Archive for the ‘Smartphones’ Category


Microsoft is dead set on making Cortana a key feature in its Windows operating system(Windows 10 mobile and desktop environments). Like the symbiosis between a coral reef and a clown fish Cortana’s success is dependent on the adapting of the other vital player within the Post-PC “ecosystem”. Us.

One thing to remember about the “gimmicky” stuff like speaking Klingon, rolling dice, singing, telling jokes, game references and other things that Cortana is keen to do is that the “system” needs to be trained.

I placed “system” in quotes because I am not referring only to the computer system that is Cortana, but also to the larger “system” which includes both a population of human users and the digital assistant. We human beings who (ideally) will increasingly be engaging Cortana, an Artificially Intelligent Digital assistant, in daily life likely pose the greatest challenge in this equation.

At these very early stages (about 3 years in since Siri’s debut), we humans are still uncomfortable engaging a voice assistant in some contexts. Public engagement (i.e. grocery stores and public transit, etc.) is likely very limited. Even around small groups of friends and family we may be somewhat reluctant to talk to our digital assistants.

My cortana

Engaging via voice, (which is a very human thing to do), a non-human “entity” within everyday day life “feels” unnatural. So if this new method of engaging our highly mobile computers (that’s what our smart phones are) is going to become the norm, which tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and others are betting on there needs to be a paradigm shift where we perceive such engagement as normal, or at the very least socially acceptable.

For that to occur the first barrier to overcome are our own personal reservations, our feelings of discomfort, regarding engaging our voice assistants. We, though excited about the prospects of imaginative technology like KITT (Knight Rider) and HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey), feel self-conscious when talking to our phones around others (the current limits of the tech contribute to those feelings – not quite KITT yet).

Cortanaa Tile

Microsoft has taken on the task of “training the system.” Microsoft’s goal is to “train” us to “feel” comfortable talking to our devices, while we are alone and around others; while also to training others to perceive that people talking to their devices is socially acceptable. Microsoft has taken on this monumental task of trying to direct and influence the social etiquette around engaging a digital assistant in society and to develop in us new habits and perceptions about how we feel about engaging our devices.

Susan 2

Human beings are creatures of habit. The more we do something the more comfortable we become doing it. The more we see something, the more comfortable we become in accepting it within our environment. Thus via Cortana’s “Chit-Chat” function, where users are drawn into “conversations” with Cortana, one is allowed to engage the digital assistant with follow-up questions in relation to a previous question proposed to “her”. This frequency of engagement lends to a greater degree of comfort over time as new habits of engagement are formed and seen within a social context.

Microsoft’s implementing of a users ability to ask Cortana to sing songs, tell jokes; their reaching out to specific sub-groups like 10s of millions of Halo fans with game related questions, millions of trekkies with her ability to speak Klingon and more, draw us into speaking to “her” casually, with the reward of being reciprocated with responses not only that we’d likely get from a human we would be engaging in conversation but also in the manner a human might deliver that information in a light, humorous and/or friendly manner.

It is certainly not uncomfortable hearing the responses Cortana delivers. Actually it’s engaging. The responses can draw us in to ask more, engage further to see what else we can draw out of “her”. Hmmmm. Kind of like we do real people. We often probe a bit deeper when we find a conversation with a person engaging. We reach to see what else can be drawn out.

Cotana info  Cotana Gesture

A derivative effect of our enjoying our engagement with Cortana is then to show others what she can do. Thus widening the breadth of the interaction. Bringing the engagement into a social forum. It will take time. But as Microsoft continues to imbue Cortana with engaging, some would call “gimmicks”, they are building the societal infrastructure, changing human behavior, developing new habits all directing us to become more comfortable talking to Cortana wherever we are.

MUSIC  Location Reminder  Interests

These consistent interactions, via the again some say gimmicky tools, allows the computer side of the system to be frequently engaged, “trained”, accumulating voice data, location data, metrics about what type of interactions take place, when, where, what time of day etc., thus improving the capacity and capabilities of the system.

Interests    Weather   Trip

Now of course it’s not all fun and games. Cortana is very useful now with providing time, location and people based reminders, setting quiet hours, sending text messages, curating interests, tracking flights, providing localized concert and app suggestions, proactive traffic data, learning about the user and more. As she gains more abilities like the imminent arrival of Active Listening(with the wide spread release of Lumia Denim), her efficiency will only grow.

One final note. Microsoft wants the world to know about their digital assistant. It is the Redmond based companies intent that she will be targeted at the 1.5 billion install base of Microsoft’s PC market. The phone debuted her, but the goal is to integrate her with their PC OS (Windows 10) as well. This will allow Microsoft to reach the mainstream electronics consumer audience where they are, most of whom have PC’s (few of us don’t). This is paramount. Tactics like attaching her to the Bing Prediction Engine and using her to predict the World Cup, NFL Games and most recently the very popular ABC program Dancing With the Stars have provided and continues to provide a venue to garner the attention of 10s of millions of people who enjoy those entertainment venues.

By the time Cortana reaches the PC in 2015 she will have achieved important mindshare which Microsoft will be able to capitalize on as she becomes accessible to 100’s of millions of PC users prepped to use her on traditional PC’s, laptops, Windows tablet’s, hybrid’s, and 2-in-1’s all of which will be unified by the form factor agnostic Windows 10 OS. With the onslaught of OEMs releasing and set to release low cost Windows computers(of various forms) and phones, this holiday season and beyond, Microsoft’s foundational efforts to shape user engagement and social etiquette of their Post-PC user interface, Cortana, will be rewarded as she becomes available to over 1 billion Windows users in one fell swoop.

