Creators Update Marks a Welcome Return to the People-Centric Focus of Windows Phone

Posted on November 30, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10, Windows Phones with 33 Comments

Creators Update Marks a Welcome Return to the People-Centric Focus of Windows Phone

With the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft is bringing back a profound benefit from Windows phone: Its people-centric user experience..

Think back for a moment to the original Windows Phone 7 Series announcement, which happened at Mobile World Congress 2010. At that time, Microsoft announced a new mobile platform that, unlike Android, wasn’t a direct rip-off of the iPhone. Instead, Microsoft had rethought the smartphone and what it could be. And rather than center the experience around launching in and out of apps, it focused instead on the user. And the things that were most important to that user.

As I wrote in Five Years Later, a Full-On Retreat from What Made Windows Phone Special, Windows phone was to be “a different kind of phone,” one that puts “the stuff that is important to you right on your Start screen” via live tiles, rather than requiring you to jump in and out of apps as with iPhone. Those tiles would provide “real-time updates” about your “contacts, games, and music.”

The People experience—called the People hub, originally, was a key part of that vision. Windows Phone 7 Series would provide access to your “most recent contacts at your fingertips,” meaning that when you tapped the People tile, you would see the Recent view, which was a group of tiles representing recently accessed contacts. It would also provide “live updates from social media sites like Facebook and Windows Live.”

This hub notion—”integrated experiences,” with People being a core example—was a key Windows Phone 7 Series differentiator. The idea was that content from multiple sources would be aggregated into a single UI, the hub, and that you as the user would not need to remember where information was stored. If you wanted a person, you went into People.

It was a wonderful idea. But it failed because of third parties didn’t buy into it. For example, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks want to promote their brands, not be subsumed into some built-in OS utility.

And while the vaunted Windows phone UI, with its live tiles, was demonstrably “better” than the “whack-a-mole” UI that we see on iOS and Android, was also too unfamiliar. So while Windows phone fans still point to this system as a key differentiator, 99 percent of the smartphone-using public couldn’t care less. As I noted in The Long, Slow Decline of Windows Phone, Windows phone failed where it mattered, and it succeeded where it does not matter.

But then there’s the broader Windows 10 platform that works across the PC and so many other device types (including phone).

As Windows 8 has been pushed aside for Windows 10 and then matured over subsequent updates, I’ve watched as the People app—the modern successor to Windows phone’s People hub—has diminished. In Windows 8, for example, the People app offered basic integration capabilities, where you could post to social networks. Today’s People hub, however, is literally a shell of its former self, a barren wasteland that does nothing more than simply aggregate your contacts lists from various online accounts.

So I watched with some surprise and fascination as Microsoft announced the new My People interface that is coming in the Windows 10 Creators Update. It’s not clear how or if this interface will be adapted for mobile, though of course it looks an awful lot like a standard smartphone interface. But it will bring much of what was special about the People hub (back) to the PC, at the very least.

I wrote about the sharing aspects of My People the other day in New Share Experience is Coming (Soon) to Windows 10. But My People goes deeper than just sharing. In a video aimed at developers, Microsoft’s Kevin Gallo explains that My People is a new user experience for accessing your most-frequently-used contacts.

“Our goal with Windows is to make sure that people who are important to you are easily accessible,” Gallo explains. “You can have quick interactions, you can share things with them, you can communicate with them. So we [are] putting them … in the taskbar. Now you can pin people who are important to you to the taskbar, and you just drag things down there to make [sharing and communication] happen.”

Aside from the obvious—the ability to drag and drop files to the taskbar-based content, and the fact that apps will utilize the new sharing UI as well—the My People contacts can be accessed as you would have on Windows phone, or if you’re one of the few people who ever pinned a contact to the Start menu in Windows 10: You can simply select one of these contacts to see which options are available.

people-pane

And this new People pane UI is not only more attractive than what we see in today’s People app, it’s more functional: You can access apps that are associated with contacts for sharing purposes—Mail, Skype, Xbox, and so on—too. One assumes (or at least helps) that People will be getting a similar makeover.

