Sunday, August 16, 2009 7:22 PM
Device Stage: Is it too soon to worry?
Ever since it’s announcement by Microsoft, my favorite feature of Windows 7 was “Device Stage”. The idea of being able to use any device I wanted with Windows without the need for heavy and broken 3rd party software was very appealing to me, and the concept seemed not only necessary, but also very overdue.
The thing is, that as builds advanced and Windows 7 got bigger and better, Device Stage somehow lost focus. I was starting to get worried, and so I addressed some people in the Beta team about it.
This is a conversation I had with a Microsoft representative from the Device Stage team in one of the Feature Focus online presentation:
Me: It's my experience that [hardware] manufacturers really like their own 3rd party apps, how sure are you that they'll all be jumping on to the [Device Stage] experience?
Sangeeta Ranjit (Program Manager in Documents, Printing and Device Stage team in Microsoft): The interesting thing about Device Stage is that they can still show or launch their own experiences, as we saw during the demonstration; they can add tasks to launch the browser that go to their online sites. However, they can also add tasks that launch their own applications, for example, let's say that HP have a status monitor application, they can add a task in Device Stage that launches that task or application, so really manufacturers are not loosing anything.
And on another occasion:
Me: What makes you so certain that manufacturers will provide Device Stage experiences for their devices? Are you planning to enforce or require manufacturers to do so, perhaps contractually obligate them?
Microsoft: No, we don’t plan to ‘force’ manufacturers to provide experiences, because Windows 7 is already showing signs of being a huge phenomena, and I think manufacturers are going to want to be part of that, without any need for encouragement on our part.
Ok, so here’s the thing.
Technically, we’re past RTM and quickly approaching GA (General Availability). NONE of my personal devices have Device Stage support on at the moment (using RTM), and even one device that DID have Device Stage support (link is in Hebrew) in Beta 7000 (albeit a bit limited), currently has NO built in device stage support whatsoever.
Device manufacturers are DEAD SILENT about releasing Device Stage packages, and it seems that only a selected few products even have their image in the Devices and Printers window, not to mention a full blown ‘Device Experience’ as Microsoft calls it.
The responses I’ve received from Microsoft have been VERY naive, and are reminiscent of the Vista days when Microsoft would just go “It’s going to be so great that we don’t even need to ask manufacturers to release drivers! They’ll want to do it themselves!” . Of course that was the downfall of Vista, and by the time Windows 7 came around they realized they had to squeeze the manufacturers months before RC to see ANY results by RTM. I’m feeling like Device Stage just isn’t a priority for Microsoft, which is a crying shame.
Microsoft are also naive in thinking that hardware manufacturers will WANT to use Device Stage, with or without their own apps. Manufacturers rarely rely on built-in operating system functions, good as they may be, and they always have some sort of trick of their own, something they spent a lot of time and money developing which they prefer to enforce down the user’s throat rather than use Microsoft’s solutions. There are notable exceptions to that rule though, such as the SanDisk Sansa line of products which is very Windows-Friendly, specifically when it comes to Windows 7. Every single SanDisk or Sansa device I tried – even old ones, all had Device Stage Experiences with them, or at least a full picture icon in the Devices and Printers. My SanDisk Cruzer appeared in all it’s glory in Devices and Printers in the right color even, as did several Sansa Clip and Sansa E200 devices I had lying around the store. All the MP3 players brought up the device stage experience, by the way, including the battery and memory gauges, the sync options, and in some cases – links to the device manual and software updates.
Nothing else seems to work, though. Not only did the devices not have built in ‘out of the box’ support, none of them had ‘experiences’ or even Device Stage Icons with them. Not my phone, not any other phone I tried (Including but not limited to Nokia N95 8GB, Nokia E71, Motorola Razor K3, some Blackberry who’s model I can’t recall, Sony Ericson, etc.), not a single Camera (I tried several Canon models, Nikon and Pantex models), MP3 Player (other than Sansa – I tried several Cowon, Meizu, and other players)…..
But the most disappointing, the most grotesque lack of ‘out-of-the-box’ support was for my Windows Mobile powered device, my HP TravelMate rx5940. The device comes with Windows Mobile 5, and Windows 7 didn’t even recognize it out of the box! In all it’s audacity, it started downloading the Vista-age “Windows Mobile Device Center”, which is the forefather of “Device Stage”, and launched it when the download was finished.
You read it right – a Windows Mobile device that is not supported by a platform for mobile devices on Windows. What an absurdity.
I’m starting to believe that this great feature is going to be a bust. I just see no way Nokia will give up “PC Suite”, and if they do incorporate some experience to Device Stage, it’s only going to be a link to download PC Suite. I don’t see it doing all the other nifty things Microsoft designated Device Stage to do, such as change the ringtone or update the firmware directly from Device Stage without any 3rd party software. And don’t even get me started on Apple….
I just hope that at least my Windows Mobile 5 device gets some sort of native Device Stage support, through an update maybe, because right now it’s nothing short of absurd.