Hey, and since Cortana is from 500 years in the future (there’s certainly no Siri or Google Now in sight in Halo), I think Microsoft’s plan will work out just fine. 🙂SavedPicture-2014714104050.jpg

Microsoft Cortana, Ο ψηφιακός βοηθός έρχεται ___

Cortana: Microsofts Windows Hero Feature

There are some that would argue that the popularity and positive perception of Microsoft’s Cortana is a signal that Microsoft should allow Cortana to ride that wave over to iOS and Android to help disseminate Microsoft’s brand of services to an increasingly iOS and Android centric user base and to further establish Bing’s growth in search.

It is true that Microsoft desires to and is working diligently to expand Bing. To compete against Google who has spread its services across millions of iOS and Android devices, particularly Post-PC devices (smartphone and tablets) Microsoft needs to have Bing and its array of services in front of users as well.

Cortana is popular, and in essence she is Bing. In truth however Microsoft does not need to expand Cortana to competing platforms to put Bing (and other MS services) in front of the users of those platforms. Here’s why.

Microsoft has an install base of 1.5 Billion PC’s across the globe. That’s 1.5 billion PC’s in homes and running most enterprises on the planet. EVERYBODY “knows” Windows, and mostly everybody uses Windows. So how does MS get Bing in front of millions of users or its 1.5 billion users?

  1. Incorporate Bing Search into Windows OS. Yep, they did that in Windows 10. Right there on the start button. That incredibly familiar, highly desired little tool that is constantly accessed by Windows users who have been thoroughly trained over the decades to defer to that bottom left corner of the UI to perform most tasks now picks up the useful and seamless function of conducting both local and Bing powered internet searches. So as the hundreds of millions of PC users update to Windows 10, Bing searches will increase exponentially. Bing!
  2. OEM Partners & Dropped Licensing Fees. We are in the Post-PC era. Tablets and smartphones are the “new” personal computers (though a recent report shows a stabilizing of the decline in PCs).  So how does this help Microsoft? Well When MS dropped the licensing fees of their Windows OS (for devices under 9”) and also offered an affordable SKU of Windows with Bing guess what happened. They added 50 NEW OEM partners. Yes 50 new companies ready to build Windows devices. Bing!

What does that mean you ask? Well it means that holiday shopping season 2014 and the year of 2015 forward are going to look much different for Microsoft than 2012 and 2013 did in the tablet and smartphone space.

Actually take a look around now, you’ll find a slew of affordable tablets and Windows Phones being released by a number of OEMs right about now. Yes they’re running Windows. Yes they’re equipped with Microsoft services. Yes they’re being offered to the “next billion.” Yes at under $100-$300 these Windows tablets, phones, hybrids and two-in-ones will work hand in hand with Microsoft’s plan to get its OS and services in front of millions of users.

The Chromebook, which had low cost as it’s fundamental core advantage over Windows based alternatives, no longer has this cost advantage as OEMs are now building equally and even more affordable windows devices. The price factor in conjunction with other inherent benefits of Windows devices (like not requiring an internet connection to be useful) will make them a more tantalizing option to schools and businesses. Coupled with Windows based services highly affordable devices for consumers, schools and businesses will place Bing and other MS services in the hands of millions starting this holiday season. Bing!

3. Spotlight: Also let’s not forget that Bing not only powers Siri’s search for Apple products but Bing will also be handling Spotlight web-searches in OS X and iOS 8. More Bing; more Ka-Ching for Microsoft! See what I mean. Bing!

4. MSN: Finally, as many articles have pointed out lately Microsoft’s MSN network/services gets a lot of visitors each month. 400 Milliona lot”. Microsoft is a global corporation and 400 million people on this beautiful globe of ours simply love MSN. It’s so popular in fact that Microsoft has revamped the website and rebranded its host of “Bing” apps, Finance, Sports, Health etc. to MSN. So how does this help Bing and Microsoft you ask? Well these 400 million MSN lovers now only need sign on to the MSN site and they’re immediately tied into Bing, along with other MS services, preferences, favorites, interests (Cortana) etc. 400 million. Then of course you have users who are now drawn to the MSN brand that was somewhat forgotten in some regions. But in rebranding apps that were previously Bing labeled some users of those apps are led now to engage the MSN page, a very popular content portal. Thus they actively are beginning to engage MSN content and services and Bing!

So yes, Microsoft needs to get Bing and it’s other services out there in front of millions of users. And yes with Bing search baked into Windows 10 and targeted at its 1.5 billion install base, the millions of tablet/smartphone users that will be purchasing affordable tablets/hybrids/2-in-1’s and phones offered by new (and old) OEMs this holiday season forward, the increased Bing usage as iOS and OS X users using Bing via spotlight, and the 100’s of millions of MSN users who will sign in once and tie into MS services, favorites, interests, Cortana (on PC), Sports, News, Money etc., I think Microsoft has it covered. Added to the fact that Cortana will be part of Windows 10 upon release MS will be reaching hundreds of millions with her PC based services, and millions with Bing and their other products/services, as well as updated apps on iOS and Android that tie into MSN services/content without loosening its grip on, Cortana, their ecosystem (currently Windows Phone) hero feature. Bing!

