Two apparently bona fide TV ads for Windows Phone 7 began popping up on mobile Web sites late last week, if not yet on TV screens. If real, the minute-long sequences give an insight into Microsoft's marketing plan for the radically redesigned mobile OS.
Windows Phone is "a phone that will save us from our phones," specifically the phenomenon of our eyes-being-glued-to-the-screen, tuning out the rest of the world. The second promises "less stop and stare and more glance and go."
The featured hardware is reported to be the HTC Mondrian handset, which has been expected for some time. One of the ads specifically encourages viewers to "get yours at AT&T."
One ad seems to be setting an overall tone for Windows Phone. It shows phone users staring fixedly at their handset's screen as they stand, bike, jog, dine at a fancy restaurant, "play" with their kids in the park, and so on. The soundtrack is a version of Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", a tone poem that sets to music a poem by Goethe about an apprentice who tries to use magic while his master is away, and it all goes awry. Disney popularized the music in the 1940 animated film "Fantasia" with Mickey Mouse as the apprentice.
The music is critical to holding our attention through the first half. Half way through the ad, the musical tempo picks up, and we witness the various potential disasters come to fruition: collisions, spills, embarrassments, tantrums, involving most of the characters we've already seen.
It's not until 55 seconds into the ad, at the very end, that we get to the point, and even see the distinctive Windows Phone user interface, dubbed Metro. "It's time for a phone to save us from our phones," says the voice-over. "New Windows Phone. The first phone designed to bring you the stuff you need. And get you back to what matters."
It's a clever ad, but whether it's an effective one, is another matter. "Distracted Driving" is a popular Internet news meme that the ad leverages. But how common these various distracted disasters are, and whether they matter to potential Windows Phone buyers, is another matter.
The second ad gets more specific, with a user, a young woman with what seems to be an Australian or possibly New Zealand accent, showing and talking about her new Windows Phone.
"Here's my new Windows Phone. And it's really different," she says. "All the stuff I care about updates live, right on my start screen. At a glance, I can see my friends, my favorite music, and the latest news. So I'm in, I'm out, I'm back to my life."
Her commentary is accompanied by a close up of the Windows Phone UI and its "live" character – the tiles of the start screen display information or images, and signal new information, such as a software update.
Then, to highlight the not-Windows-Phone experience, she adds, "Not like that poor guy." That poor guy is a hapless dweeb standing in line, absorbed in his phone screen and oblivious to the mounting impatience of those around him.
The ad concludes with a voice over: "Less stop and stare. More glance and go. New Windows Phone. Get yours at AT&T."
This ad is most effective when it highlights and shows the distinctive qualities of the Windows Phone "experience," though oddly it limits the experience to just the start screen. What's missing, at least in these first ads, is any sense of the "depth" of the UI, of how it anticipates user expectations and desires by its design and by the integration of applications into "hubs" which share common features and functions.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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