Friday, March 5, 2010
Posted by Jon Westfall in "Windows Phone Talk" @ 05:00 AM
"We've had it up here with these shenanigans. You're jerking us around, and we're sick of it. We get it, you have a very particular concept of what sort of phones you want running your new Windows Phone 7 Series OS. Not only do we get it, but we're kind of proud of you for sticking up for yourself for once and ensuring some sort of sameness across your platform. Unfortunately, it's not the holiday season yet, so we can't buy one of these fancy WP7S phones yet. Meanwhile, on the other end of town, HTC is bringing the HD2 to T-Mobile in the US this month. Sure, it runs your soon-to-be-outdated Windows Mobile 6.5 OS which nobody wants, but it's also pretty much the best hardware we've ever seen. Bar none."
Paul Miller published an editorial at Engadget yesterday that made me think about the consequences of corporate secrecy and policy when it comes to the geek community. Even as someone willing to play by these rules (as evidenced by my own NDA with Microsoft), I still long for a time where geeks can have what they want, and companies can keep mainstream customers happy. Unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon for some very practical reasons. And in the end, as frustrating as it is, I think it is for the better.
We're Geeks: Just Let Us Play
This is the mantra that I think resonates with us, and where Paul is coming from in his editorial. We're geeks, we know that there is a high degree of likelihood that Windows Phone 7 can run on the HD2's fantastic hardware, so let us have an upgrade. After all, as geeks, first adopters, and hardcore'ers, we're cool with the fact that it doesn't run 100%. Haven't we all experienced the surprise of having a piece of technology we assumed would have bugs run better than we expected (or flawlessly?). Geeks already anticipate problems since we're used to pushing the bounds.
However regular users are not. Believe it or not, most people who buy a phone expect it to work 100% of the time. They give no slack to the vendors involved when it comes to bugs, errors, acts of god, or any combination of the three. And unfortunately again, they outnumber us! Which means that even if we all go out and buy 5 Windows Phone 7 series devices at launch, we still wouldn't have the same consumer power as regular users. So why can't we just keep them away from our "secret" ROMs and such? Well if you've ever been over at the dark side of the force you know that this is impossible. Just look through the forums there and you'll find many non-geeks who saw cool features they wanted for their phones, and ended up doing horrendous things to their devices because they skipped a step, or didn't see something, or didn't do something we all take for granted. Regular users shouldn't be expected to act like geeks, and because of that, companies can't give us half-baked un-intended ROMs and still deliver an exceptional product.
But Since Regular Users Won't Use It, a Half-Bake Can't Cause a Negative Perception!
So who am I? I'm a geek and a contributing editor. This means that I both push and write about the limits and the mainstream. And while some of the old media types aren't geeks, most of the new media (where you'll get your first impressions of Windows Phone 7 Series, most likely) are. This means that it's tremendously important for the success of WP7S to make a good first impression on users and media members alike. Would a good first impression best be served by the HD2 running a half-baked ROM or by a device built with the OS in mind? The latter. The most available to media geeks? The former. Therein lies the problem. If I buy an HD2 (which I will...) and I put a ROM on it that isn't built for it (which I might...), I may be biased toward the final product remembering bugs that I saw with my unintended preview. It sounds crazy, but as a psychologist, I've actually thought of this (which is why it's unlikely that I would flash a Windows Phone 7 ROM onto my HD2 - I don't want to judge a new OS by a flawed implementation).
What if Microsoft Just Releases a Win 7 ROM That Isn't Half-Baked?
That's awesome, if it happens. I personally doubt it will happen (and honestly have no clue from any source, NDA-covered or otherwise), but if it does, it would likely be a good thing, speeding up adoption rates of the new platform. As for myself, I may want to keep my HD2 running 6.5 though - after all, it's the last great device of a great operating system (that unfortunately outlived it's greatness in many ways).
There you have it, my own editorial. I agree with Paul at Engadget though - Microsoft should come out and say yes or no on the issue. But to address Paul's last line, I doubt Microsoft would ever release a half-baked ROM with a non-preferred caveat - it would only hurt their efforts to rejuvenate their mobile phone business in the end.
Jon Westfall is a geek psychologist decision making researcher working in New York City. His average day includes server maintenance, manuscript revisions, statistical data analysis, and reading a myriad of tech and psych blogs. You can learn more about him at JonWestfall.Com.