“Hey I Want a Windows Phone! Cortana’s “Halo” Effect”


Cortana On PC and Windows Phone; Working Together

My Thoughts

Jason L Ward

Originally Sent Wed 8/13/14


It has been pondered in what ways the Cortana experience can be enhanced when the phone and PC come together?” This  outline expresses what has come to my mind as I have given the subject of  “what magic would happen” when the Windows Phone and the PC come together”.

First as we know the experiences of Cortana on the phone are inherently different from what one would look for on a PC or tablet.

There are different needs, limitations and advantages based on form factors and other characteristics.


  1. Small and highly mobile and always with user.
  2. Always connected via cell-phone network data connection or Wi-Fi
  3. Used primarily for communication (texting, messaging, voice)
  4. Used for Web-Surfing
  5. Used for Gaming

Cortana on a Phone

  1. Due to the highly mobile nature and the consistent presence on a user’s person of a smartphone Cortana’s ideal functions in that context are for reminders (Location, People and Time Based) and location based recommendations/suggestions (based on interests and habits) and searches (either web-based or search-type functions specific to specific apps).
  2. She is great for dictation of messages.
  3. She is great at offering suggestions for web-sites to visit based on interests.
  4. As more third party developers embrace her I’m sure we will see more integration with Games, Messaging, Social, Productivity and other types of apps. Insteon for home automation is a great implementation.


  1. Desktop(Not mobile) Laptop/Tablet(Less mobile Than Smartphone)
  2. Limited Connectivity (Likely Wi-Fi Dependent in most cases
  3. Desktops/Laptops
  1. Desktops/Laptops : Used Primarily for Productivity Tasks
    1. Content Creation
    2. File Management
    3. Web-Based Search/Research (Web Searches/Research is primarily for Personal Purposes, Education and Work – finally Leisure/Pleasure)
    4.  Music
    5.  Entertainment (Videos/Movies), Gaming
      Used Primarily as Leisure tools (Content Consumption, Web surfing (Primarily for Pleasure/Leisure),
      Gaming, Videos,
      Limited productivity due to form factor/and market positioning.

Cortana on the Smartphone gets to KNOW a user via the Notebook
She Learns/and is given:

Habits(Whereabouts): Using GPS
Can learn via Web Search’s
Monitors Email

Again, because of the Windows Phones form factor and constant presence Cortana is great for reminders, notifications, recommendations, searching when out and about and moving around. On Windows Phone she is great at assisting a user based on location and time of day, and providing information based on interests.

Cortana on A PC (Desktop)

Should also employ the NOTEBOOK function to ensure that she gets to KNOW the user within other contexts in which she is now serving that user.
The focus of what Cortana knows or learns about the user in the context of a desktop however would be different from what she knows about the user on the Windows Phone. However this information would be added to Cortana’s knowledge of the user via the Notebook.
Whereas Cortana may sporadically proactively interject into the users activities or require direct activation by the user in the diverse and dynamic mobile Windows Phone environment her “presence” or function in the static task oriented PC context can be more intensive, continuous and collaborative.
Because the desktop environment is static and task oriented Cortana should know in REAL-TIME WHAT the user is DOING. She should be actively monitoring the task being conducted so that she can offer assistance when needed. (This level of “perception” of course would be optional and controlled via the Notebook)
Example: Cortana could be integrated into MS Word (and other desktop apps) and able to monitor in real-time what is being written. Such as if a user is writing a paper on the Civil War.

Via her interface which could be a “Windowed” card-based system akin to that present on the phone, she can offer relevant data (culled from the web or the users on data on the PC) proactively and unobtrusively in relation to what is being typed.

For instance if the last sentence typed was regarding President Abraham Lincoln and his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Cortana can offer in a card based format a brief synopsis about Lincoln and the effects of that proclamation. (This is just a single example. There are many other applications as one considers Cortana’s integration in various apps and the Windows OS in the desktop.

Listening Mode: Cortana can also be in a constant Listening Mode, so that as the user types and works on some task she can be directed to conduct a specific search, or via a verbal “Show Me More” command, provide more comprehensive information about what she proactively presented via the card in the previous example given above.
(The option for text based interaction as implemented on Windows Phone could also be present in the Desktop version)
Because she will be always assisting(watching) She can be instructed to conduct a supplemental task associated with a task that the user is currently performing and understand from context what is being requested.

For example: If reading an article about Robin Williams in Internet Explorer, the user can say, “Cortana, find another article on this topic and launch in another window.” Cortana can do so while the user still reading.

Or the user can say to Cortana (because she’ll be integrated in the app,

“Cortana, Copy the title and first three paragraphs and paste them into a Word document.”  Cortana will then execute this command. This is not only highly efficient but a powerful implementation for the disabled.

8.       Cortana can also begin to learn you’re writing style: If there is a long pause after writing, atypical of what she has “perceived” to be a user’s typical pause between writing she can deduce that the user has hit a wall or has writers block.

She can then, having been “watching” all along, and in the background (real-time) been curating relevant data from the web as the user typed (remember experience of Cortana on PC can be highly collaborative), the users own notes in other documents or media located in OneDrive and/or the Local PC), inquire if the user needs assistance having prepared a host of data related to the last topic/subject in the paragraph.

