5 mobile questions with Microsoft’s Paul Laberge (UNTETHER.talks Speaker Spotlight)

More than anything, UNTETHER.talks is defined by the luminaries we’ve sought to bring together to speak to the changing face of mobile. As we ramp up to our inaugural event in Toronto (June 26-27, tickets still available!), we wanted to take the time to get to know our luminaries a little bit better.

Today we have Paul Laberge, Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Canada. We’re amazingly excited to have Microsoft as a #Utalks sponsor, and Paul as a keynote speaker, because as you know, Microsoft has been in the news quite a bit this week with two major mobile announcements: Surface and Windows Phone 8. It’s really the perfect time for Paul’s “Microsoft’s Metro Mojo: Laying the Groundwork for the Future Multi-Screen Mobile Experience” keynote on day one. Want to know how Metro ties together Windows Phone and Windows 8? Come to UNTETHER.talks and hear Paul speak!

1. What is your can’t live without mobile app/service?
In reality it’s email given I deal with over 300 a day, but that’s a pretty boring answer. The apps on my Windows Phone that I use several times a day are rowi (a Twitter client), Weather Flow (a great weather app that also embodies many of the principles of our Metro Design Language and the best use of push notifications on any app I’ve seen), Kik Messenger (not only a great messaging app but also an amazing Canadian success story), MSN Money Stocks (great for tracking my portfolio) and News360 (a great news aggregator).

2. What mobile app/service do you want right now that doesn’t exist?
I NEED a great fantasy football app; something that can give me key stats on players and a great UI so that I can change my lineups on my phone without taking 20 minutes to do so. I’m also an amateur astronomer and I find myself really looking for a great astronomy companion app. Something that can help me find objects I haven’t seen before and manage the tracking on my telescope. I think I just thought of some great app ideas…

3. What do you want the UNTETHER.talks audience to remember from your session?
As a baseline, I want them to get a good introduction and understanding of what Metro is and isn’t. That’s important as there is a preconceived notion that Metro is just flat shapes in primary colours and Segoe type font. That’s the implementation we have chosen for Metro. More importantly, I want the audience to understand that Metro is a great tool for them to create what I call a consistency of experience across platforms. That is to say, if you have an app on a smartphone and that same app on a tablet (each optimized for their form factor), even though the UI may differ given they cater to different devices, the experience of each app is consistent and familiar to the user. Finally, there is one “secret” thing that I want them to learn about Metro that will likely surprise most, if not all of the audience. That one I’m not going to just give away here. =D

4. What’s the next vertical that is ripe for mobile disruption?
I think there are many, mainly because I don’t see one specific vertical that “owns” the mobility story today – most industries are still figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The one that excites me, however, is health sciences. I think health sciences (and in particular the medical sub-vertical) is a clear winner in mobility. Just today I visited my doctor and noticed his dependence on technology and we started a quick conversation about it. He agreed with me that his productivity would be materially increased with the use of a tablet that had a great UI for touch. The trick to this, however, is not just a single app on an tablet – there has to be an end-to-end medical practice solution that is both affordable to a clinic and supports the entire business.

5. What’s the biggest impediment to mobile ubiquity?
I think there are two things. First is the cost of mobility. Data plans can be very expensive and that doesn’t always sit well when we’re in a soft economy like we are in. Second is user adoption. What I mean by this is not that there is an issue with the population buying and using a smartphone, but rather that they don’t realize how much more productive or connected they can be with their devices. I see this second point changing, however, as more and more people see mobile devices as becoming their primary technology device to get their work done (which may include getting 3 stars on the next level of Angry Birds)…

6. This week was a big one for Microsoft, with both the Surface and Windows Phone 8 announcements. What’s the key message you hope people take away from them this week?

Was it ever! More than ever before, Microsoft’s story around experiencing the world through technology is one that doesn’t require you to compromise. With the Surface device, you get hardware that uniquely compliments the great user experience that Windows 8 and Windows RT delivers through software. With Windows Phone, you are seeing a truly competitive smartphone platform that is also focused on the user’s experience, first and foremost. At their core, both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share a common platform that really speaks to our strategy of owning the end-to-end consumer and enterprise experience. With Metro providing the structure and guidance to that experience, there is a consistency to how they behave and interact with the user. I think over the coming months you’ll start to see some really interesting connected experiences that take advantage of this common platform that will make people realize that we’re a serious mobile platform and one that can have immense value to them.

About the author

Douglas Soltys

Douglas is the former Editor-In-Chief of Inside BlackBerry, BlackBerry Cool, and QuicklyBored, which he launched as a mobile gaming industry site. His knowledge of mobile and social media led him to a job at RIM (BlackBerry), where he got to travel the world and do lots of cool things. He is often left-handed, but rarely sinister.

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