. Even from respected app-makers like Seesmic, the results seemed second rate in comparison to same applications on other platforms.

First, there are basic problems with the way in which Microsoft allows developers to use the WP7 platform. Because there's no multitasking here, not only do apps not run in the background, but they can't even sustain themselves during a screen lock. This would be fine if the applications had an instant save state that they woke up from, but they don't. Instead, no matter what you do, you have to reload the app all over again. This is incredibly frustrating, as app load times on the platform are somewhat lengthy for most of the third-party titles we tested. In particular, Seesmic and Twitter (which is still in beta) were nearly unusable in their current states, thanks to a combination of slow loading times, no backgrounding or save states, and a very buggy scrolling mechanism.

Actually, the scrolling issues we saw in those apps were present in almost every application that had any decently long list of information. For some reason -- and we think the Silverlight layer may be involved -- the scrolling and screen navigation of third-party apps is totally different than the native implementation. Email scrolls smooth and jumps quickly to your touch, whereas applications like Seesmic or any of the news readers we tested have freezes, blanked out information, and a general feeling of not "being there." If that makes any sense.

And speaking of news readers (and lots of other apps), we had repeated crashes with applications on the phones, particularly any news reader that tried to sync our Google Reader content. The only one that worked reasonably is called Flux, but the experience is rather bad. Reading news, as with doing most things in third-party apps, was buggy and prone to freezes. A terribly unpleasant experience. One application, Pictures Lab, which is meant to be act as a standalone application and hub component, not only crashed, but froze the phone which required a soft reset to get it working again.
 

Ivan006

Member
Just like the iPhone and the Android phones, all issues with Windows phone 7 now, will be something of the past.

It's clear that Microsoft needed something new to get back in the smartphone market that didn't resemble 6.5.3. People were done with software when the HTC HD2 came out.

Also, I've noticed that this phone is launching in Hong Kong. How is it not possible that the phone does not have the ability to see/read/type Chinese characters? I think someone on the Pleco team needs to investigate this, because if I'm not mistaken, the 3 major languages in Hong Kong are English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Ivan006 said:
Just like the iPhone and the Android phones, all issues with Windows phone 7 now, will be something of the past.

It's clear that Microsoft needed something new to get back in the smartphone market that didn't resemble 6.5.3. People were done with software when the HTC HD2 came out.

Also, I've noticed that this phone is launching in Hong Kong. How is it not possible that the phone does not have the ability to see/read/type Chinese characters? I think someone on the Pleco team needs to investigate this, because if I'm not mistaken, the 3 major languages in Hong Kong are English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
According to the Team Blog it only supports EFIGS initially, though they're nonetheless making the software market available in HK for some reason - I guess they're targeting it towards English-speaking HK residents only.
 

Ivan006

Member
The more I hear how difficult it is to make a Pleco program for WP7, the harder it is to believe it.

I currently have the Zune software on my computer and recently it got updated to accommodate for the Windows phone 7 marketplace. I noticed that there is a program called "Chinese SMS". It basically allows you to change you English SMS in to Chinese using pinyin. So you can send characters (traditional) to someone in Chinese. I have yet to try this software, but seeing this has given me a little hope that Pleco can run fine on this OS. Has anyone on the Pleco team seen this app? Is it still too early to make a Pleco app for WP7 knowing that people out there are already working on something like this? I know even though Microsoft will be (eventually) adding more languages to their lineup to make their phones more accessible to the Asian market, will this inspire you to make a Pleco app for this phone?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
It's hard for us because WP7 doesn't support native code; without that we'd have to roll our WP7 app pretty much from scratch. Even at a very basic level - for example, our database engine relies on fast manipulation of binary data in memory, which isn't really possible on a memory-protected virtual machine like that on WP7. The handwriting recognizer we use is also written in native code - I'm not even sure if we could find a good one to license that ran on WP7. So it would take twice as long as porting to a native-code-friendly platform like Android / webOS / MeeGo / desktops, and we'd end up with something that was a totally new app that just happened to have our brand and licenses on it.

