Windows Phone 8: An interview with Greg Sullivan (part one)
We have a chat with Windows Phone's senior product manager, Greg Sullivan, about Windows Phone 8
Know Your Mobile had a chat with Greg Sullivan, senior product manager of Windows Phone, about all things Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface, Xbox Live and why we won’t be seeing a Microsoft-built Windows Phone – at least, not yet.
Here is part one of the interview.
How is Windows Phone doing in terms of sales? Obviously reviews have been positive but you haven't really said anything on this.
I don't have any data to share with you but I know we're seeing really positive trends from the launches of some of the new phones, the Lumia 900, the Titan II, both on AT&T in the States - I follow that pretty closely. We're seeing very positive trends.
I think the point we are at - 18 months after the original launch of Windows Phone 7 - is strong. If you look at Android, for example, or iPhone, people forget it took a while for those platforms to get established. Android didn't have 100,000 apps at this point.
From our perspective, there's really this sequence of events that each one is necessary but not sufficient to get us to where we need to be and we're accomplishing each of those in sequence to be where we need to be for the long term. It started with building a great piece of software that people love.
We only had Windows Phone in five languages on nine pieces of hardware in a relatively constrained regional availability so we knew that the kind of results that had on sales was predictable, right? When you go from global availability on hundreds of networks to five languages in not as many spaces on one kind of high-end phone you can expect what happens.
But we knew that some of that was going to happen because we knew our long-term strategy was dependant on building a phone that people would love, and really focusing on this user experience. So we started there and then we added the developer ecosystem and platform as you've got to have the apps. We just passed 100,000 - that seems to be a fairly significant milestone in terms of the platform getting to critical mass, and I think that's the point at which it gets easier to keep the flywheel spinning because you have this virtuous cycle that occurs - that's another thing that needed to happen.
Then what we've been doing over the course of the last several months, and in fact, just starting yesterday, to deliver what's been called the Tango MCR3 update - a commercial refresh that enables new devices and new languages, come to new markets, support for WCDMA in China, and then also the ability to shrink the footprint of the operating system so that manufacturers can build 256MB phones with a lower cost, devices like the Lumia 610.
Those dynamics really represent an expansion of availability. We get more regions, we get more networks we can run on in new parts of the world, more languages that we support in our user-interface and marketplaces, so we start with this good product, we get developer support, we get it available in more places as we continue to build more partnerships such as the one with Nokia but also our longstanding partnership with HTC, Samsung and others. We continue to work closely with mobile operators and then we do other marketing activities to generate awareness and continue all off the positive virtuous cycle of effects across our ecosystem, and it takes time. We're 18 months in and we take a long-term view.
One of the things you'll see us pretty explicitly do is align with Windows 8. One of the things we talked about last week was Windows Phone 8 has a Shared Core from an architecture standpoint and basically under the hood is Windows 8. And if you look at the user experience of Windows 8, it has kind of adopted our kind of style with Metro so they've adopted this symbiosis, this synergy between our mobile and desktop platforms that you'll see us highlight...Windows is such a big phenomenon in the industry that will generate awareness.
The user experience approach we've taken in Windows Phone, which, as you are experiencing, people really see the value in what we are trying to do here. We would argue that Android largely copied the iPhone interface. I think they have the ability to do widgets, which are different programs that are not necessarily related to the program that is installed on your phone but essentially they have taken the approach of multiple screens of icons that launch apps. And then even within them, the framework of the user experience has got this skewer orphism, - it's less Apple and less consistent. It's kind of all over the place a little bit. The idea is largely the same. It's like ‘here I am going to present you with this grid of icons and you launch app'.
We want to surface and integrate information so you can act on it, and spend less time digging around for apps. Our approach is catching on but we know that each of these things is necessary but not sufficient and we need to continue doing those things and that's what we will do.
How much of an impact will the way Windows Phone 8 is being deployed have on the future? We've had a Windows phone since day one and they are getting the 7.8 ‘stop-gap' update but not the full shared core and all of the other benefits. How much of an effect will that have going forward?
Well it is a generational shift for us architecturally and, we've really thought about it. We've really tried to do the right thing for all audiences and that means making Windows Phone 8 the best possible release we can, and so therefore we targeted the latest generation of hardware by building what are effectively primarily hardware-dependant capabilities that we achieve with this new core.
Right off the bat, it brings us support for multi-core CPUs [like with the Lumia 900], it brings us support for three new screen resolutions, it brings us support for removable SD cards and it brings us NFC in the platform.
So a lot of the work we did and a lot of the capability unlocked by this new core is directly or indirectly related to hardware, and the existing devices in virtually all cases don't have that hardware. It made more sense to focus on making Windows Phone 8 as good as we possibly could, fully exploiting this new generation of hardware. But then at the same time, [it needed to] do two very important things. The first is bringing the marquee user-interface change to existing phones with the new Start screen.