Lets Tango! The feature bomb between Mango & Apollo.

*Pure theory* The Windows Phone 7.7 “Tango Update”. After Mango but before Apollo: notifications, sharing and UI.

     Recently there’s been news of an update that’s supposed to coming to windows phone after this falls mango update and before the Apollo update being dubbed Windows Phone Tango. This is an excellent opportunity to further leap past iPhone and & Android. While not much is known about this supposed tango update. I’d like to take a stab at what it could be. Everything here is pure theory & wishful thinking.

     My rule of thumb in life is that having a new trick up your sleeve does you no good if everybody knows to keep their eye on your arms & hands. A good trickster has an arsenal everywhere possible & just when they think you’ve run out of tricks. Spout an arm & pull the trick out from its sleeve.

     Windows phone while very robust is not quite mature. There are missing functions & features. One Can argue that WP was rushed out the door. But one can argue that it was by design. Its not like Microsoft doesn’t know how to make a phone O.S. They’ve been doing it a really long time now. Microsoft was mobile back when I wasn’t even old enough to drive. So the feature & function gap between Windows Phone & Zune HD or Windows Phone & Windows Mobile 6.5 can’t be by accident.

     I’ve come to believe that Microsoft has intentionally left gaps in Windows Phone. Not to have a sensational update every now & then. Not to simply implement functions & features differently. But to try and leap frog the competition by doing these things differently. Otherwise Windows Phone would be a nice looking app driven phone similar to the iPhone.

     When Apple showed off IOS 5. After the feelings of; about damn time & well where have I seen that before. I realized something. Apple blinked! The company that “never compromises or capitulates.” The company that “insists on calling the shots.” That company, basically said us too.

     We can point to them doing this before with copy & paste & multitasking. Ping or Game Center (Zune Social & Xbox Live rip offs) Or if your old enough to remember Steve Jobs saying that tablets are toilet computers back in 2001. But Apple didn’t just copy core features & functions. They out right ripped off their competition & even stole from independent developers. And they did it badly. So lacking Apples “elegant & brilliant simplicity”, the new iOS features seems tacked on.

     Why all this happened I don’t know. But being someone that when they see a weakness in an enemy. I believe there’s only 1 thing to do at that moment. Exploit it! The iOS devices have ironically become to mobile devices what Microsoft is to its detractors in respect to the desktop market. iOS has started to become Windows. By the cult of Macs own standards, Apple has run out of ideas & are going to push the platform forward by tacking on features from other platforms.

     Developers are mostly interested in Android and windows phone right now. iOS 5 is a desperate attempt at becoming what they rebelled so hard against and I predict they will fail miserably at it. Their even using old plays from soon to be defunct companies. iMessage, Apples proprietary messenger doesn’t appear to have learned from BlackBerry. When you’re down market its o.k. to have exclusive features & apps. But at the top of the totem. It’s best to be a little open.

      Using apps that to some degree communicate with your platform and mimic your platform’s features on competing platforms allows for everyone to share the experience that your platform delivers. Then you can that app to entice them to your platform for a better experience. BlackBerry messenger hasn’t saved RIM. If anything, unlimited texting plans have started to kill it off. Better third party messengers each gave their “one of one-thousand cuts” iMessage, Skype & Google are just going to throw the dirt on RIMs coffin.

     But Skype and most likely Google messenger will be available cross platform. Even on iOS. Facetime has yet to be available on windows, Chrome OS or Linux. Apple is banking on the model they use with Final Cut and Garage Band. But that works for the market, that would for the most part, buy a Mac in the first place… a very niche market of aging hippies, trust fund hipsters and trendy people that like paying a lot for a computer that they check their email on 99% of the time and occasionally does other things with their new toy. This isn’t going to work with phones. They have too much market share.

      Proprietary functions and features didn’t help RIM (the members only jacket of mobile phones). When people got bored of their phones, it became less like crack and more like baby aspirin. People moved off Blackberries and went to iPhone. You may not have noticed it but Apples UI is pretty dated. Even folders haven’t helped it. Android may be annoying & confusing but its not the stream of endless icons that don’t do anything. Metro UI is the happy middle ground between Goggles chaos & Apples authoritarianism.

     So how do we exploit this weakness? Feature overload! Apple may have the majority of apps. But iOS doesn’t have a lot of features. Its an app driven experience. That’s quickly becoming a moot point as devs are coding for more than just iOS. HTML 5, The iPhones savior from their lack of flash is ironically making the web an app store (Facebook project). And what few features they have simply suck. The notification is a piss poor rip off of what’s in Android. Phones only have so much screen real estate.

