iPhone + iTunes + AppStore + Services: Microsoft, please note.

I purchased an iPhone (3G) a week or so ago. It has been an interesting experience getting used to a device that is not based on the Windows Mobile platform. Within fifteen minutes of having the device I was able to get access to my Exchange e-mail which was nice, but it took me until today to figure out a way to download e-mails from my two Hotmail-based accounts to the device.

I’m using a service called Izymail which basically front-ends Hotmail and provides a POP3/SMTP or IMAP/SMTP interface which the iPhone can use. It works fairly well although it wasn’t nearly as easy to set up as Exchange to iPhone (how ironic).

Having said that – I like how Izymail is providing a service for device users for which they will (most likely) surrender their hotmail, hence Live ID password for, where is the Live platform support for the iPhone Microsoft?

Microsoft is probably holding out because they want their mobile platform to take on the iPhone, and in the spirit of increasing competition, here are the areas that I think Microsoft needs to address.

  1. Roll out a global media store; one of Microsoft biggest strengths is its partners. One of Microsofts biggest weaknesses are its partners. Microsoft has a multitude of partners for everything from digital media players to the music providers compatible with the Microsoft platform. However when Microsoft finally stopped the consumer confusion and gave us the Zune, they failed to roll it out globally. If it isn’t global, it doesn’t exist – well not for me anyway.
  2. Compete with MobileMe on all devices; the Live team already has an awesome mail platform with Hotmail which includes calendaring support. So why not figure out how to hack the iPhone so that we don’t have to use services like Izymail? My guess is that people are leaving Hotmail for MobileMe because it works with their iPhone, their PC, and their Mac, as well as through the web-browser. Microsoft’s cross platform offerings are fractured with incomplete support for even their own products like Entourage:mac.
  3. Re-write Windows Mobile; the platform is showing its age. If it was up to me I would be taking something similar to the iPhone hardware base and building a platform from the ground up based on a .NET runtime (to encourage traditional developers to target the platform) and Silverlight as a rendering platform – although I am not sure what you would use as a browser. The underlying OS might be OK on Windows Mobile, but the UI stack is too slow, and not finger friendly (it was designed for a stylus).
  4. Roll out a global application store; one of the things that really excites me about the iPhone is the AppStore. One of the reasons that mobile development hasn’t really taken off like it should have was that it was a complete pain to get any application of value onto a device, and then keep it up to date. The iPhone AppStore integration has shown us how it needs to be done – and it also includes a payment model – in fact when I started writing this post, it was the only thing that I was going to write about. You’ve already got people using SalesForce.com with iPhone, and its a three minute exercise to get it going.
  5. Leverage the devices for digital identity; a Windows Mobile device that felt like an iPhone would be one kick-arse CardSpace identity selector. Figure out a way to allow people to walk up to a machine and issue a card from their device. This could be the beginnings of an awesome payments system.

The interesting thing about this is its all about providing a service on top of a software/hardware platform. Software + Hardware has been an advantage of Apple’s for a time, but Microsoft if they come in with a Software + Hardware + Services angle could win the game – but they have to do it fast, and don’t rely on your partners.

One thought on “iPhone + iTunes + AppStore + Services: Microsoft, please note.

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