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Microsoft has gotten a fair share of chuckles from its initial Windows Phone 7 commercials, which feature addicted smartphone users plodding along cluelessly as they live life transfixed by their handsets. The best ads feature exasperated onlookers, friends and family members asking, “Really?!” when confronted by a person’s smartphone obsession. While it’s good for a laugh, Microsoft had better hope that it can replicate some of that addiction with the launch of Windows Phone 7 today. It will need some of its own “Really?!” users, or Windows Phone 7 won’t compete in today’s smartphone market.
Microsoft is selling Windows Phone 7 as a device aimed to “get you in, and out and back to life.” This is a savvy move for non-smartphone users who are still intimidated by the devices and see their owners as obnoxious slaves to their handsets. But smartphones are addicting. We love the Internet, we love staying connected anywhere and we are generally rewarding companies that deliver that experience.
The iPhone was the first of many smartphones that really allowed uses to take their online desktop experience with them via a mobile phone. Has it led to some oblivious moments and maybe a little bad behavior? Yes. But I knew I truly loved my iPhone when I walked off a bus and onto the sidewalk and to my office mesmerized by the handset. Yes, I look a little clueless (and might step into a manhole or get hit by a car), but my unconcern with such matters is a measure of how good the iPhone is. Between the browser, the apps and the games, I don’t want to put it down.
Is there room for a phone that can make the whole experience a little more efficient? Sure, and non-smartphone users may welcome that. But Microsoft is also selling its phones as major gaming devices and they’re working hard to stock the marketplace with thousands of apps, evangelizing to developers about the ease of writing for Windows Phone 7. Success for those developers won’t involve a user putting down his smartphone for hours on end. It’ll look more like the stuff Microsoft is parodying.
And the fact is information is real-time now. We are in a world where Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and all manner of news and information is flowing to us all the time. We’re not only consuming; we’re broadcasting more and more, whether its status updates, check-ins or comments. Smartphones allow us to tap into that, and that’s why we’re buying these devices. A new phone that let’s you get back to life won’t stop the flow of information or peoples’ desire to share. No, for Microsoft to succeed, it had better hope that it has its own legion of “Really?!” users, those users who can’t put the phone down. It will mean that people really love their phones and what it offers. It may not make for a funny commercial but that’s the reality of smartphone usage today.
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