As you can see, there is a Suggested app ad at the bottom of this pane. What’s interesting there is that if you select the suggested app, it will install from there; no need to visit the Windows Store.

Even more interesting, apps can display UI right inside the new People pane. And this, I think, is Microsoft’s answer to the problem with hubs: Instead of replacing apps and services, Microsoft is allowing third parties to put their own UI and brands right there in the People pane. That this pane emulates a phone screen in size/aspect ratio is not coincidental, Gallo says. Nicely done.

docked

An app display in the People pane is called docked mode. But you can also trigger the full app experience if you want. So it’s sort of a best of both worlds scenario, for both developers and users.

No, it’s not flashy like Windows Holographic or Surface Studio. But this kind of core improvement to Windows 10 is a big deal, and will impact far more users. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

 

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Comments (35)

35 responses to “Creators Update Marks a Welcome Return to the People-Centric Focus of Windows Phone”

  1. Avatar

    5119

    This is exciting.  I frequently realize that I want to communicate with someone first and then figure out via which medium. 

  2. Avatar

    5294

    Yes, this is what made me love Windows Phone. Having this available will be great.

  3. Avatar

    127

    I am very much looking forward to this feature. Also very curious about how this will look like when in "tablet-mode". Any news on this Paul?

  4. Avatar

    5215

    Neat!  I hope to see it turn out well.  Too bad exactly 5 third party developers will embrace it and 1 of those 5 will not maintain it.

  5. Avatar

    5530

    I can't help but to think that this feature won't take off. Sorry for being sceptical but in the past we've seen few care about all these sorts of platform features. All third parties want is for their app and brand to shine. Features like these are user-centric but they don't get you into their app, rather it helps you avoid the app. MyPeople makes the app act as an extension of a specific OS feature, rather than using a feature of the app. We actually know that devs don't like this.
     
    I could be wrong.
  6. Avatar

    2305

    If this didn't work in MS's favor doe Windows Phone, what makes you think it will work in Win10.

    Services like Facebook, Twitter and others didn't buy too much into it because of Branding issue and also for users its an issue as new features don't make its way soon enough...

  7. Avatar

    5593

    Great. Yet another feature I'll never use.  I keep my Lumia 1020 with WP8 for the very reasons Paul expressed.  Everything about it is better than 10, as far as I'm concerned.  Same with my devices that are still running Windows 8.  I have never, ever found the Task Bar to be anything but an annoyance, and any time I am forced to refer to it I get disgusted.  I want to rely completely on live tiles.  The tiles should be fully interactive.  Shoving everything to the stupid Task Bar is ridiculous, ugly and will get it cluttered.  It is senseless.  Again.

  8. Avatar

    996

    Hopefully this forces Facebook to remake their apps to be native UWP apps and not the ported iOS garbage that runs like a slow stuttering train wreck.

  9. Avatar

    3167

    Microsoft chased android and apple and lost their soul on Windows phone. The me tile integrated, the people tile, the photos. Even Xbox music (Zune). I am looking at possibly moving to android, but after several weeks of struggling to make a Nexus work for me even with outlook mail, Cortana, etc. It just did not have what Windows phone still has. I found i only used a handful of apps not available or Google Maps. I grew tired of chasing notifications, missed my life tiles and what was left of integration.

  10. Avatar

    334

    In the phone-share scenario, asking for the user first is pure genius... until you realise that we also want to share things to Reading List, OneNote, etc. If they give the option of both users and non-user-based apps on phones, I wonder if that will translate back to desktop with Reading List and OneNote being additional targets in the My People section...?

  11. Avatar

    661

    I was pleasantly surprised when i opened people on my windows phone to fine a timeline tab that had soma, email and skype interactions with a person. Maybe it was always there but I jade not noticed it.  a nice aggregation of direct interactions

     

  12. Avatar

    206

    My first thought was:  "Great...just in time to implement it before Win 11". (Yes I know there's not supposed to be a Win11...but any long time WP user knows this circle of hell all too well.)  Let's hope they've done this right this time through.

