Microsoft needs a Google Now competitor for Windows Phone 8

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| November 2, 2012

As we creep into November, we inevitably inch closer to the launch of HTC’s Windows Phone 8X and Nokia’s Lumia 920. These two devices are the pinnacle to Microsoft’s mobile operating system. The shining lights, if you will. There are other devices finding their way into the market this month too, like the Lumia 822 and Windows Phone 8S, but they aren’t garnering the same kind of attention as the high-end big brother devices. Which just goes to show that hardware is a key component for those aching to get their hands on new phones, so it’s good that Microsoft is putting new rules on their hardware requirements for Windows Phone 8.

However, hardware only goes so far. Just focusing on the hardware with any platform isn’t the right way to go. It’s the wrong thing to focus on entirely. Yet, while Windows Phone 8 offers up plenty of new features for those looking to get their hands on new hardware in the coming weeks, it’s clear to me that Microsoft’s goal was to leap into the hardware race more than anything else.

I’m saying this because while there are new features in Windows Phone 8, it isn’t a landslide of new things. Even Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8-focused event last week was short, and to the point. Why? Because the point was pretty simple: They are focusing on the user experience, the way that we interact with people in our lives. All of that is good, but I will admit that I was hoping the Redmond-based company was hiding a bit more behind the veil for their major event at the tail-end of October.

Now that it’s over and done with, Taylor is absolutely right when he says that Microsoft’s priority should have been a centralized notification center. As I’ve asked you in the past, there are indeed some changes that need to be made to Windows Phone’s notification system, even if it is just a small one. Granted, now that Windows Phone 8 allows for a ridiculous number of Live Tiles on your Start Screen, maybe it isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Only time will tell.

Which is why notifications didn’t need to be the only priority of Windows Phone 8. One of them, sure, but not the only one.

Microsoft should have also set a priority on releasing a killer, stand-out feature for Windows Phone 8. That one thing that people talk about. The one feature that people want, even if they are currently using another manufacturer’s mobile operating system. In fact, especially if they’re using another platform. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is just a piece of a larger ecosystem-based puzzle, and that’s great for those who are making a transition to Windows 8, or are going to pick up Microsoft’s Surface tablet. However, Windows Phone 8, by itself, is missing the one stand-out feature that speaks louder than all the other bullet points on the features list.

Which is why I think Microsoft should have put a big, solid focus on creating a Google Now competitor. No, not a Siri competitor. While Siri is great in her own way, and she does what she does well (for the most part), it’s Google’s stand-out feature for Android 4.x Jelly Bean that should be targeted and emulated, and made better for Microsoft’s platform.

There would have to be some major tweaks, of course. Google Now works so well because most people use Google as their search engine of choice, as well as plenty of other Google-backed services in their daily routine. But that’s why Microsoft’s developers and designers needed to create something that incorporates the core services of Microsoft’s suite of applications, like Calendar, Outlook, and Bing, to create something similar to Google Now, yet highlight new features along the way.

Or maybe Microsoft needed an instant messenger-like text service, like Apple’s iMessage, or Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger.

What do you think of the new additions for Windows Phone 8, Dear Reader? Do you believe that Microsoft’s unveiled enough to warrant the attention of people using other platforms? Or have they just made sure that the people already using Windows Phone will continue to use it? What is the one feature from another operating system that you think Microsoft could have emulated and incorporated, but better, into Windows Phone 8 to make more people jump on board? Let me know what you think!