Microsoft: NFC soon for WP7, talking to your phone is overrated

Microsoft never likes to be left out of an announcement, and sure enough, while the Galaxy Nexus announcement was going on last night, Steve Ballmer just happened to be doing an interview for AllThingsD Asia and happened to be saying not very nice things about Android. 

​Anyway, ​according to Engadget, Andy Lees, president of Windows Phone said today that "Android is very techy" and that Microsoft pursued a "people approach" with Windows Phone. He said in regards to Microsoft's sometimes slow hardware choices that;

"[Microsoft] wanted to stop problems with fragmentation, so we've locked a lot of things down. We want partners to add value, but not in a way that's chaotic. As an example, we do hardware acceleration of the browser -- no matter which WP device you choose, it all works in a consistent way. Some things in 2012 will extend that."

Fair enough. And what he means by that, is that NFC will be shipping on phones within a year, apparently. According to Lees, Microsoft isn't interested in competing from Google or Apple, and is happy to work with mobile payment services that already exist, rather than re-invent the wheel.

According to Lees, "Microsoft is providing technological building blocks so payments can be done on the phone -- we aren't competing with other people providing services. We'll have a platform approach."  

LTE is also coming to Windows Phone, according to Engadget, "as the infrastructure evolves."

Andy did have something to say about Siri, too. He thinks that it's not "super useful" and (strangely) pointed out that WP7's voice implementations rely on Bing (even though Siri is connected to Wolfram Alpha, so it's not really different).

We suspect that Nokia might bring some NFC-related goodness to the platform next week at Nokia World, considering the "Sea Ray" device is pretty closely related to the N9 that features NFC. However, at this point, it's anyones guess.

​Image credit: Engadget

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Why such a misquote, and lack of understanding...

Andy did have something to say about Siri, too. He thinks that it's not "super useful" and (strangely) pointed out that WP7's voice implementations rely on Bing (even though Siri is connected to Wolfram Alpha, so it's not really different).

Voice has limited as you can ask your phone questions in a meeting, or in a lot of public settings.

This is what Microsoft R&D has demonstrated OVER AND OVER, that each technology has places it works great and places it don't work at all. They have specifically used Voice to illustrate how 'limited' even good technologies become when YOU can't utilize the feature because of where and what you are doing.

Microsoft is right that having to hit a button and ask questions to Siri, is a bit silly. It is fun, works well when you can use it, but for most people it will NEVER be the primary way of interacting with the device.

As for WP7 linking to Bing, did he say that to make it easier to understand or do you, Owen, not understand the technology better?

Go look up VoiceXML, this is what they are using. (Which are based on MIcrosoft technology going back to the mid 90s. Their Voice Server and even their local Agent technologies used XML, which is now know as VoiceXML.)

Microsoft does use Bing, but Bing uses Tellme, that uses a couple of technologies, that are both sitting on top of Microsoft Voice server technologies.

WP7 and Siri are different in that WP7 has a lot of local commands in its dictionary, which is why you can command answer prompts and base interactions without a network connection. (Try it...)

For full dictation of text and questions, it does send it to Bing/TellMe...

Article title is very misleading, but maybe you are going to be "BetaNews" like now and put up more crazy crap again to get hits. You will lose a lot of your dedicated readers hits if you keep doing this though.

Microsoft NEVER said talking to your phone is overrated. Apple's attention that Siri is getting is overrated.

This has nothing to do with talking to a phone or voice. Microsoft phones had voice recognition and dialing before the iPhone existed(5 years before even), and poked fun at the iPhone for not offering basic voice dialing, which even cheap phones were capable of, let alone a 'smartphone'.

You can't use voice everywhere, so it is not the end all of phone interaction any more than when Apple put out that Touch screens were the 'ultimate' way to work with phones. (Tell that to a teenager that can text by 'feeling' the keys without having to look at their phone. Doesn't work on an iPhone...)

I never liked Mr. Lees, he resembles too much Ballmer; both are surely good sales people but not comparable to Bill Gates.
The latter was predicting many years ago that one day voice would become the main way to interact with your devices. We are not there yet and my guess is that it will take a long time to achieve this goal, just consider as humans discern noises from what they are interested to hear but...... we will get there. probably not for desktops.... unless you have your own, private office but for smartphones, yes we will.

When they have their own voice implementation state of the art, suddenly it will be the greatest innovation of Windows Phone.

"Sure, we'll spend all this money and time on Tell Me's natural language recognition. However, because it's not out yet, we're going to downplay the competition."

Johrie said,
"talking to your phone is overrated" so how do they make a call o_0

"Talking to someone through your phone" != "Talking to your phone"

Only in the year 2011 can anyone say that "talking" into a "phone" is over rated. That is so funny that the device that was made to speak into is being made fun of about that very same thing. Regardless, I am one of those "few" that uses speech on the phone all day long, and NOT just for phone calls. I can honestly do just about everything I need to do with speech already, which is call a contact, and txt and ask Bing random questions about literally any subject at all, and get answers. Only thing I am missing is speaking an email, but obviously that is on the way. I-SIRI is interesting, but I don't really see anything there that steals the show. I-LIKE I-T but I-'m not jealous.

