Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore: to understand Android and iOS, you have to live in it

Laurent Giret

It’s been some time since we had some news from Joe Belfiore. The Corporate VP of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group and Windows Phone evangelist is currently enjoying a well-deserved break, and is traveling the world with his family.

The Microsoft exec has been quiet for some time, as he hasn’t tweeted something since more that a month. But while on holiday in Japan, his comeback on Twitter today seems to have surprised his Twitter followers:

We have to admit it, it’s quite surprising to see him now with blond hair. But more than that, people on Twitter also noticed that he tweeted that picture using an iPhone, and some of them couldn’t hold their disppointment:

Obviously, it seems that Belfiore noticed that growing number of angry fans, and felt the need to respond. So he posted a lengthy comment on The Verge, here are the interesting bits:

My job for the last couple of years has been (1) to curate the PC experience for Windows PCs (including tablet devices) and (2) to curate the experience for Windows Phones. In both capacities, it’s very important for me to understand products like the iPhone and Android phones, which are heavily used by PC users around the world, and which represent the competition for Windows Phone. Consumers and business users expect their PCs and phones to work in concert— so to satisfy our customers we need to consider the devices they use AS WELL AS the devices we’d like them to use.

On a 9-month leave-of-absence, I have a HUGE AND UNUSUAL opportunity to get to know these products deeply. To understand the benefits and drawbacks of a full ecosystem like Windows, Android, iOS — you have to LIVE IN IT. You have to feel its strengths and weaknesses, be let down, be delighted. And you can’t do that just “playing around” with a device for a couple of days. You have to learn the UI, upload your photos, use cross-device apps and tools… all of it.

When we are developing a release of Windows, we MUST use it all the time, on all devices, in order to find the bugs, iterate the design. There’s really no choice or we can’t build Windows as well as we should. On a leave-of-absence, there are tons of talented people doing that every day, which gives me the possibility of spending depth time on other devices, and using Windows very much like you Insiders do, without full knowledge of what’s happening “behind the curtain”.

Furthermore, there’s a lot of work happening at MS which integrates Windows PCs with iOS and Android devices— like bringing Cortana to these phones so your intelligent assistant can help you whereever you are. I want to experience and understand all that work deeply too.

So … I think Vlad has it right when he says “it’s OK”. (Thank you, Vlad.) But, I’d go farther and say “it’d beCRAZY not to”! In fact, when I posted on FB that I was taking a leave, I did mention explicitly that I would do this… and (horror of horrors) I’ve followed through, spending a bunch of time using Google Maps, Spotify, Periscope, a MacBook, a Nexus phone, etc. And.. in today’s Microsoft, this practical, customer-focused attitude is well celebrated and supported. (and.. btw… I love my Surface Book!)

I honestly don’t think Belfiore owed us an explanation, but what he said on the Verge is on point. The fact that Microsoft execs and employees check out the competition shouldn’t be a shock to anyone following the company.

In fact, Microsoft and its Garage division have been experimenting and developing apps for Android and iOS devices for a long time, and it’s pretty good at it (the Office apps come first to my mind). In the end, it’s great that more users are using Microsoft services, and Microsoft has to go where its customers, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained when talking about “mobility of experiences”.

So, relax if you see Microsoft employees and execs using iOS and Android devices. They just have to, to build better apps for all their customers. More than that, people at Microsoft are not different from us who like to mix devices. If you’re a tech fan, that’s honestly no big deal.

In the end, we should be all happy to see that Joe Belfiore, even while on personal leave, is still listening to us and that he hasn’t lost is sense of humor:

For those who want to follow Belfiore’s adventures, you can follow him on his blog, he’s really sharing good pictures!