Blaise Aguera y Arcas writes on the release of Photosynth App for iOS devices.
I’m sure over the coming days and weeks we’ll be answering, over and over, the “why didn’t this ship first on Microsoft’s own phone” question. Our approach to the design of the Photosynth app hopefully provides some evidence that we very much think of Windows Phone 7 as brethren and inspiration, not to mention proof that Microsoft can make beautiful things. (Such a joy and a relief, after the previous generation of Windows phones!) If we could have shipped first on these devices, we would have. But the level of camera and low-level algorithmic hacking needed to make Photosynth work meant that, if we wanted to get this out as quickly as possible— and we surely did— we needed to do so on a platform that provided the necessary low-level device access. Windows Phone 7 doesn’t yet allow this for apps. It will soon. It’s worth keeping in mind that the first several generations of iPhone device and OS wouldn’t have allowed us to build this app either. For now, iPhone’s platform maturity— and of course the large number of people with iPhones out there— meant that it made sense for us to go for it.
At Bing we’re always interested in reaching as many people as possible, which means we’ll always develop for multiple platforms. But over time, we’ll be doing more and more of our early innovation on the Windows Phone.
On Design of the App:
There’s another reason I’m very pleased by Photosynth for iPhone: it’s the first reasonably complete application of our design system to a non-Windows phone. We’ve been working for more than a year with the very beautiful design language created by the Entertainment and Devices people at Microsoft (yes, Microsoft can do beautiful design! It’s true!) for Xbox, Zune, and Windows Phone 7, codenamed Metro. The “lavender” map style we released last year is a cartographic embodiment of this language. Translating Metro for an environment like iPhone, in which there’s a strong native look, feel and interaction model, is risky business. Done poorly, the result is confusing and incongruous. Some would argue that an app should always adopt native controls, look and feel, tailoring itself entirely to the host platform to minimize cognitive dissonance. This is an old argument. I remember it from the X windows days, and earlier. (More recently, Apple’s first release of Safari on the PC garnered much criticism for its dissonant non-PC look and feel. Today they’ve moved closer to native.)
I think from this perspective the Photosynth app is a great success. Its interaction model, look and feel are very Metro, distinctively ours, yet it works in the iPhone context. It has a distinct voice, yet remains transparent and usable. It isn’t antisocial in its approach to the platform.
Great to see Blaise coming out and setting the record straight. As I wrote yesterday, Microsoft made a very sound judgment in this case. iOS is more mature when compared to WP7 right now and has more number of users and it just made more business sense to out the app for such a platform.