Talking with John Starkweather of MED Division at Microsoft - Part 2

By Mike Temporale on Friday, June 2, 2006

In part 2 of my talk with John we discuss the changes to Windows Mobile that Microsoft made at Motorola's request, the "Palm" experience, Windows Mobile advertising, and a little more Q talk. In case you missed part 1 of the interview, you can check that out over here.

Thanks to John for taking the time to talk with me, and to everyone behind the scenes here at Thoughts Media who helped take that conversation and make it into something that everyone can read and enjoy. Wink

Mike: Back to the Motorola Q here, do you think it worries Motorola at all, I mean, this device has been out in the public now for a while, sneaked pictures and whatnot, and now Samsung quickly announced an i320, which is almost a clone, there was a TechFaith Wireless device, I think at CTIA that looked very similar. Motorola might have had the jump eight or nine months ago, but if it’s taking this long to get out, they could lose that edge.

John: So, it’s always a tough question is when you unveil something, to get credit and to show that you’re an innovator, and a million other business reasons
Mike: I love the landscape support on the screen. It looks fabulous! I’m looking forward to all the other features, like TV and everything else, because it lends itself perfectly for that.

John: It really does. Motorola also with their scroll wheel has done a really nice job. It makes scrolling through things pretty easy. It’s a real scroll wheel – you push on it, and it selects things, there’s a back button next to it, so that’s a nice feature. Without moving, so you’re going through things, selecting them, you’ve got a back button right there in the same spot, so you’re not moving your hand around. I think people find the experience pretty good.

Mike: So it can still be a one-handed experience like the Smartphone is supposed to be.

John: Exactly.

Mike: Interesting. Well, I’m certainly looking forward to that if it ever gets out!

John: All the modifications we make, even if it’s for a particular OEM because we know their roadmap, and we’re gonna help them get a product to market, they’re available to everybody. So, obviously Samsung is doing their behind the scenes stuff, and they’re gonna leverage all that stuff too.

Mike: Now, with Palm, wasn’t it the other way around? You made specific enhancements for Palm that others don’t have access to?

John: No. So, we opened some things up in the software because of some specific requests from Palm, but they’re available to everybody. Palm then went and built the “Palm Experience” on Windows Mobile. It was essentially their custom Today Screen, if you will, where they’ve got the web browser and the search line in the Today Screen to be able to do smart lookup of contacts from the Today Screen. They added the band of pictures to your contacts, or the quicklinks to your contacts – that’s all custom Palm stuff. And, the other custom Palm things are frankly things that any OEM can have done, and that is to think through the experience that someone has with that product, and customize the hardware and the software so they work really well together. With Windows Mobile, we think we product a pretty powerful software platform. But, because every piece of hardware is different, there are tweaks you need to go and make, so that your keyboard works well. When you push the delete key, it actually deletes something – you don’t have to hit other buttons. Some of the quick things that Palm did, for example, if you hold down the OK, it goes right into where you can shut programs down if you need to. There are a lot of little modifications that they did, really just thoughtful ways of thinking about how a person’s actually going to use that device, and how can we put a quick link in there – how can we make this simpler? How can we reduce a few clicks?

Mike: I guess going forward, advertising is a big issue that we don’t see in the Windows Mobile arena, but we do see in places where you have 95% of the market, like XP and everything else. We’re still used to seeing magazines, even though you dominate the market, you still see page ads and that, and the odd commercials and everything else. Is Windows Mobile going to take on that force? Obviously mobility is the future – all the stats show that youth are adopting this like crazy. Marketing in this area certainly should be a key focus to help get your brand out there and help make people aware.

John: Yep. So, marketing is definitely important. It’s the group I belong to, and we take it very, very seriously. For your first question about actual advertising, this year we had our largest to date, campaign that was really focused more on the person who is going to use a device, who also has a job that may use email, that may use Outlook, that may use other applications. We put a lot of money behind that, and next year, we’re actually taking the dollar figure up about five times. The amounts are significant – we’re talking lots of digits.

Mike: So, as your market share is increasing, you’re increasing your marketing/advertising budget.

John: Yeah, exactly, and the advertising I’m talking about is strictly Windows Mobile advertising. You’ve seen it online where you’ve got difference devices, a couple of little tag lines, “That weight on your shoulder is actually weight” is one of the tag lines, “Does your office know about this?”, “You’re able to do lots of things…” – lots of catchy little tag lines. We’re increasing this exponentially next year. Also, there’s a lot of stuff that you don’t necessarily see that we do with operators. So, we put money behind a lot of advertisers, like Palm. Take the Palm Treo for example – stuff you saw from Verizon, there were ads during Superbowl, and we had some branding in there. We were part of a lot of that. We have, around the world, a lot of operators. We do this with operators who can commit to, and are serious about selling lots of devices. Slowly moving forward, you’ll also see that kind of advertising and marketing expand into more consumer types of things. We’ve really felt, and this is no secret, that the low hanging fruit for us to sell a lot of devices is to business customers who already use Outlook. There are 400+ million Outlook users out there. There are, arguably, almost that many customers using Exchange, or Small Business Server, or Hotmail. We need to go and sell to them. So, the subtleties will change next year. You’ll see some more with MSN Properties, Hotmail, for example, is one. There are a couple of operators in Europe who have gone in and actually sold their products based solely on, “Here’s your MSN phone,” because you can go in immediately, and you’ve got Hotmail, you’ve got an offline client, you’ve got a good IM client – all these other things. Then you’ll see other operators like VodaPhone, and they’re gonna push a lot more on consumer, and they’re gonna do it with Windows Mobile. So while underneath the hood, you’ve got Exchange and ActiveSync and VPNing, and a bunch of those kinds of things, they’re going to push Windows Media Player. So will T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s going to push it in a really big way. T-Mobile’s had a music source in Germany and a few other countries in Europe, and they’ve been public about that, about rolling this out in other places. And they’ve been doing that with Windows Mobile devices. And then we have Windows Media DRM, the back end…. So, you’re going to see that kind of consumer stuff happen while we’ll slowly move our sole Windows Mobile advertising in that direction with time. Does that sort of answer your question? We could talk a long time about marketing. There are a lot of things we’re doing with operators – going in and doing joint sales, and most of those are business customers, I don’t know if that interests you…

Mike: I guess my main point is that the average customer on the street who is going to walk into Cingular or T-Mobile, and doesn’t know jack about the different phones out there – how are you trying to reach them to make sure that they make the right choice and pick your phone? But, like you said as things move forward, you are currently focusing on the enterprise customers, and as market share grows, that focus will switch as well.

