Windows Mobile for Consumers. Interview with Todd Warren, Windows Mobile VP, MIcrosoft

During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona I was able to sit for a chat with Todd Warren, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Mobile Communications Product group, responsible for the development of Windows Mobile OS.

The topic of the interview was the new focus of Windows Mobile on a consumer market.

Due to YouTube 10 minute limitation on single video length, I had to split an interview into 3 parts.

In the first part we talk about the Sony Experia, Windows mobile initiatives in consumer space, mobile handset software/hardware relation issues, usability and User Inteface design in Windows Mobile.

Second part covers multimedia features in Windows Mobile, WM/Zune relationship, Touch interface in Windows Mobile and relations between WM and it’s partners on touch initiatives.

The third part discusses Zoomobi, mobile browsing and search experience in future Windows Mobile versions, integration of Live services like Mapping and Messenger, Musiwave acquisition, possible music download & streaming service and mobile gaming initiatives.


UV. I know Windows Mobile has been doing quite well in the enterprise business market. But now, you seem to be turning more attention to the consumer space as well.

TW. Yes, we’re doing more work with Windows Mobile in the consumer space, so the big evidence there at the Mobile World Congress is the introduction of Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA line on top of Windows Mobile. We’re pretty excited about that – we think Sony Ericsson will bring a number of very interesting things to Windows Mobile and it’s been great working with the Sony Ericsson team on the product to get it together. We’re quite excited about that.

We’re also, from some work that we’ve been doing – especially with the mobile operators – starting to do some more things in the consumer area. Two examples of that: in the US, we worked with T-Mobile USA on a product called the “Shadow”. On the HTC Shadow, we worked with them on integrating the five faves experience into the home screen, making it easier to access ringtones and music as part of the device.

Another effort that we had there is with Vodafone. As part of both a Samsung device – the 610 I believe is the number – and the Palm 500v, we worked on a set of software to better integrate in the Vodafone’s Internet experience as part of the device, and add some things around contacts, and give it more of a consumer “flavor”, in addition to the business work that we do.

We do view what we’re doing with Windows Mobile as building a set of phones that can span all aspects of someone’s life.

UV. Congratulations on Sony Ericsson deal.

Thank you.

UV. And, there was a short video of Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X1 yesterday. It was quite impressive interface features there. So, how much of that was Sony Ericsson team, how much of that was HTC, and how much of it was Windows Mobile?

TW. Most of work, well, I would say, the foundation that let Sony Ericsson do that experience, was Windows Mobile. So, we had a developer platform since the inception of what we’ve done with the set of software, development kits and tools that let people take advantage of that.

The actual experience was done by Sony Ericsson, so a lot of work that we’ve done is to walk this very fine line and create a common platform for application developers and a common course set of experience so a user who picks up a Windows Mobile phone by a different manufacturer can immediately figure out how to use it. Sort of just like any person who gets into a car can find the steering wheel, brakes and the gas pedal; and how to drive that car. But also offering the opportunity for our partners that have expertise in particular areas, to bring those applications to the foreground.

So, the panels, the user interface on Sony XPERIA was done by Sony Ericsson. We provide them some developer support, but it’s all done on open document APIs, any programmer would have access to atop of Windows Mobile.

UV. Was it really that fast like you showed on the video? Do you know yet?

I don’t know yet – I think, I would say we’ve done a lot of work overall on the performance of Windows Mobile in the last couple of versions, but also we provided them good support for fast graphics, as part of the system.

UV. For the average high-end user, which is probably the target user for Windows Mobile phones, for now it’s all about how cool the mobile phone looks. And and then it’s about the features: camera, display quality, music player, GPS, etc. So, how do you get them excited or at least interested in mobile phone operating system?

TW. Well, I think the mobile operating system is the key to make those hardware features come out. We really view that where the phone is going, that there’s set of advanced areas that really make the software bring the device alive. So, whether that’s the productivity scenarios of connecting person to person with e-mail, or SMS, integrating into your contact list, this idea of being able to better connect with people.

A great example of that would be, for example, when we integrate the Windows Live instant messaging experience into Windows Mobile. We show the presence of that user in a contact card. So, if I receive a call from you, I can bring your contact information on, I can see your presence, I can text immediately. So, software helping access those deeper product functions that are enabled by the more advanced hardware in the easier way for the end user.

I think the other thing is, GPS is a great example of a hardware feature that’s exposed through software. I mean, once you have that GPS feature, you really want to have a good mapping support, you want to be able to integrate a search as part of what you do, that’s much easier as a software feature.

As you add more of these features and functions, you need to have a good, consistent operating system to do it. Also, from an operator’s perspective, their goal is to bring more services to their end user, and more data services. And software is really the magic that makes the data traffic come alive. So, we provide a good platform for new kinds of data services. I know that’s what attracted both T-Mobile USA and Vodafone in these consumer projects we just talked about.

UV. Windows Mobile is a great operating system for a smartphone. But until lately, there was an impression that it was more about being smart than being a phone, let’s say. And now you mentioned that your partners are addressing this via their own custom interfaces. But are you going to address these issues through your own native interface, for example, a number of clicks to perform basic tasks, text, icon size options, etc.

Yes, absolutely. I think there still are some things that are too hard to do in all phones, but in Windows Mobile phones in particular, and we’re going to work on those.

We did some of those things in 6, so for example, Windows Mobile 6 is very much geared around a business user, in managing e-mail and those pieces, but we showed actually in our launch of 6 last year, a number of places where we consolidated the number of clicks and how hard a number of common e-mail operations were; even things in the basic call experience – so it’s very easy from your call log to bring up another contact information and make that much simpler. In future versions, while we will continue to work on that experience.

A very important program that we ran internally to help us figure it out, we ran a program called 10-10-10, where we look at the first 10 minutes of someone’s user experience with the phone, we found from our data that’s when a lot of returns happen; to make sure that a user can do all the things he needs to do to setup the phone, to set things like the alarms, and the clock, and get their e-mail connected. Then we also look at the first 10 days on the phone, because that’s the next period that they look at; then the first 10 months of their overall experience. So, we’ve focused ourselves on simplifying those tasks across the pieces of the system.

That’s the end of Part 1 of the interview. You can find the second part here and the third – here.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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