Change of weather, change of MS’ heart

Posted by & filed under Misc, Technology.

Austin was pleasantly warm for a couple days, and yet again the cool weather is back. It’s a bit of an annoyance — temperature jumps like a scared rabbit. 75F in the afternoon, and low 30s at night, with some rural areas getting a light freeze.
I’ve learned it a long time ago that rural areas are pretty much always colder. Not many cars, giant buildings with temperature control, sewage and just a large amount of obstacles that prevents wind from equalizing the temperature.
Of course sometimes just having a building creates that wonderful wind tunnel syndrome.
So, the wind blew hard over the last few days, bringing in not just a patch of bad weather, but some other news too.
– Palm is not doing too hot, with shares dropping and sales lagging
– Microsoft is still kinda sorta not sure about the copy and paste function on its new mobile platform.

While first news I kinda expected, the second one is somewhat disappointing. Yes, I completely agree that Microsoft’s mobile solution needs a brand new platform. With most software products, it seems to be the best to wipe the slate clean every once in a while. Just like with clothes, too many alterations and patches start to obscure the original idea. Grand design, however cool and dashing it may have been some years ago, shows its age. “Nobody does things this way” becomes mantra, and backward compatibility becomes a drag on new ideas and interesting implementations.

So, I was quite happy to hear that Windows 7 Mobile Platform will be “brand new”. I wasn’t quite as happy to learn that MS decided to take a page out of the Apple’s playbook.

Apple makes things pretty, shiny, good for average user but in many aspects extremely rigid an uncustomizable. If your idea of convenient product doesn’t exactly match what Cupertino thinks, you’re out of luck. Just look at all rooting and hacking that is required to make iPhone a bit more flexible or do something that Apple decided not to do in “current release”? Of course many of those functions will probably appear later, but Apple loves saying “users don’t need it” (and then reverse itself — copy/paste, video recording, mms, all those little things normal dumb cell phones used to do for years, before suddenly they were “not needed” by users, and then needed again, just as they got re-introduced into latter revision of Apple products).

Now Microsoft used to be much closer to “geeks”, never quite making up its mind about one way to do something and leaving it to the user. You want to start an application? There’s probably 5 or 6 ways to do it. Buttons? All over the place and any shape you want. Config options? Scattered throughout but giving great flexibility…

And suddenly “No copy/paste, because users don’t need it”. Hello? Such little convenient things are a norm of day, even on Apple’s products now. So please double-check your UI developer’s report and just keep copy/paste. Hide it behind the config option if you must, but let those users that want it some sneaky way to activate it.

And don’t forget the applications. Sure, most users will never want to wander away from the walled garden of pre-approved “App Store” (Apple or Microsoft). But don’t lock the door for those who like a bit of flexibility. That way Windows Mobile 7 could be the 7th Lucky Version, that starts as pretty and UI-wiz as Apple’s iPhone, and continues to have flexibility for those users who want custom interface or extra small-scale apps, that are relevant for small audiences only.

Of course Microsoft already said that copy/paste could come back later, after platform is released. But come on, Microsoft, take your chance and start it right!

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