John: Yeah, but like I said, there are 400+ million Outlook users, that’s our target. And, 400 million, I think that’s a mass market opportunity, especially when we’re selling less than a billion handsets a year. We’re going after half that, and that’s not bad. So, while we might sell to somebody through the mindset of stay on top of your job, the person who’s staying on top of the job is also you and I, and I’ve got all kinds of personal information on my device. In fact, I’ve got one calendar for both my work and my personal life, and the two are mixed. So we feel like there are way more of us, and the channel to go through is that business personality, but it very much is a mass market opportunity. However, there are very few people out there who think of themselves as business users, or as consumers – they think of themselves as people who go to work and play and do all kinds of other things. Give me something that works for me.

Mike: Something that works in all the scenarios that I need.

John: Yeah.

Mike: Absolutely. Compact Framework 2 is not on the phones, is not on AKU2. For developers and everybody else building against this, expecting that the end user won’t have to worry about, do I need this, do I need that, will this work on my phone or not? Is there any reason why that isn’t in AKU2 or upcoming any time soon?

John: I can send you some specific details on that, there’s actually a really good reason, so I’m going to send it to you. It is coming in a future version is what I can tell you.

Mike: Sure, but it’s probably going to be coming in the next release of Windows Mobile, and it’s not going to be something that will be available for existing users to install as part of a ROM update.

John: Let me get you some information, because I know that the team has been working on some backwards compatibility stuff, and this is stuff even last year when we RTNed Windows Mobile 5 they had talked about it. I don’t think it’s as dire as you think. Let me get you the info from the team, and maybe I can even tell you when they’re going to do it.

Mike: Great!

Mike: Now, your favourite device of all time for Windows Mobile, obviously.

John: People ask me that question all the time, and I always tell people, I’m weird. No, really – you’re probably weird too, no offense intended! We use so many things that it’s almost difficult. So, I’ll give you some ideas. The device I had the most hope for of all time, and you’re going to laugh, was the Sierra Wireless Phone.

Mike: You know, I was going to say that! That is a great device. It’s just a little too big and doesn’t have Bluetooth, and those were its limiting factors, but otherwise it was a great phone.

John: I wish they had done it a year later. Had they done it a year later with Windows Mobile 5, I think it would’ve been successful, and had the actual hardware been a little more polished I think it would’ve been a great product. It felt like a pre-production device you were holding in your hand. It was too plasticky and too thick. And we had done some of the software optimization, like supporting keyboards and Smartphone, would’ve made a huge difference for that device. I also have to say, I used to work for Sierra Wireless for a long time back in the CDPD days, and so there was some personal stuff in there too. Currently my favourite device is the HP6900. I feel like it’s a really solid, one-handed device with a keyboard that I can actually use with big fingers like mine. I really like having integrated GPS, and ultimately I like the flexibility of a Pocket PC with a touch screen, which occasionally adds a different dimension in.

Mike: Okay. See, the screen really bugs me, so…

John: And that’s improving. That’s improving. Ultimately, every single one of our devices, I could pick it up and say, wow, I love that. There are some things that I love about the Treo – the GSM version that comes out later this year, that will probably be my favourite device.

Mike: After using a Smartphone for so long, I can’t get used to tapping on the screen anymore. I like the one-handed experience. I like being able to whip it out of my pocket and quickly, bom, bom, bom, and we’re done.

John: I do find that I don’t use the stylus much, but when I do need it, and there are times when I do, I’m frustrated when I don’t have it. In terms of Smartphones, the Q is going to be just a really solid device. People are going to be really excited about it. And for you in particular, you’re a Smartphone guy. Having the GSM version is going to be critical for me, and I think for a lot of people.

Mike: Yeah, and my understanding from the press releases I’ve seen, that’s not even going to be released to carriers until Q4. So, I mean, it’s going to be a year before GSM. In my opinion, that could really hurt their market.

John: They’re going to sell a ton of Qs. They’re going to sell them. There are CDMA operators everywhere but Europe, and they’re going to sell millions of those things. It’s going to be a super successful product. However, the GSM version, it would be nice if it were sooner and I don’t think that’s going to change. I think that’s what Motorola would tell you as well. When the GSM version does come, you’re going to see, true to Motorola, you’re going to see some changes. You’re going to see different colours, better hardware, it’s definitely going to be faster, with more memory, all those things.

Mike: By then I’d really like to see that added on too!

John: They’re totally going to improve that. I’ve seen some early specs, and it looks pretty cool.

Mike: Okay, so if the 6900 is your favourite device, what device are you currently using?

John: I’ve been using the 6900 – I’ve got an early one, which is kinda weird cause most people don’t. But I’m also using the KJAM and the SP5. I carry both of them. My SP5 device I carry all the time, if I’m traveling and I’m not going to have access on my laptop, then I use the KJAM.

Mike: Great. Well, thanks a lot for your time, John.

John: No problem!

Last 3 articles by the same author
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007

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