     There’s nothing cloud about the iCloud with iTunes. Their doc solution is nothing compared to office 365. And in order to use it on the go, you have to buy their mobile office suite (ever used iWork? Aside from keynote, avoid turning in documents using it.) iSync may come close to Zune in the wireless sync dept. But then again, if its anything like ping or game center. Stick a fork in it.

     Turning the volume into a camera button & putting the camera button icon on the lock screen is a nice trick. Question. If I’m right handed (like 95% of the world) how do I take landscape pictures now? Btw: the camera button is supposed to wake the phone up. For a company that prides itself on simplicity, I still have to press the top button. Then press the camera button. I can still take a photo faster on my wp7 device with 1 less step.

     But if you want features Apple. Follow WP down this rabbit hole. If you want to do what I’m about to do. Contact Joe Belfiore the VP of windows phone. Brian Seitz of Microsoft marketing. Matt Akers & Jessica Zahn of Microsoft mobile devices. If you have an idea. Pitch it to them. Since I’ve been a Zune user, I’ve been throwing Microsoft Zune ideas on their old Zune forums. You can now do it at windows phone answers. These are the ideas I’ve sent since you’ve read this. They do listen and sometimes they do respond. Start of each message with “feature idea for windows phone.” if you contact them via twitter, use twitlonger. I don’t know if Windows Phone 7.7 “Tango” exist. But there’s no harm in asking for a few more features.

Here’s just a few ideas I sent them:

Notifications:

     The drop down notification screen in iOS 5 & Android is a of a mess. Leave what’s in windows phone as is. What I’m proposing is in addition to what’s there. I would only suggest adding a photo in place of the name of who sent the photo if available. You know how if you swipe down from the top of the phone you get the battery meter, signal information, Etc. What if you pull down twice to check notifications or pull down on notification bar and you got a notification dock? Similar to the iPhone task bar (2 can play at this game Apple). Once the drop bar is down, you can pivot between notifications. Its essentially a smaller version of the tasks manager in mango.

     Then simply tap the notification and go straight to the appropriate app. For stuff like messages, tap the mini tile to get the message and a dialog box to send a quick response. Should you just want to browse but not answer. Just swipe it the bar back up. This isn’t a screen hog like Android or iOS notification screen. And unlike WebOs, this doesn’t stay on the screen. When in an app & you get notification, rather than just tap to respond or swipe to the right to dismiss. You can pull down & get that bar. This would handle every notification that the phone gets while the phones display is actively being used (games, video and browsing) otherwise, the standard notifications stay. Its even accessible from the lock screen.

Sharing:

Live spot:

      I’ve been begging for this. The kin may not have been a success. But features like the kin loop, kin studio & kin spot were awesome. Kin loop is making a come back with groups and twitter integration. Kin studio is being integrated into windowsphone.live.com. Possibly with a Metro UI design in html 5 as seen in SkyDrive. The kin spot needs to come back. The kin spot would be accessible from everywhere in the phone except the start screen & lock screen. Accessible from Pictures, Zune, camera, IE & some 3’rd party apps. It would do everything the spot did in the Kin. Share any information & media with anyone the user chooses.

New Features:

Windows live movie maker and photo gallery built into the o.s:

     Edit photos and movies on the fly. In my 1’st attack of the killer app of the week I suggested that Microsoft buy Thumba. But Microsoft already has this on your desktop.

Windows live desktop remote:

     SkyDrive gives you 25 GB of free space. But if your desktop is always on and online. That’s 25 +. Access your files from anywhere. Think of that Tonido app I recommend a while back.

Expanded services:

SkyDrive with DropBox support:

      Think of it as SkyDrive with a DropBox app. You can do everything that you would do in DropBox, but from SkyDrive & windows phone. Share files & folders. Back up more than 25 GB of your stuff (requires DropBox account). Effortlessly swap files between SkyDrive & drop box. With out changing the behavior of either service. This would be mutually beneficial to both if Microsoft in exchange for access to DropBox API, DropBox users would get a year free subscription to office 365 (cheaper than giving away a Xbox with every PC purchased). Dropbox users would jump at the chance to get 25 GB of free space & would get a windows phone & keep an up to date version office to use it. Dropbox would save on hard drive space & offer their users document sharing & collaboration services.

UI changes:

Please move the battery & connectivity icons to the side under the arrow on the home screen. They’re to small to see at the top. Make the tiles start at the very top of the screen. Put the arrow that’s there right now, also at the very top. Under the arrow have the time. The hr. larger in font size than it is now. Keep the min the same font size but have it next to the hr., on top of am or pm. Followed by larger but translucent connectivity icons that stand out against the background. You had it in the Zune 80.