While you're trying to be clever by comparing phone calls to Siri, they are definitely not the "very same thing". And don't say you didn't mean that literally, because these days people don't even mean "literally" literally, and the world will just implode on itself if you do.

Using voice commands is uniquely different from the original phone call in one distinct way: talking to Siri is like using a walky talky, or having a conversation on speaker phone. 10 years ago a public speaker phone conversation was annoying. 5 years ago it was still annoying. Replacing it with a robotic woman with a pre-programmed sense of humor doesn't make it any less annoying than any other speaker phone conversation. If anything, it's more annoying, because everybody around you knows you aren't actually talking to a real person, and instead you're specifically going out of your way to do noisy by yourself.

Joshie said,
Replacing it with a robotic woman with a pre-programmed sense of humor doesn't make it any less annoying than any other speaker phone conversation. If anything, it's more annoying, because everybody around you knows you aren't actually talking to a real person, and instead you're specifically going out of your way to do noisy by yourself.

Pushing a button and asking my phone, "where is walmart". When I am in fact, maybe not literally, LOOKING for a Walmart, takes a second, compared to stopping the car, and typing into a virtual keyboard, missing a few strokes, and doing it all over again. It's kind of a no brainer either with Bing search on WPH7 or SIRI on IPHONE to do just that. It's a plus and a BIG one for those of us that use it. You might be easier to annoy than other people. To me, having to type something, when I can just say it, is annoying. Now SIRI might try and speak the answer back to me, where as Bing Search will throw up a map to Walmart without the "annoying" robotic answer. You can pick and choose however you want to get that info. I like to speak the question and "see" the answer.

Joshie said,
While you're trying to be clever by comparing phone calls to Siri, they are definitely not the "very same thing". And don't say you didn't mean that literally, because these days people don't even mean "literally" literally, and the world will just implode on itself if you do.

Using voice commands is uniquely different from the original phone call in one distinct way: talking to Siri is like using a walky talky, or having a conversation on speaker phone. 10 years ago a public speaker phone conversation was annoying. 5 years ago it was still annoying. Replacing it with a robotic woman with a pre-programmed sense of humor doesn't make it any less annoying than any other speaker phone conversation. If anything, it's more annoying, because everybody around you knows you aren't actually talking to a real person, and instead you're specifically going out of your way to do noisy by yourself.

I have to disagree with your argument about it not being like a phone conversation, Using Android's Voice Actions or Siri do support your conclusion; however, if you have used voice on WP7 just for texting, it is very much like a phone conversation, because beyond the few commands of 'Reply' 'Send' you are talking to the other person and getting their response read to you in real time.

Voice has places it works well, and as phones get smarter and start 'prompting' to engage users for things beyond texting, it will be more common place. Going down the freeway, and being able to text friends and find places and navigate to them without having to look at a screen is a place it works well.

Ford Sync and the previous incarnation Windows Automotive (released 1998 BTW) work well, and have been a good selling feature for Ford to were they have moved up to making it virtually a default option on all their cars. (Back in 1998, it wasn't a success as the need for information didn't exist, nor the connectivity, nor did cards have network based switches that could be controlled from the main computer.)

The need to press a button on the devices to 'initiate' voice control is still cumbersome. I need to take time to play with Android 4.0's 'listening' mode, as it may be headed in the right direction.

thenetavenger said,

Using Android's Voice Actions or Siri do support your conclusion;

Then that's all that matters, since my argument was only about Siri, so the rest of your post lovingly crafted about alternatives and the technology in general is pretty much irrelevant.

ThomMcK said,
Hmm I don't really think Microsoft Research will be very happy with him saying better voice control isn't "very useful", or was he particularly referring to Siri?
They seem to be striving to match exactly that in this promo video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PR74_TT8lN8

I think he was probably referring to talking to your phone in public places. I have not used Siri (except as an app long before Apple bought them) but I will hazard a guess that it's going down the route of Facetime. Sure it's good to have but will be not much practical because the ambient noises will drive it crazy.

dhan said,
Sure it's good to have but will be not much practical because the ambient noises will drive it crazy.
I used it at a football game the other day (doesn't get much noisier ) and it was working pretty well. iPhones have great noise cancellation.

Elliott said,
I used it at a football game the other day (doesn't get much noisier ) and it was working pretty well. iPhones have great noise cancellation.

I think you are missing the point...

The next time your at a game, ask Siri the closest place you can buy diarrhea medicine.

It isn't always that the phone can or can't hear you, it is there are times you can't talk or wouldn't want to say aloud.