Ex: Cortana: Jason, can I be of assistance?

Me: Yes, I’m stuck.

Cortana: Ok, I found this in

·         Your documents: “Outline of the Civil War”

·         These websites that might help. (2-3 Links to Articles)

·         And this Video on OneDrive

·         I would also like to remind you that you visited the Civil War Museum last week. There may be information you learned there that can help.(This information would have been pulled from her location services utilized on Windows Phone)

Additionally: If Cortana is integrated with Kinect for Windows or a webcam, she can “see” a user’s inactivity as another prompt to offer assistance.

Cortana on PC and Phone
How Cortana can Work Across Platforms
Because the Cortana on the PC will be the SAME Cortana on Windows Phone (Exclusivity adds value to ecosystem) she will be accessing the same notebook and will know the user within various contexts and across various tools.

Example of Assisting Via Phone Based on Previous PC Activity:
Location Notification/Assist: the user who was writing the paper on the Civil War may now be driving through town. Via knowing the users location Cortana on Windows Phone will “realize” that the user has just driven past a key Civil War location or monument and proactively offer this information because she KNOW’s it is relevant to the user based on her recent collaboration and assisting of the user on the same subject on the PC.

Location Notification/Assist: A user may have been researching Natural Foods and a Healthy Diet on his/her PC/Tablet, so now while out and about they may come within proximity of a Health Food Store and Cortana on the Windows Phone can notify the user of this store.

Following the above example: A user may be researching Natural foods and a healthy diet on the PC. Cortana in collaboration notices that there is a Famers Market the coming weekend. Cortana can then alert the user on the PC about the Famers Market and ask if they would like her to add it to their calendar.

People Notification/Assist: A user may have been researching something about taxes on their PC.
Sometime later the user receives a call from a friend who is a CPA.  Cortana “sees” this job title in contacts and proactively suggests asking the caller for assistance utilizing the reminder format she currently does with People Based Reminders.

Scenario Two: Cortana on the PC can proactively suggest asking the friend who is a CPA for assistance while the user is at the PC.

Application Integration: Returning to our example of the user writing about the Civil War: If the user has a TV Listing type app such as the Comcast app, or if Cortana by default can be tied via the internet to TV listings for various services (Comcast/Dish Network/etc.)  she can then proactively suggest watching a program that may be scheduled to air on the history Channel related to the Civil War. This alert can appear on Desktop, Tablet or phone as a suggestion by Cortana.
Ex: Cortana: Jason, A History of the Civil War is scheduled or air 9pm tonight. Would you like me to add that to your schedule?
Me: Yes
Cortana: Ok. Got it! “History of the Civil War” has been added to your schedule.

Music: Naturally Cortana on PC should be able to play whatever music one has on their PC via a voice command. However she could also be able to play a song online per request that is not on a user’s device.
Because Cortana is the World’s First PERSONAL Digital Assistant, as she learns favorite places, and inner circle contacts, she can also learn FAVORITE MUSIC.
Via integration with music apps such Xbox Music (and others on Phone/PC) as a user plays music on any device she should learn what specific songs, as well as specific genre or artist the user prefers. This information would be culled from usage of the Music Apps on Windows Phone AND PC/Tablet creating a central knowledge base for the Notebook from multiple sources.
When a user is at the PC they can tell Cortana, “Play may favorite album.” Cortana will then begin to play the album.
If Cortana “sees” that the user is beginning to shut down or leave the PC (the user may begin closing apps, or shutting down stopping/pausing the music, or via webcam/Kinect for Windows she may “see” the person leaving the room, or if the user picks up the phone and Cortana “perceives” this action via the accelerometer and gyroscope) she can offer to continue playing the music via the Windows Phone. Thus providing continuity across devices.

3.       Cortana should also be able to move files via voice between folders. Since both the PC and Windows Phone have independent file systems BUT share OneDrive a user should be able to navigate files ON the devices via voice and BETWEEN the devices with ONEDRIVE as the mediator (or conduit) via Voice if desired.

Ex: A user may be working on a file on their Windows Phone while on the subway/bus after work.

User: “Cortana, Transfer this file to Folder Expense Reports (a folder on the PC) when I get home.

Cortana: Ok, I will transfer file, August Expenses, to expense reports when you get home.

(When the user gets home the location based event is activated (Cortana of course is already working in the background on the PC) Cortana transfers the file to OneDrive first in order to transfer it to the local folder on the PC, Expense Reports.

4.       Cortana should also be able to CONTINUE a document on one device that has been started on another device either by proactively offering to do so and/or by command.

1.       Ex: If a user starts a document on the subway/bus he can say,

User: “Cortana, let’s* work on this on my PC when I (we) get home (or at 6pm, or 2 hours after I get home or after dinner) (she can learn ones dinner schedule).

At the designated time Cortana will open the document on the PC (which can be in a different room) and remind the user via the phone that the document is open and ready to be worked on.

2.       This can work both ways PC to Phone or Tablet. Ex: If a user begins a document at home and has a long commute via bus/train,

User: “Cortana, let’s* start working on this document ten minutes after my commute tomorrow.”

Minutes into the train ride Cortana Alerts the User:

Cortana: Jason, our* document is ready; would you like to begin working on it now? (Can even have snooze option)     (Using words like let’s and our give a more personal and collaborative interaction)

5.       Cortana on PC should be able to transfer folders locally on the PC via voice, as well as perform other desktop functions such as opening and closing apps, selecting, copying and pasting text, shutting down the system etc.

