When Windows Phone 7 first came out, I remember all of the skeptics and the members of the “cult of Apple”, and even the Android fans, all telling me that WP7 was a passing fad and that Microsoft had wasted its chance to enter the mobile phone market with its failed mobile Operating Systems, “PocketPC” and “Windows Mobile”. I told them all they were insane, because Windows Phone was awesome.
I still firmly believe this. From an overall experience point of view, Windows Phone allows me smoother, faster, more efficient access to everything I need than iOS. My common everyday workflows on a Windows Phone are faster and less intrusive than they are on an iOS device (I won’t even talk about Android… I can barely stomach 30 seconds of interaction with most droids).
So, if I still think that the core of Windows Phone 7 is so awesome, why is the word disappoint in the title of this blog post? The answer is simple: the marketplace or the “app store”. Today, long after the “it’s just a v1 product” excuse has expired, I can go to the Windows Phone marketplace and I become nauseous with what I see there.
Firstly, if you look at the list of top games in the Marketplace, they are either first-party (Microsoft made them or paid someone else to make them under their iron fist) or they are made by giant third-parties like Electronic Arts or any of it’s 80 bajilion subsidiaries. You still see a few good examples of non-MS games but, the point remains – Microsoft and the other gaming giants pretty much own that segment of the Marketplace. This is completely explainable – making a game for a mobile platform is a pure and simple ROI (Return on Investment) calculation. How many potential buyers are there * price per game – production cost total / potential buyers = potential profit. The reason we don’t see as many ports of ridiculously popular iOS games is simple: the ports would probably cost more to make than they would earn. Note probably there, because that notion is very subjective and easily influenced by the paranoia of any given decision maker. Bottom line? Developers are still skeptical.
Secondly is the experience of the marketplace. When I flip through Apple’s App Store, I see a wide variety of great stuff – so much stuff, in fact, that I can’t possibly sift through it all. However, I feel somewhat confident that Apple’s “featured”, “popular”, and other filtering and sorting systems will allow me to find relatively good examples of the type of application I am looking for.
Today, when I go sifting through the Windows Phone marketplace, I feel like I’m walking through the “old times square”. You know, the one that used to be peppered on all sides by strip clubs, peep shows, adult video stores, with a drug dealer on every corner. I’m not exaggerating – In the “most popular” filter for most of the apps in the marketplace I regularly skim past 4 or 5 apps with half-naked women on their icon. I understand that Microsoft may not have full control over this because, after all, if boobs are popular, then boobs are popular and what can they do about it??
The problem is that I can’t see the forest for the trees in their marketplace. I cannot find anything with ease and often some of the most amazing Windows Phone apps don’t show up anywhere – I have to search for them by obtuse keywords that friends have given me who told me about these great applications. Not only is the marketplace diluted with immature fart apps, “boobs” apps, and other garbage for which I have no use, but the worst offense of all is that the marketplace is sinking under a deluge of irrelevant stuff that they could easily filter out. It would literally take them a few hours. But they don’t do it.
Every single time I go to the marketplace to check out what’s new, I see countless apps written entirely in foreign languages that are obviously designed for foreign audiences. If I have to scroll past 150 apps (this is also not an exaggeration, this happened to me recently) just to see something that actually pertains to my search, I am going to give up looking.
And that’s exactly what I have done. I no longer use my Windows Phone for apps. It is a sad, sad commentary because I love Metro, I love Windows Phone, and I absolutely adore the integration, the “hub” concept, and everything else that operating system does so well. But even for a “low app” consumer like me who only regularly uses 3 or 4 apps, the current state of the marketplace turned me off.
If the marketplace’s current state can turn me off, someone with an absolutely insane tolerance for shitty experiences, then I can’t even imagine how quickly standard consumers are being turned off by that same marketplace.