Monday, March 1, 2010

The Bing Button

From a NY Times article about upcoming Windows 7 phones:

In addition, Microsoft is requiring phone makers to keep basic elements of its user interface, including a physical button to start Web searches on Bing.

Microsoft. Listen. Nobody wants a button for Bing, or Google either, for that matter. This violates three principles about what I want in a smartphone:

  1. Customizable. If a button goes to a web site, or opens a calculator, or gives me a voice prompt, and I can't change that, I'm going to be frustrated.
  2. Neutral. It's my phone, not yours. I'll use Bing or Google or Jeeves or Big Larry's Virus-Laden Search Emporium if I want to. Don't force your product on me.
  3. General purpose. I don't have a "word processor" key on my computer keyboard. I use on-screen menus for that. There are a million programs I could install, and a billion web sites I could visit. Smartphones are smartphones precisely because they share this characteristic. My flip phone has a single calendar program, take it or leave it. With a smartphone, I could install or write my own, or use one on the web. Having a button that does one thing makes this less like a smartphone and more like a calculator - a single-purpose device. I want a browser, not a Binger.

If you can't put your customers' desires above your need to cross-brand, you're going to make lousy products. And your market share will continue to drop.