When Microsoft released Windows Phone 7 last November, the reviews generally said it was a good first effort but many features were missing that smartphone users have come to expect.
Joshua Topalsky writing then for Engadget:
Don’t get us wrong: there’s a lot to like or even love in WP7. Microsoft has done an outstanding job with lots of aspects of this UI, particularly when it comes to navigation and ease of use — but there are holes here as well. It still feels like the company is a good year behind market leaders right now, and though it’s clear the folks in Redmond are doing everything they can to get this platform up to snuff, it’s also clear that they’re not there yet.
That review was posted on October 20, 2010. Between that date and today Microsoft has officially shipped two updates. The first update was a minor update to allow the larger NoDo update to successfully occur. The NoDo update, which was released to AT&T subscribers two weeks ago added rudimentary copy-paste support and adjusted the Windows Phone Marketplace to only return app listings in search results rather than apps, movies and music.
Of the major holes in Windows Phone 7, only one has been patched since launch. There is still not native support for other social services like Twitter, Flickr or LinkedIn. The copy-paste support isn’t as ubiquitous as it is in iOS or Android. The browser still runs a variant of Internet Explorer 7 whereas the desktop version is already up to version 9. Running apps in the background either the Android or iOS way? Not possible.
Microsoft claims many of those features are coming in the next update to Windows Phone 7 that is due this fall.
Google and Motorola released the Xoom in February of this year and it received similar reviews to that of Windows Phone: good start, but missing functionality. Ryan Paul of Ars Technica reviewed the Xoom:
Although the Xoom has a lot to offer, the product feels very incomplete. A surprising number of promised hardware and software features are not functional at launch and will have to be enabled in future updates. The Xoom’s quality is also diminished by some of the early technical issues and limitations that we encountered in Honeycomb. Google’s nascent tablet software has a ton of potential, but it also has some feature gaps and rough edges that reflect its lack of maturity.
The Xoom launched in mid-February and in that time it has seen one direct update from Motorola to fix bugs in the tablet’s original software. In terms of feature updates to the Honeycomb platform, there have been none. For an OS that Engadget described at “buggy and unfinished” that doesn’t bode well.
That brings us to Blackberry’s Playbook tablet. This Is My Next had this to say about the Playbook in their review:
But the PlayBook isn’t hitting home runs just yet. The OS is still buggy and somewhat touchy. Third-party apps are a desert right now, if not in number, then certainly in quality. The lack of native email and calendar support hurts. The worst part, however, is that I can’t think of a single reason to recommend this tablet over the iPad 2, or for that matter… the Xoom. And that’s what it really boils down to here; what is the compelling feature that will make buyers choose the PlayBook over something else? I don’t have that answer, but that’s not what’s troubling me — what troubles me is that I don’t think RIM has the answer either… and they should by now.
If ever there were an incomplete platform it would be the Playbook. It’s missing native email and calendaring clients. Blackberry is the email company. Moreover, the promised Android app player is not due until this summer. Desktop sync support for the Mac? Not due until this summer. A native SDK for the Playbook so developers can use C and C++ is coming this summer. Has a company promise more in a three month span than RIM?
The Playbook has only been out a few weeks, but given the pattern we have seen from Google and Microsoft, I wouldn’t anticipate frequent software updates to patch the holes in their platform either.
Apple has a year head start on their competition in tablets, and the slow rate of updates coming from their competition does not make me believe the lead shrink in the future. Releasing software is hard, but Apple seems to be the only one that can release half a dozen updates over the course of a year that both fix bugs and add functionality to users existing tablets and phones. Microsoft continues to release major updates as giant service packs that seemingly will come out twice a year. Google’s not saying much about their Honeycomb improvements and how or if they will even be distributed to existing tablet owners. If anything, RIM’s eighteen CEO’s keep it interesting by promising everything they can dream up.
To make a dent in Apple’s market lead, Google, Microsoft, Blackberry and HP (eventually) need to focus less on the hardware specs or openness of their platform, and more on getting software updates to their existing user base on a regular basis. Hardware specs are porn for the gadget blogs, but software and apps are what sell tablets and phones to regular users. iOS is not without flaws, but I can’t think of any gaping holes in the platform that make it hard to justify an iPad or iPhone to someone. I would run out of fingers if I had to list all the holes in the Xoom or Playbook.