  13. Avatar

    8779

    but windows phone is irrelevant not ??? why you keep posting about this ???

  14. Avatar

    2215

    Is there an analog to the taskbar on windows 10 mobile?

    • Avatar

      8182

      In reply to Aritting:

      Only in Continuum and I will bet you this is coming to Continuum as well.

      On mobile you can already pin a contact to the start screen, so you get your most frequent people there. They might be able to do something where it automatically show the same "favored" people as in the desktop, we'll have to wait and see.

      Also, I am guessing that on mobile, when you open up a contact, you will see those same options for contacting a person, since the UI is basically already made for mobile and as for sharing from apps, I would expect some version of the new Share UI to come to phones as well, meaning that you could share directly to favorite people from any app.

    • Avatar

      334

      In reply to Aritting:

      Not directly, but there will most likely be an API call to open the My People list when sharing an item from inside an app in a similar way to how the Share API currently works.

  15. Avatar

    214

    "But this kind of core improvement to Windows 10 is a big deal, and will impact far more users."

    I agree. It is no that one can't do any of these things with existing tools - it is that the tools more completely disappear - so as to not distract the user from the work at hand.

  16. Avatar

    5394

    A people hub is no longer necessary since many Mail apps share and copy contact information via their smart phones. My iPhone backs up Contact and Calendar entries between my various email accounts (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook). Therefore, Windows merely needs to import contact information from any email service. Facebook already requests contact information from your email account or phone contacts. Rather hypocritical from their Hub position. Nonetheless, Windows via this new approach has finally figured it out.

  17. Avatar

    2015

    Awesome. When will this appear in insider builds?

  18. Avatar

    5510

    I know that Paul loves virtual reality, but is has he been living in an alternate universe?

    My issue is with this statement: “the stuff that is important to you right on your Start screen” via live tiles, rather than requiring you to jump in and out of apps as with iPhone. Those tiles would provide “real-time updates” about your “contacts, games, and music.” 

    Prior to that statement,he wrote this: "....2010. At that time, Microsoft announced a new mobile platform that, unlike Android, wasn’t a direct rip-off of the iPhone. "

    HELLO?! HELLO?!  

    Paul is either living in an alternate universe of reality, suffering from some kind of dementia, or is purposely LYING to his audience.

    The fact is this, Android was never a direct ripoff of iPhone.  iPhone never had an app drawer, it never had a notification area, and most of all it never had ON-SCREEN WIDGETS.

    Windows Phone's equivalent to LIVE TILES is comparable to Android Widgets that have been around since 2010. Android has been putting newsfeeds, live updates, contacts, games, music, video, chat screens, email previews, weather updates,....since (at least) 2010. I know this because I had a Motorola Droid X (version 1).

    If Paul is going to recommend products and services to other people, in other words, suggest to them how to SPEND THEIR HARD EARNED MONEY, then at least give those people the best information so the can decide well. 

    People have to realize that throughout the past several years, PAUL has been wrong about everything and I think it's because of the information he takes in,.....like this one.

  19. Avatar

    5486

    Windows 10 *still* hasn't decided whether it's mobile O/S trying to be a desktop O/S, or the other way around. The shoes are not fitting on both feet! In one update it lurches one way, and the next update, it lurches the other. The vast majority don't need or care for mobile features on the desktop, and while Microsoft's big plans thought that if you had Windows 10, you'd buy into Windows Mobile (which has completely failed), they're still proceeding down this odd 'hybrid' road that only makes sense to them.

    • Avatar

      5592

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Sorry, ghost, it's you who haven't figured out that there is no such thing as a mobile OS or a desktop OS, there are just different experiences based on how you are interacting with any device at any given time. You're still running off the obsolete model that how the device operates is locked to how it was marketed to you.

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