6.       Cortana should be able to manage communication methods between Windows Phone and PC/Tablet.

When Windows Phone is in proximity of the PC or Tablet Cortana should offer (or have a default setting where she can always be permitted) to hand off calls, texting, messaging to the other device.

Temporary/Transient Interests for Active Support by Cortana on Temporary Projects

Cortana on PC/Tablet/Windows Phone should be able to assign/designate within the single Notebook temporary/transient interests based on a user’s recent activity on any device so that she can actively support the user by proactively offering information within all contexts (Static- PC or Mobile – Windows Phone/Tablet) to the user from all source to which she is connected:

·         The Internet

·         Apps

·         OneDrive

·         Windows Phone Memory

·         Local PC/Tablet

This category of interests would not be the permanent interests of the user which may be “learned” by Cortana over a longer period of activity surrounding that interest.

The temporary/transient interest category would be utilized by Cortana to cull information from all sources to which she is connected (Web, OneDrive, Apps, Local PC/Tablet/Windows Phone) to serve the user’s needs for a temporary task that she is collaborating with the user to complete.

Examples of a Temporary Task with an interest which has a limited lifespan:

·         A Project

·         A Term Paper/Presentation

·         Planning For a Family Trip Vacation

·         Planning an Event (Birthday Party/Wedding)

Cortana would proactively offer information due to the user’s activity on a subject on PC/Tablet and Windows Phone based on the user’s location, interaction with others (people based), TV listings, community event and a myriad host of other information she culls from diverse sources.

Learning Temporary/Transient Interests

Whatever measure is used now that allows Cortana to learn a user’s  permanent interests, could be applied using a shorter window and some other measure such as length of time researching a topic, writing on a topic, time spent in a location (Art Museum) etc., to prompt Cortana to ask if that topic should be added to temporary/transient interests.

To bypass a prompt. There can also be a default a setting to allow Cortana to add all activities (based on these and other parameters) for which an interest has been perceived, to Temporary/Transient Interests.

Interests would remain within this category only for as long as Cortana perceives the users activity (writing, researching, traveling to a location related to the subject etc.) in that subject or topic.

A designated period of inactive time in that activity could be set by default in the system (or options i.e. 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks could be available to the user) after which Cortana removes that interest from the Temporary/Transient interest category having perceived her assistance is no longer required in that area because the task is complete.


Thank you for your time. I know that the teams are working very hard on Cortana for phone and PC and realize that I am offering a user’s perspective without the benefit of knowing the full status of the progress the teams have made and internal ideas presented and implemented. So I offer these ideas fully respecting the hard work you and all others are engaged in.

I believe what I have shared gives PC users of ALL mobile ecosystems a great and valuable experience on the PC while providing an enhanced experience for users of Windows Phones. Thank you for your time and I look forward to talking to you more about these and other thoughts that are at the precipice of my mind.

Additional Suggestion Cortana and Voice Recognition


Live Folders allow you to Group apps on the home screen and they continue to deliver up live dynamic data from within the Folder.


 SavedPicture-201472114514.png wp_ss_20140423_0001


Windows Phone. Yes that persistent and scrappy mobile OS with the elegant and the fluid UI that heralded in the age of the minimalistic user interface which has been mimicked by the likes of Apple. Yes that mobile OS, which is loved by millions, confidently clawing its way, while  boldly flashing its Live Tiles to 4% global market share. Yes that mobile OS with a user base with consistently high satisfaction ratings rivaling the ratings of the other popular platforms.

We WinPhans (Windows+Phone+Fans) occupy a growing and dedicated fraction of the smartphone market. We love Microsoft’s unique and personal implementation of the mobile OS and there are many reasons why; many. Yet we do lament some of the casualties of this smartphone war. You know those unique purely Windows ‘Phonesque” features that drew us in and compelled us (and Ben the PC Guy) to show our friends and families what a Windows Phone could do.

I think there is a lot of passion that we Windows Phone users have about our platform of choice, and a great deal of pride. My friends and family are witnesses of my own commitment and passion about the platform. It is often a topic of conversation, and my local ATT store knows me as well. I’m sure many of you have similar stories. I have been successful at converting about (9) nine people in my circle to Windows Phone. I’m sure it doesn’t do much for our barely 4% market share but we’re a passionate bunch. This is what we do.

I think what really drew many of us in was Windows Phones distinct identity. There is no way in the world Apple will be bringing Microsoft to court for mimicking its Operating system or User Interface. That’s a Samsung and Apple beef. In an article posted at MacDailyNews on 5/28/2014 the author made the following audacious claim about Apple consumers, products and rivals in the industry.

“Apple does not chase market share. Apple develops world-class products that delight users. One Apple customer is worth more than a gaggle of those who settle for poor imitations of Apple products.”

Ouch. Pretty sharp words. Yet I’m almost certain the writer could not have had Microsoft’s Windows Phone in mind when he typed those hubris laced words.  It’s abundantly clear to anyone with eyes that Microsoft has NEVER tried to be LIKE Apple with the Windows phone platform. Quite frankly it is the furthest thing from an imitation product one will find on the market.

