On a bright, sunny (launch day) morning two weeks ago, I discovered that my nearest TELUS store had the Lumia 1020 in stock and immediately went for a nice little stroll jog to get my first new phone in over three years. After several years with iOS (iPhone 3GS, 4 and briefly a 4S), Windows Phone 8 promised a welcome change of scenery and a complete break from iTunes.

To be fair, I had really appreciated the recent changes in iOS 7 (very Metro-ish), and Android made a compelling case with the S4, but over half of my career has been spent working very closely or directly with Microsoft and the camera on the 1020 was enough to nudge me in this new direction.

iTunes is practically the Microsoft-recommended music manager for Windows Phone 8

I was in for a rather rude awakening.

The first few days were one surprise after another:

  • Although TELUS has been selling Windows Phones for a while, they have still not created a "My Account" application for the platform. (And they even have a Blackberry version). Attempting to get any answer via Twitter support has gone nowhere.
  • Songza may have finally released a native app for the phone, but logging in with Facebook doesn't reliably work. They didn't even mention the release on their blog (although they did mention the Windows 8 release)
  • My all-time favourite radio station, Digitally Imported, which I happily maintain a Premium membership with, also still doesn't have Windows Phone 8 apps. "Coming in 2013" is becoming less and less likely. I contacted support to volunteer as an alpha/beta tester but haven't heard back.
  • There is no SCRABBLE® application. (But there is Words with Friends)
  • There is also no official music manager. Zune is only supported on Windows Phone 7, so your official choices are Windows Media Player … or iTunes!! The Windows Phone app is a sad alternative (both versions).

The last point really made my brain explode. I realize that it's cool the phone is no longer tied to a specific piece of software, like iTunes … except that iTunes is perhaps one of the only pieces of software that will manage your music library and podcasts together. I realize there's fooBar2000, Media Monkey, and others, but in the back of my mind I always felt that Zune would have been a great (seemingly lightweight) alternative to iTunes. XBox music may grow into something useful; I still haven't tried the Windows 8.1 version.

To be honest, I was quite upset. And then I actually started using the phone (and the camera!), started thinking about the situation, and had a moment of clarity: as a developer, I can help fix this! I can dedicate time over the next two years of my phone contract to help build the ecosystem around Windows Phone 8 (8.1, etc). The opportunities are out there to show companies how to make an app with a great experience; the marketplace may be saturated with a lot of junk, but there's also a lot of room for high-quality apps and leading by example.

And now I'm excited :) I will be the first to admit that there's some huge shortcomings in applications, the OS, and the user experience in general. But complaining without a solution is pointless, so stay tuned as I jump head-first into WP8 development.