Microsoft unveiled several aspects about the Windows Phone 8 platform at the Windows Phone Summit in June this year. Since then, Samsung, Nokia and HTC have also “launched” several high-end and mid-range Windows Phone 8 devices. These devices have been deliberately very hands-off for the press and end users, and one of the biggest reasons seems to be that Microsoft does not want to reveal any unannounced feataures of Windows Phone 8 before their official release.
Meanwhile, it seems (pardon the pun) clear, the PureView camera technology in the Lumia 920 is far superior to the competition, including the newly released iPhone 5 with a vastly upgraded camera. This story gets repeated in the press in one way or the other, but as end customers, we have no way to see it and play with it ourselves.
All because of Windows Phone 8, apparently. It seems like Microsoft has asked its OEM partners not to let anyone come near these devices until they say it is ok. Many have asked the question, what could it be that Microsoft does not want the world to know? Are these some features still not discovered via the SDK leaks? Does it have anything to do with Xbox Music/Video back-end updates which are not ready yet and may be depdendent on deals with rights holders? Could it be something to do with SkyDrive cloud usage? Something to do with Skype integration? Office?
There are many possibilities, but none of them seem big enough to hold back the customer enthusiasm. If pre-orders were made available the day Lumia 920 was announced, I am sure they would have got a ton of people putting their money right there. By waiting for so long between announcing the device and shipping it (and this applies to all the OEMs, not just Nokia), they let the iPhone 5 launch and they let the customers forget about the devices. Microsoft prevented Samsung, Nokia and HTC from striking when the iron was hot, and that’s just too bad.
Everything above is related to the customer. The same is the reason why Microsoft has been coy about releasing the SDK. The Windows Phone 8 development platform is significantly different from the Windows Phone 7 platform, with the new shared core with Wndows 8. One would think that with such a dramatic shift in the SDK/APIs, Microsoft would give more time, not less, to the developers to get apps ready before launch. Instead, they have been working with some key developers until now, and recently opened up a private release for devs. This private release was based on certain factors like developers who already have published app(s), and such apps are downloaded well. Over and above these factors, it was still up to Microsoft to accept or reject the application and whoever got accepted, had to sign an NDA so they don’t leak any of the secrets they discover in the SDK.
I would argue that making the loyal developers angry is even more fatal than making customers wait. These developers have stuck with Windows Phone development despite the small market share, despite Microsoft shifting the platform not once, but twice. These developers need all the “TLC” (tender, loving care) and instead, Microsoft has shafted them by not giving them the SDK early and then by giving it only to a selected few.
I am a big, big fan of Windows Phone. I bought a device just a few weeks after it launched in the US. I have stuck with the platform despite its pitfalls compared to iOS, like performance issues in data-intensive applications like Twitter. I am extremely optimistic about Windows Phone 8 and am going to get the Nokia Lumia 920, but these stupid moves by Microsoft are not helping my confidence in the platform at all.
Unless Microsoft reveals a truckload of as-yet-unknown features in Windows Phone 8, I am going to be extremely disappointed with their recent moves. Hope Microsoft is able to justify this super-secrecy. I am doubtful.