WP_003201 (2)
My Lumia 1020 with the Windows Phone 8. Resizable, Dynamic Live Tiles adorn the screen. Far Different than iOSs and Androids Static Grid of icons.

So much so that the horde of iOS and Android users find it awkward, a tad confusion, at first blush, until they play around with it a bit to learn it’s unique UI and navigation properties. iOS and Android’s UI with side scrolling pages of static icons are so similar that some may confuse moving effortlessly between those two platforms as inherent intuitiveness of those OS’ users interfaces and the slight learning curve associated with using something as unique, yet simple as Windows Phone as unintuitive. At any rate I’m sure the “poor imitations” the writer was referring to most certainly must be Android devices.

Ok, back to what drew us in. I know I’m preaching to the choir here but, our passion and love for this platform for MOST if not ALL of us is because of the UNIQUENESS of the platform.

Live Tiles:

No UI does it like Windows Phone! Graphically minimalistic tiles that deliver up the data/info that is the most important reason we interact with our devices. “Glance-and-Go” was the early mantra. You guys remember that. Yes, Live Tiles, we love them, and  show them off and compare their dynamic, lively, efficient, purposeful beauty proudly against those dead, stoic wallpaper of icons on iOS and android devices.

 Windows Phone allows for rich personalization of a users home screen with transparent Live Tiles that sit above any image a user chooses. The tiles flow smoothly over the image offering a slight parallex effect.

  wp_ss_20140624_0001Spiderman Backgroundwp_ss_20140721_0002


Live lock screens are also a great personalization option on Windows Phone.

Sure Android has widgets but they are not as elegant, graceful or as smoothly integrated into a phones UI as Live Tiles are on Windows Phones. Yeah we LOVE our Windows Phones.

Social Network Integration

Ok sticky point! If you’ve been around in the Windows Phone camp for a while this of course was one of the most loved aspects of the platform. I admit that I have two Windows Phones, a  Nokia Lumia 1520 which I upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1 Update1 and a Nokia Lumia 1020(in all its 41 megapixel PureView glory) with Windows Phone 8 which I refuse to update. One I would like to do a comparison between the two OS’s. Two I prefer the original implementation of social network integration that originally elicited my excitement and passion for the platform. Yes this is where things get sticky for Windows Phone fans who want to really talk up the platform while remaining firmly footed in the foundational message of the Windows Phone camp; those who wish to be confident that they have a cohesive and consistent message to hurl out to the world. “Windows Phone is great because of…”

-rich and  efficient dynamic Live Tile. Yes! And  tightly integrated Social Networking….hmmmm…ok, yes it’s kind of still there with extensibility and all but it’s different. The previous implementation made the phone itself like a seamless portal to our social networking world. We integrated with our friends on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter without ever seeing those apps.

This was a powerfully graceful implementation of the people-centric, vs the app-centric method employed by Apple and iOS. How many of you are like me and absolutely hate when a friend messages you on Facebook (using Facebook messenger)and instead of going to that person(as in Windows Phone 8.0 or Messaging Hub) you have to get to the Facebook messenger app to communicate with them(in Windows Phone 8.1)


The Seamless communication with the people we care about via a single “portal” is a casualty of this smartphone war. Microsoft sacrificed it, Kamikaze style (as it advanced to bring the OS on par with iOS and android) in favor of the more cumbersome app-centric method used by the competition where a user must chase their friends and family through various apps to communicate with them. I understand extensibility connects apps to the OS, and this separation of apps from OS level integration makes updates a bit more nimble. It’s a pity that communication has become a bit more clumsy as a result.

This is what is sticky. The deep social network integration on the OS level that made the social network Apps invisible as we interacted with people, messaging that was centralized via a Messaging Hub allowing communication with one person via one portal rather than requiring multiple apps; an aesthetically pleasing Photos Hub that had a personalization touch allowing ones images to occupy the background, and which also integrated images of friends and families from social networks, a Me Tile that served as the Control Center that delivered up notifications when someone liked a Facebook status, tweeted you, and allowed you to post to multiple networks simultaneously (thank God for developers who created apps like ShareIT and MultiShare but the native implementation was awesome), a Peoples Hub/Contact Cards that allowed you to comment on and like posts and view and interact with images on social Networks without ever leaving the “Persons” contact card.

People hub people-hub THIS

What am I saying here? One, again, I certainly understand to some extent the reason for pulling certain functionality out of the OS to allow for more efficient and frequent updates to apps without requiring an OS update. I also recognize all of the incredible things that came with Windows Phone 8.1. But I think there’s a point of acknowledgment that needs to be made and I think it echoes the passion of many Windows Phone Fans (WinPhans).

We don’t have a consistent message. We’ve lost some of the core things that drew us to the platform, some of the things you, me and Ben the PC Guy adamantly used to promote the platform. Deep social network integration, Hubs, the power of the Me Tile, the people centric nature of the OS evidenced in various areas such as messaging, photos, the People Hub and more. People First; Windows Phone is about the People you Care About. Glance and Go. Windows did by default what other platforms needed apps to do.  We were drawn in by these messages, embraced them, and promoted them to friends and families and well, now some of those things are gone or changed. The Windows Phone challenges that Ben the PC Guy used to facilitate are no longer valid now that Windows Phone works much in the way iOS and android work in many regards. Yes now that Windows Phone is more app-centric than people-centric in some areas. A pity.Windows-Phone-7_5-messaging

Please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Windows Phone. I’m all in. The platform still retains many of the benefits that make it great!  What I am talking about here is the shifting of a core message that most of us embraced, which we can no longer use to promote the platform. It makes it a cognitive challenge when certain elements of the platform which were purely and entirely unique are now gone, and the visible thing that replaced what was lost as collateral damage were much desired and needed functionality which simply brought the platform on par with the competition such as the long awaited  Notification Center. Which seems to have neutered one of the most unique Windows Phone features, the notification gathering, social networking connecting and social sharing powerhouse the Me Tile.