And since it's very likely Microsoft will eventually add support for native-code development on WP7, it would be particularly silly for us to go through all of that work now when it might not be necessary a year from now, just like it would have been silly for us to rewrite all of Pleco for Android in Java when they eventually released a native development kit.

There's also the practical matter that we simply don't have the resources to juggle too many mobile platforms at once; it's a stretch even supporting two fully, and we'd much rather support Android than WP7 for simple reasons of openness - Microsoft missed out on a huge opportunity by requiring WP7 apps to go through a review process like iPhone apps. And of course WP7 still has yet to prove itself in the market, and we're very wary of Microsoft in general after they royally screwed us by refusing to support backwards-compatibility with old Windows Mobile apps.

Basically, aside from the fact that it's new and hip we can't think of any good reason to pick WP7 over its competitors, and certainly not over Android (which is where all of our resources not going to iPhone development are currently directed).
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
gato said:
How about buying RIM?
That would be assuming that they can still achieve a significant market share among smartphone OSes - RIM's share is only getting smaller and a Microsoft acquisition wouldn't be likely to stem that tide, not to mention the fact that BlackBerry OS is built on totally different technologies than, well, everything Microsoft does.

Buying Facebook would be admitting that future smartphones aren't going to be running a Microsoft operating system but making sure that Microsoft is at least supplying some critical part of their infrastructure. Which you'd probably have to admit Facebook already is - anyway they certainly will be after their new messaging system comes out.
 

Ivan006

Member
mikelove said:
Initial sales of WP7 seem to be confirming my fears:

http://www.appolicious.com/finance/articles/4175-gloomy-start-for-windows-phone-7-sales

They still might be able to turn things around, but if it's still looking this bad after Christmas I'd say it's probably too late - if Microsoft wants to have a significant presence on mobiles they may have to do something even more drastic like buying Facebook.

I don't think it's fair to look at sites like the one you posted or even one's like this:

http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/21/micr ... d-to-carr/

I think if you go out and just make your app for WP7, you'll see the potential sales. Do you need a certain number of people to buy these phones before you make the app, because in your previous post it was a matter of what type of code WP7 uses?

When I see sites showing the potential of language translation for WP7, for example like this one (actually it's just a writer):

http://www.wpcentral.com/flickpad-x2-br ... 7-homebrew

I can't help thinking that your software would be great for this device. I just heard that WP7 phones are going to support Chinese early next year. Will that help your team create a pleco software for the phone if there's already Chinese text support on the phone or is it more complicated than that?

BTW, I think Microsoft buying Facebook is a bad idea. Facebook already has issues with privacy. Microsoft shouldn't take on more issues than they can handle. :?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Ivan006 said:
I think if you go out and just make your app for WP7, you'll see the potential sales. Do you need a certain number of people to buy these phones before you make the app, because in your previous post it was a matter of what type of code WP7 uses?
It's a combination of things. We need native code support to make this at all feasible - I don't see any way WP7 sales could get to a point in the near future where we could justify rewriting the whole thing in .NET - but we also need market share to reach a level that makes us confident that a) we'd be able to sell a lot of copies of our software on WP7, and b) Microsoft will actually stick with WP7 and not throw it away and start again from scratch like they have so many times in the past - there's no sense developing for a platform that's going to be discontinued in a few months like Kin was.

We went through back-to-back platform discontinuation experiences recently - we invested 2 years developing a great new version of Pleco for Palm and Windows Mobile only to have Palm drop support for Palm OS apps and Microsoft for Windows Mobile ones. This cost us a ton of sales and left us releasing our iPhone version much later than we would have liked (and our Android version much later than we would have liked). Neither company gave us any advance warning about this, in fact someone on the WM development team specifically told me that they were not planning on dropping support for native WM development anytime soon, and neither of them has done much to instill confidence in their new platform strategies - Palm just threw away their first webOS development framework and thus rendered even current webOS-optimized apps obsolete, and Microsoft in addition to the botched Kin launch doesn't seem to have a clear tablet strategy and keeps vaguely alluding to the idea that a future version of PC Windows might work on smartphones too.