If you have ever had the chance to listen to a presentation or talk with Bill Buxton from Microsoft Research, this is one of the primary things he tries to teach, and uses as a metric for his own researchers. When someone on his team has a new idea, they must submit not only what it does and why it works and how it works, but the negatives of when it doesn't work well, or can't be used. (He was working with multi-touch input devices in the 1980s, in case you doubt he understand usability.)

Voice is great, and works great at times. There are times it is not, and thus is not the 'best' nor 'ideal' input mechanism.

Microsoft has lead the world in Voice technologies for nearly 20 years, and still they realize that 20 people in an office, voice recognition is worthless.

Another thing to consider, is Apple is getting a lot of 'coverage' based on Siri, yet it doesn't do anything new, and is even a step backwards in how you can't just talk to the phone and runs as a App instead of being a part of the overall interface of the device. Android and Windows Mobile (pre iPhone) have had and been using Apps like this for nearly 10 years.

Yet, Apple is getting a lot of 'good' press for something the rest of the world was casually already using, and kind of going 'blah' about. It will be interesting when Apple adds fire or the wheel to the iPhone, so it will make news, and people can be impressed by another technology Apple gave to humanity. *gag*

PS Most phones have dual microphones with ambient and echo noise cancellation. It is a simple concept that has been around for a long time, and the iPhone does a good job, but don't expect it to be the greatest, as it is using the same on chip cancellation technology as most other phones.

There are also times that Mic NC technology fails, as variations in ambient sound or a car driving by will confuse the cancellation, and thus makes it hard to use in noisy environments where the frequencies and the levels of ambient noise go up and down. Which is 'why' VoiceXML is important, as the server processing the audio can do some advanced passes to clear up the sound and comparisons to figure out the words and the context for the words.

PS. Hope your team won at the game.


Whilst I'm very much in the Android camp, reading this I do agree that Android seems more techny. There's more to mess with, but I like that.
And talking to your phone IS overrated - it's stupid.

ckempo said,
Whilst I'm very much in the Android camp, reading this I do agree that Android seems more techny. There's more to mess with, but I like that.
And talking to your phone IS overrated - it's stupid.

I agree. And as a developer, I really hate how I don't have carte blanche to diddle with my phone, but I understand the reasons why.

ckempo said,
Whilst I'm very much in the Android camp, reading this I do agree that Android seems more techny. There's more to mess with, but I like that.
And talking to your phone IS overrated - it's stupid.

More to mess with, but less functional. The last part you are missing, and missing out on by sticking with Android.

The base OS itself on Android has a rather limited set of APIs and technology it offer to developers. This is why developers are having to 'recreate' the wheel and why things don't work the same in different applications. This is more work for developers as well. If you are use to use a gesture to slide up text on a screen, but in one App it responds differently, slower, faster, doesn't support inertia flips, it becomes annoying to users, and this is what you get on Android.

Android has issues with Memory usage and has rather horrid performance on low end devices. The lack of GPU assisted rendering is a major performance loss. The way Dalvik handles Apps and does its own memory management is bad, as the Android JVM will terminate even important background Apps like 'messaging/phone' to make room for a loading App. This is why Android ROMs have the 'keep messaging' in memory option, because it often gets killed by Android and then you don't get text messages until it can itself restarted. A phone call get terminated, and even if Dialer immediately restarts, you have lost your call.

Complexity does not mean better. Complexity can be quite the opposite, especially when its 'complexity of pieces' don't work well together. Complexity is also a false sense of 'capability', and there has not been a single Android phone yet that is faster than a WP7 phone released last year. This is where you see 'complexity' screw over you.

Complexity also can be illustrated in a basic science concept, but I'll use a rather ugly analogy to demonstrate...

Would you prefer a dog, that has limited features, you can only access its fur and pet, walk, and feed it.

Or the MORE complex version, where it is cut open all the 'features'/guts that make the dog work are laying on the floor for you to play with.

This is not where you want things broken to expose more complexity. Be careful that even in technology you are not getting a broken dog, just because it is more 'complex' and its 'complexity' is exposed.

The cut open dog won't run as fast, or play or do many of the other features, or do them as well.


There are also people that gravitate to complex things because they think it offers more technology.

For example, this is your average Linux user in fact. However, is this true? Windows NT is far more advanced architecture and kernel design, and has far more complexity that is 'hidden' from the average user.

So if Linux is 'less' than NT is technology, why are people using it? Well, you can see the 'guts' easier. NT has this stuff too, but it is kept inside the dog, however there are 'doctors' out there that can access the guts and see how it works, and change things, but it is lost on this generation.

If you are truly a geek of technology, you do not need cute C or C++ source code, you should be able to take any binary and read the machine code. NT gurus can do this, and have been doing this for years, and tend to look down on any group of people that need 'source' code to understand or read how something works.

So think a bit about your concept of complex and if it is 'real' or just an illusion that has been foisted on the current generation of 'geeks' so they think they are smart.

I personally don't like the version of the dog cut open. And I am one of 'doctors' of technology that can fix the dog and sew it back up, but in daily use, the dog not cut open is far more functional.