It used to be easier to rattle off a bunch of unique features found only on Window Phone. Granted there are still many, but the conversation has changed, it’s not as WAM-BAM WINDOWS MAN easy to pitch and demo quick unique features.

Windows-Phone-8-People-Hub-Panorama_      Photo Hub

Not only has our message become a tad bit more difficult to deliver but the emotional aspect and disappointment many of us accepted as we moved forward with updating to Windows Phone 8.1 and sacrificed some core functionality we previously embraced was also real. It’s pretty tough but, it is what it is. Yet…

Apple Tim Comm

Apple has a message. They belong to an elite group that prides themselves on belonging to one of THE most esteemed brands on the planet; a group led by a man that changed the world before he passed. Yes, they belong to a group that receives constant validation from the media, tech reviewers, bloggers that they are indeed who they believe they are. This message doesn’t change. They’re message is not necessarily founded on the tech – but the brand. That’s why even when the iPhone lags behind the competition technologically the followers follow. The first iPhone was far less capable than any Windows Mobile device on the market at the time, but the UI and Jobs’ (you have to give it to him) awesome presentation sold the world on the – brand. And it’s only gotten bigger (the brand) since.


The Android camp has a message too. Yes the tech dudes love the open OS (a lot of Windows Mobile guys like myself who loved the openness of that platform defected to android) but at 80% of the market most of those users are not techies. So what’s the deal with android user’s dedication to the platform? I think its reaches down to that fundamental characteristic about all of us. Here’s an example. You’re walking down the street and suddenly everyone begins running in the opposite direction. You have no idea why but if everyone else is doing it can they be wrong?

The ubiquity of android from the very low quality virtually give away phones to the high quality flagships like the Galaxies puts Android phones in everyone’s view. Even the non-techies see Android everywhere, are pushed android devices, even phones given to low income citizens are android devices (maybe WP should get the 530s as part of that program). Anyway, stats such as the glaring 80% of the global market are indeed a validation to those committed to the platform that yep, this is the place to be.


Ok so Apple has the elite luxury branding message, Android the sheer vastness of their dominance/platform openness (of course we techies see thing like specs and stuff). So what’s Windows Phone message; one that works for all Windows Phone users? What message rings united across us all. Does the people centric message still work? Does the social network integration still apply (technically yes, but you hit the app icon to get there, you “see” the app)? What about live tiles? Is that enough of a differentiator? Cortana, I posit is a powerful selling point. She’s different and she has the entire halo brand behind her, and with the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Nightfall, and Halo: 5 and the Showtime Steven Spielberg Halo TV Show – Microsoft has the opportunity propel her and Windows Phone into the collective consciousness. Shortcoming, she’s not in every region. Windows Phone users making a cohesive statement like:

“Apple does not chase market share. Apple develops world-class products that delight users. One Apple customer is worth more than a gaggle of those who settle for poor imitations of Apple products.” (This statement is consistent with the message of a dedication and embracing of the BRAND)

,is a bit of a challenge. I believe that some of the core elements of Windows Phone have changed. Maybe a regrouping is in order, a concise message devised around what is strictly unique and then a concerted onslaught! This statement wouldn’t work for us.

WP Reivented around you

“Microsoft does not chase market share. (Our camp is madly chasing share) Microsoft develops world-class products that delight users (they absolutely do, however because the platform is trusted to other OEM’s WP users may not experience the WP OS on a Microsoft device). One Microsoft customer is worth more than a gaggle of those who settle for poor imitations of Microsoft products. (One thing about Apple is that their margins are REALLY high. They make more profit than OEMs with larger share).”

One final note. Yes, in answering the call to be more competitive Microsoft has brought Windows Phone on par with iOS and android and have incorporated many widely requested features. Yet as mentioned these updates came at the cost of some of the core features that made Windows Phone unique.

Here’s the challenge. Our camp would love for iOS and android users to join our team and leave their platforms behind. Yet a candid and honest question now would be, what is the incentive? I understand that the added features and the more app-centric approach makes the transition from those platforms smoother for those who may defect. Yet, if the message that rings loudly is that Windows Phone can now do what iOS and Android can do, but can no longer do what Windows Phone was known to do, why switch?

I heard the spin that was put on the message. In the early days of Windows Phone, before the apps became available, the deep social networking was necessary. Now that the platform is more mature, Hubs and the like needed to evolve or rather go extinct. Here’s a cautionary reality. Apple and Google traditionally advance their OS’s acquiring new feature sets while retaining the old. They keep their message, they enhance the experience. It will be a sad day in the Windows Phone camp when either one or both Apple and Google implement people centric features into their respective OS’s akin to what Microsoft sacrificed in Windows Phone. Sure we’ll cry foul and say we had that first; but they’ll have it “now”.