     The analog representation of a batter is useless. A hollow circle divided into 4 is better. Have the percentage of remaining power in the center. This would help fill in the empty space. Finally background image on the home screen. The pictures hub proves you can have tiles and a background image.

Get to your apps faster:

     Auto categorize the apps for me. Productivity, social, business, etc. Just like they are in the marketplace. Put the categories in alphabetical order. When I tap them, they open drop menu style (think of clicking a folder in all programs from start button) to reveal their correlated apps in alphabetical order. bonus if there is some way of letting you know that there is a new app there that has just been downloaded & not been used.

App interoperability:

     Here’s something that it seems that no one has done either on the desktop or the mobile space. I have a last pass account and the app on my phone & PC. But so many mobile apps have accounts that are password protected. Like banking apps. What can’t lastpass just as it does in my desktop browser, fill in details & account information on an app for me?

IE9 advanced:

     use windows live mesh to sync favorites & history between desktop IE and mobile IE.

Plug in support:

     Apps like lastpass are great on the desktop and there’s a mobile version. I would like that mobile version to work like it does on the desktop. Pull the toolbar up & tap extras. There you can find toolbars that you install ready to go.

Silverlight & flash support built in along with html 5.

Landscape UI:

     Landscape shouldn’t be about giving you the same experience & information as portrait mode. Landscape has the potential to give a different & more immersive metro UI experience. Different gestures for getting information faster from apps.

Start Screen:

     When in landscape, what if I got a different version of the metro UI? A hybrid between the next Xbox dashboard & Windows 8. With a favorite or most used apps hub, Weather, recent notifications & updates, personalized live tiles, a different background than the portrait start screen. Gestures in this alternative landscape UI would also be different. For instance; you can get a quick preview of what’s going on in a in a live tile with a pinch & zoom gesture. The live tile would give as much information as can be displayed. Rather than open the app by tapping & holding. You would expand the tile like you would zoom into a point on a picture temporarily and get a small preview window. Think aero-peak!

     In the Zune hub, it would be similar to a hybrid between Zune desktops quick play & the next Xbox dashboard. You’d get your favorite artist, pinned playlist & podcast. As you swipe left or right you’d get the Zune social with favorite friends & their recent activity. Swipe further & you get the Zune hub associated apps like iHeart radio, twit, etc. Landscape in the photo hub would be similar to what I just described. Albums that have alternating photos. Facebook & SkyDrive folders, Etc.

     In the Zune hub, it would be similar to a hybrid between Zune desktops quick play & the next Xbox dashboard. You’d get your favorite artist, pinned playlist & podcast. As you swipe left or right you’d get the Zune social with favorite friends & their recent activity. Swipe further & you get the Zune hub associated apps like iHeart radio, twit, etc. Landscape in the photo hub would be similar to what I just described. Albums that have alternating photos. Facebook & SkyDrive folders, Etc.

     Xbox hub in landscape would also be a different experience than in landscape. Rather than give you the same UI experience and options in landscape mode. What you’d get is something more like the Xbox Dashboard.

     You would get an experience similar to the Xbox 360 dashboard sans the games and music. You would be able to access apps live Netflix, ESPN, and other services that you get on the Xbox.

iCast (this would not be the name of it. Unless Microsoft really felt vicious & ballsy):

     Did you see Tokyo drift? In one of the scenes of that movie, the spectators were live broadcasting a race while watching it on their screen. Not recording it as it happened. But watching it live as it was being broadcast by other phones. Are you getting the same idea I’ve got?

     Remember the bump app that was on the iPhone and android? why can’t something like that be built into Windows Phone 7.7? Especially with NFC coming. At the very least this can be done with Bluetooth.

Lets go star trek on both Google & iPhone:

     How about translating audio from 1 language to another then back. Someone says something in Spanish or Japanese. My phone audibly translates it (headphones necessary) and it can take what I say & translate it back into the desired language.

     With BlackBerry biting the dust. It would be a good idea to start targeting RIMs old customers & devs. Eating up WebOs core market by bringing the best of those features to Windows Phone. That would be the appetizer. Microsoft has to work its way up the main course then desert. Windows Phone has around 30,000 apps. That’s going up against androids 300,000 & iOSs’ 750,000. But Windows Phone can make the app count a moot point if they kill them with features. Namely features that stay true to what Windows Phone so awesome. A feature driven experience with glance able information. The o.s that gets out of the way & lets me do what I want to do.

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