So Microsoft needs to do a lot more to inspire confidence before we can commit to supporting another one of their platforms; honestly, the best way would probably be for them write us a big check - a tactic they actually use quite a lot (they've already done so for several other iOS developers) - but failing that they really need some big sales numbers and robust native app development support (preferably even using a lot of the same Win32 APIs we had on WM).
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Ivan006 said:
Would that help to get pleco onto WP7 or is there still too much work for you guys to make that jump?
Wouldn't really make much difference, it looks like it's just a tool to make looking through API references a bit faster.

Honestly, given how little progress we've been able to make on iOS version improvements while we've been finishing up the first Android beta, I can't imagine us taking on Windows Phone 7 (or any other new platform) unless:

a) we discontinue the iOS or Android version (highly unlikely unless one of them experiences an utter collapse in market share), or
b) our profit margins skyrocket and we can afford to hire more people (also unlikely given current mobile software industry trends)

We have a whole lot of new features on our to-do list, and we have to get to work on them if we don't want to create an opportunity for our iOS (and Android) competitors; we can't afford to take any more time off from that work to add support for a new platform.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
As I said, we'd only consider it if iOS or Android dropped so low that it no longer made sense to develop for them - we simply can't afford to support three platforms, we can barely manage two without slowing the pace of continued upgrades / new dictionaries / etc to a crawl.
 

character

状元
Microsoft updates Bing Translator for Windows Phone with offline features
http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/17/micr ... ows-phone/ (video)

"[T]he crew at Microsoft have updated the Bing Translator app, which is available for free in the Marketplace. It now allows users to point their cameras at otherwise unintelligible text and then view a proper translation as an overlay on the photograph. As another nifty trick, Bing Translate allows users to speak phrases into their phone, which will then be audibly translated into a foreign language of choice."

Interesting they too chose a gray background with a green border to show recognition results...
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
character said:
"[T]he crew at Microsoft have updated the Bing Translator app, which is available for free in the Marketplace. It now allows users to point their cameras at otherwise unintelligible text and then view a proper translation as an overlay on the photograph. As another nifty trick, Bing Translate allows users to speak phrases into their phone, which will then be audibly translated into a foreign language of choice."

Interesting they too chose a gray background with a green border to show recognition results...
Well it only really makes sense with signs and menus and other things that are potentially widely spaced - for a page of text in a novel etc this would be relatively unworkable. Then again, since it's mainly meant as a travel translator they're probably not considering "Lord of the Rings" to be a primary usage case :)

But this continues to make me feel good about the decision to not release a separate / traveler-oriented Pleco OCR app; the market is quickly getting to be way too crowded and these days I'm not sure if we'd be able to charge enough for that app to do much more than cover our royalties.
 

mnanon

秀才
Are there not schemes supported by MS to provide funding to developers for applications they believe can drive WP7' forward?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
mnanon said:
Are there not schemes supported by MS to provide funding to developers for applications they believe can drive WP7' forward?
There are, but I don't think we'd qualify, certainly not for enough money to make this feasible anyway.

For a Pleco Windows port to make sense, we'd need:

  • Much higher market share, along with numbers suggesting that Microsoft is getting app-revenue-per-user numbers in Apple/Amazon's range rather than Google's. (the Android port is just barely making enough money to be worthwhile, and this would cost more)
  • Full official native code support on both smartphones and tablets. (it's OK if the UI layer is not, but we need at least as much access to the underlying system as we have on Android anyway)
  • Easy cross-development for Windows 8 on computers / tablets / smartphones. (at least as easy as crossover iPhone/iPad/Mac development)
  • Widespread adoption of Windows smartphones in Greater China.
  • Clear downward trend for Android or iOS.
  • Mac developer tools. (not an absolute requirement, but it would greatly streamline our build process and save a lot of labor)

Absent all of those things, the odds of us ever putting Pleco on Windows Phone are very slim - all of them applied for our iOS port, and all but revenue-per-user on Android (and Microsoft is very unlikely to ever attain the sort of market share that would make Android-level revenue-per-user numbers workable).
 
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