 At any rate here we are and it’s certainly not all a lost. Not by a looong shot. Though Winphans have gone for quite a ride  from Windows Mobile, to windows Phone 7, to Windows Phone 7.5 and to the abrupt halt for some at 7.8. We’ve grown to Windows Phone 8.0 and then 8.1. Now we stand firmly and confidently with Cortana and 8.1 Update 1 in our hands.

 My cortana

So despite my lament Windows Phone has many features that make it a premiere mobile OS option. Windows Phone has the most fluid UI on a mobile device. It runs very well on low to high end hardware. Windows Phone from the efficient Live Tiles, extensibility that allows a multitude of 3rd party apps to tie into the OS, transparent tiles and other configuration choices that allow for additional personalization options, integrated Office, Skype, Onedrive and OneNote, industry leading imaging tech (for the Lumia range of devices), the most personal digital assistant Cortana (the only digital assistant whose API is open to developers), the most elegant and productive implementation of folders on a mobile OS with live folders, Xbox integration, and so much more, make Windows Phone a powerfully competitive option.

The Normandy is likely a bridge to Windows Phone Devices Like the Lumia 1520 Pictures here.        xbox-gaming-windows-phone

So now what is our common message?

With Smartphones acting more and more as extensions of our person the common message can center on a core experience that we all love about Windows Phone and also what Microsoft pushes as part of the platform; how personal it is.  A statement centered on how personal Windows Phone is ranging from the UI to the Digital Assistant, Cortana, can be a battle cry around which we can all rally! After all what makes someone more satisfied than something made just for them? With all of the transitions, challenges and changes the platform has endured one thing that has never changed is that Windows Phone is indeed the most personal mobile platform. This fact has been greatly enhanced by Cortana – the worlds most personal digital assistant.

So why should iOS and android users switch? Well:

1. Windows Phone is the most personal mobile platform with the most personal digital assistant– Cortana.

2. Windows Phone integrates more efficiently  with the most prolific desktop platform on earth – Windows. Most homes and Businesses utilize Windows based PCs

3. Live tiles provide the only implementation on a mobile OS where information can be efficiently delivered to a user for the  truest “glance and go experience.”

4. Cloud connectivity places all of your content seamlessly within reach from any device or browser. Content creation and consumption is easy on Windows Phone.

 These are just a few reasons. I’m sure that all of you WinPhans out there are itching to add to this list. Have at it. Head down to comments and share your thoughts!


It would be great to see some of the lost functionality return in a later update. Wouldn’t it? 😉




Cortana is Window’s Phone’s Hero Feature!
Cortana, unlike Siri and Google Now, due to the runaway success and current pop culture appeal of the Halo franchise of which “she” is a part, is a smartphone feature with the potential ability to be the selling point for millions of devices!

Cortana: “Her Story Continues With You” – Prelude

Halo’s Cortana is the popular AI Assistant to Master Chief from the highly successful Halo gaming franchise which is set 500 years in the future. This franchise spans 15 years, several games, novels, collectible’s, digital films and an upcoming Show Time TV series produced by Stephen Spielberg.

Cortana couple 2

My wife and I sporting our Cortana T-Shirts. Microsoft’s Cortana has a pop culture identity, unlike Siri and Google, that transcends the Windows Phone platform of which “she” is currently a part. When is the last time you saw a Siri or Google Now T-Shirt?

My cortanaI wrote  an earlier piece called “The “Halo Effect” – Halo Destiny: Cortana, Her Story Continues With You” – in which I share how Cortana’s back story as part of a HIGHLY popular video game franchise that spans nearly 15 years, which has spawned several sequels, a number of novels by best selling authors, collectibles, web-based films, a professional digital series to be released this Fall with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a ShowTime TV Show called simply Halo: The TV Show produced by Stephen Spielberg and yet another sequel in the franchise, Halo 5, makes the “character”, Cortana, a pop culture icon.

    Halo TV Series Announcement  

“She’s” very popular boasting 10s of millions of Halo fans, as a result of her position as an essential assistant in the very involved Halo games. Beyond the games she is part of the enduring works released to the general culture through novels, collectibles and media as well as the soon to debut 2015 ShowTime TV series. No other digital assistant has that degree of pop culture identity independent of the platform of which it is a part.

Microsoft has an incredible hero feature with Cortana which has not only proven to be popular but with her Bing and neural network based foundations she has proven to be, within the 3 months since her debut as a beta via the Developers Preview, a very capable and useful assistant with capabilities surpassing her”older” rivals. People based reminders, where a reminder can be generated specific to an individual are unique to Cortana and the Windows Phone OS of which she is a part. This function of course is in addition to the standard and useful time and location based reminders. Her neural network base which enables her to learn and to offer proactive information sets her well ahead of Siri(Apple has recently invested in neural network technology). Her predictive tech capabilities put her in league with GoogleNow. Yet the addition of her very personal “personality” and the privacy controlling Notebook function sets her ahead of even Google’s capable assistant.

The fact that she will be on EVERY Windows Phone 8 device, because Windows Phone 8 is optimized for low end hardware, gives her a ubiquity her rivals can’t replicate to this point. Yes, Cortana can sell phones. Microsoft just needs to tell the story.


The “Halo Effect” – Halo Destiny: Cortana, Her Story Continues With You




The Windows Phone Cortana interface. “She” can be interacted with via Voice OR text unlike Siri and Google now which are restricted to voice interaction.