Microsoft’s playing its mobile hand wisely at the moment. With Windows Phone 8, it the company plans on being more open, honest and open to compromise than ever before. With rivals like iOS maintaining an increasingly locked down business model, is a more free approach to mobile going to turn the tide in Microsoft’s favour?

It is if Windows Phone 8‘s senior product manager Greg Sullivan has anything to do with it, as he revealed to us in an exclusive talk…

“Just because you’re choosing Microsoft in some parts, doesn’t mean that you have to do an ‘all or nothing’ proposition to get our stuff to work together,” claimed Sullivan when I chatted to him following the Microsoft’s Windows Phone summit announcement.

“Like with some people?” I asked, pointing to my iPhone. Sullivan smiled. “That’s a different approach,” he said, rather diplomatically.

Windows Phone 8 revealed

We were talking about the way Skype’s been integrated into Windows Phone 8. Or rather, the way it hasn’t been. Not out of the box, at least. “It’s a first party app, because we own the company, but the way that it works is the same as any third party VoIP app,” Sullivan explained. “There’s no difference in how Skype utilises the infrastructure to any other app.”

“Because of the fact that we’ve enabled third party VoIP applications integrate globally with our phone dialer and contacts list, every VoIP app will feel like its a first party VoIP app.” And that’s part of a very deliberate bigger picture: “That’s a direct result of platform enhancements that we expose globally to any application. We could have just done that work with Skype and integrated that, but being a platform is important.

A Microsoft manifesto

If ‘being a platform’ sounds like a sort of manifesto, that’s because it is. Whilst Android remains free and open for users to change absolutely everything – sometimes at the expense of UI sheen – and iOS remains a locked-down system of denied services and strict riles, WP8 is positioning itself as a happy medium.

Microsoft’s view on ‘being a platform’ seems to be far more flexible than before, and that’s something that’s going to make itself more apparent as Windows Phone 8 develops and we start to see more of it leading up to its Autumn release.

“There’s a really interesting approach that we’re taking with all this, and remembering that we’re a platform, and what leads platforms to success. We want a very complete, comprehensive solution across the scenarios that are things people want, but then also have an approach where, if you don’t want the Microsoft piece of it, you can plug in your favourite third party one.”

Nokia Drive comes to other Windows Phone handsets

Can you imagine an Apple exec saying that? Hardly. On the contrary; if you have an iPhone, Apple makes some heavy-handed, if compelling, reasons for you to continue to deck out your tech portfolio with yet more Apple gear.

Apple’s tech is top quality across the board, but it comes at the price of accidentally getting yourself very locked into that ecosystem.

The choice is yours

Windows phone 8, on the other hand, will make up just part of Microsoft’s now strong-looking portfolio, but will run independently from them if you choose not to go the whole hog. “It’s true when we talk about PCs and phones and tablets, and the web and even Xbox, looking at all these elements of our platform and how they interact, there are scenarios that span them,” said Sullivan.

“I do email on my phone and PC and tablet – I can instant message across all of them – but if we have customers that have an iPhone or an Android phone or a tablet or iPad, they can still participate in that platform.”

And it’s exactly that open and far-reaching approach, while still keeping the out-of-the-box Windows Phone polish, that could work wonders for Microsoft in the “generational shift” to Windows Phone 8.

So, having explaining this ethos, what does Sullivan think of Apple’s way of working? Wisely, he didn’t say anything in quite so many words, but he was implying that it’s a far more restrictive way to operate mobile platform than the one Microsoft’s now adopting:

“We don’t want to have one choice that you make accidentally make a whole bunch of other choices for you. You want the ability to have the best in breed and plug other things in where you want them.”

  • Yi

    Whatever. Lost interest now due to my new two year contract lumia 800 being dunped by microsoft. Gonna buy another android for cash now. Up yours microcon

  • Samsungblue

    As an ex-iphone user, and a current Android user I like where Microsoft are going . My next phone will be a Nokia , looking forward to seeing the Lumia 1000 with multi-core and some sexy blue self healing plastic ;-)

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