Those of you who have been following my blog closely (even those of you who don’t read Hebrew), know that there’s one particular feature of Windows 7 which I was overtly excited about. That feature is the much anticipated and eventually disappointing “Device Stage”.
Device Stage was supposed to be this window that pops up when you connect a device to your computer. Any device. The Window’s icon would be a photo-realistic icon of that device, and the stage would allow you to sync files, see battery and memory status, and even upgrade firmware and change ringtones. All in a built-in, 1st party, OS based unified interface. Sounds great, right? Finally, no more lousy 3rd party software that keeps crashing, no more compatibility issues, just one big unified bonanza of… unification.
The Rise and Fall of “Device Stage”
When the Windows 7 Beta 1 was out back in January, I roamed around a bit. Back at the time, the only device I could get Device Stage to launch for was my Nokia N95 8GB (post is in Hebrew), but even that had limited functionality – media transfer mostly. Around the internet I found several people who have had some luck with some other devices, but not much more than myself. On every release since then to date, the feature was completely missing. No matter how I tried to connect my devices, device stage would not launch. I addressed Microsoft developers with this issue early on (around Beta 2), and they said that when Windows 7 launches (November 22nd), the Device Experiences as they call them would be ‘activated’.
November has seen come and gone, and Device Stage is mostly non-existing. If you try to Google search it, most results are from January 2009 or even October 2008. So where did it go?
Romancing the Vendors
While as a whole Windows 7 is a great success on many aspects, “Device Stage” is a failure. It’s not that the platform isn’t good, it’s just that Microsoft should have anticipated it’s reception (or rather lack there-of) better, and ‘convinced’ the hardware manufacturers (“OEMs” or Vendors henceforth) to use this great platform to unify device integration with the Windows operating system (heck, if they could be convinced to use the same power/data connector for all future devices, why the heck not a single software synchronization platform?)
OEM Vendors, however, are particularly strong-headed when it comes to software. Most of them don’t want to let go of content control, and would rather use their own 3rd party software rather than Microsoft’s unified platform. Back in August 2009 I anticipated this failure, and I even approached some Microsoft personnel regarding this issue, and they all assured me that Microsoft are working closely with OEMs on this, and that once Windows 7 hits retailers, we’ll start seeing Device Stage experiences all around.
When Windows 7 hit retail back in November I started plugging in my devices and found no sign of Device Stage anywhere. For weeks there was nothing, until Microsoft released a small update via Windows Update which gave it’s own devices (Mice and Keyboards mostly) some much needed experiences. But that was pretty much it.
Getting a new device – even a Windows Mobile operated one, to show up in the “Devices and Printers”, not to mention getting a Device Stage experience – is so rare it’s become a hunting sport on the internet. With the notable exception of most Sansa products and a very few and specific cameras and printers – hardly any devices use this feature.
It’s been several months now, and still nothing from neither Microsoft nor OEMs regarding Device Stage support. I hooked up some of my devices, and here’s all it gave me:
For the record, the devices I connected are:
- Nokia N95 8GB
- Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
- HP iPaq rx5940 (Windows Mobile 5.0)
And some other devices I’ve tried with no success:
- Cowon iAudio I7
- Nokia E71
- Nokia N96
- HTC MyTouch 3G
And several others I can’t remember at the time.
Notable exceptions were any and all SanDisk products (with the Media Players having full experiences, and the storage devices having realistic icons only), and an Archos 5 PMP (with an icon only, no stage).
And still the biggest irony remains – Windows Mobile based devices still require Windows Mobile Device Center (à la Vista) and do not work with Device Stage, and there’s literally no online coverage of this feature working with anything past January 2009. Meh.
Still early, but a bit too late…
People who know me know I’m a big Microsoft defender, but even I can see that they really screwed the pooch with this one. Why develop a platform as rich in possibilities and as comfortable to use as Device Stage if hardly anyone gets to use it to its full extent? I’ve given them a couple of months before ‘officially’ declaring “Device Stage” a failure, and some might argue that it’s a bit too early, but more devices were compatible with Device Stage in Beta 1 (exactly a year ago) than today – two whole months after launch.
Windows 7 reception into the market is in full swing and the current months are crucial for it’s over-all integration into the computer world. Having Device Stage fully working at launch would have made a huge improvement even at that, since it’s a very ‘front-on’ feature that catches your attention as soon as you can use it.
And while Windows 7 is good enough to attract new customers anyway (especially since everyone is so anti-Vista, rightfully so or not), Device Stage would have been a vast addition to the ‘landscape’ of Windows 7 (I almost called it “the vista of Windows 7”).
Hopefully this situation will be rectified soon, before “Device Stage” joins OneNote and Windows Live Photo Gallery in the place where great software goes to die alone and un-heard of.