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Windows Phone is failing because the seeds were planted elsewhere (bradlanders.com)
31 points by bradleyland 2204 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

Windows Phone is failing because it arrived three years too late, and offers too little innovation over iOS or Android. This is not a matter of Microsoft "losing the mobile market"... they simply never had it.

They don't have the developer support (how often do you see your bank, or web sites, advertising their "Windows Mobile App"?) They don't have the users. Even if their product was materially better than the iPhone or Android, they still wouldn't be gaining traction.

You can't arrive three to four years late with a "me too" product at a "me too" price point, lacking the app ecosystem of your competitors, and honestly expect success.

You can't arrive three to four years late with a "me too" product at a "me too" price point, lacking the app ecosystem of your competitors, and honestly expect success.

Funny, if you replace "three to four" with "two to three", that's almost exactly what people said about Android.

Android appeared in a world where there was only one company making an OS for one phone, with no other competition in the "touchscreen smartphone market".

WP7 arrives in a world that is saturated by both Android phones and iPhones. Not the same thing at all. I'd say it's more like Linux arriving after Windows already dominated the market.

Really? I think most people in the know suspected (at the very least) that Android's openness and price tag was going to make it a winner with manufacturer's and carriers. Remember that iPhone was AT&T exclusive and every other US carrier was scrambling for a "solution".

More importantly, when Android came out, the bottom of the market was still wide-open as was the more niche market of people who wanted an open phone. That's the point the article is making. WP didn't come out too late after the iPhone or Android, it came out too late after BOTH.

iPhone release, 2007, SDK release, 2008 Android release October 2008 (HTC Dream)

There's a big difference in tech between one year and three years, especially when we're talking about the V1 of a product type. Additionally, Android offered developers, manufacturers and carriers options that they simply didn't get from iPhones. So far, I haven't seen anything that says Microsoft is providing something really new to any of those stakeholders, aside from a license fee.

Exactly. My only problem with Windows phones is that the choice of handsets is too inconsistent from provider to provider. I'd love to get my hands on that new Samsung Focus S but I don't want to deal with AT&T. With Android the same handset can appear on multiple providers making the choice easier.

Android phones are not at a "me too" price point compared to iPhones.

Most of the real headline grabbing ones are. Droid Razr, Galaxy Nexus, Sensation XE, Galaxy S2, they're all in and around the same price point. And these are the ones the marketing material uses to pitch against the iPhone for the top end.

they're all in and around the same price point

Not quite. The current top-of-the-line android (Nexus) is 20% cheaper than the iPhone 4S right on release.

Android handsets also tend to fall in price rather quickly because they go through 2-3 release-cycles during one iPhone release-cycle. The Nexus will likely drop to half of today's price before the next iPhone is released.

Those weren't the prices I saw in the US or here in the UK.

Verizon launch price for Galaxy Nexus: $299 on 24-month contract. Verizon launch price for iPhone 4S: $199 [16GB], $299 [32GB] on 24-month contract.

Sim-free pricing in UK was £500 for Galaxy Nexus and £500 for 16GB iPhone 4S.

I do agree that Android phones don't keep their value as well as the iPhone line does. And obviously carriers and retailers are less likely to do iPhone 'deals'. I'm not picking sides for any OS here, just saying that the top end Android phones are no cheaper than the iPhone.

Interesting, in germany the prices are (converted from €): Nexus = £415, iPhone4 = £522.

I had assumed the price-delta would be similar in other countries.

Either way, I think we can agree that in the midst of an iPhone cycle (~6mo after release) you are pretty much guaranteed to get superior android hardware for the same money.

This is not new and has been irrelevant for the longest time because the Android-OS was never a match to iOS. However, this latter part has now changed with ICS (and I'm saying that as the guy who ranted about the android shortcomings to no end).

The next iPhone will need to be a significant upgrade if Apple wants to retain their dominance in the premium segment. Another Siri is not going to cut it.

You have to look at the deals available. I'm new to smartphones but got a galaxy s2 free on my contract, The equivalent iphone cost twice as much as my s2. If it were a similar price I would have gone for iPhone. I'm now finding as a win/linux rather than apple user I'm really happy with android/samsung anyway.

If you look at any of the mobile marketshare charts, you will see that MS never had the mobile market to begin with. They were always way behind Palm, BB, iOS or Android. MS was always a third place platform in mobile.

At this point I kind of wonder if the best chance for success Microsoft has in these sorts of markets is to create one or more aggressive well-funded, startup-scale companies comprised of some bright people they already have and unleash them on the competition.

If they're prepared to dump a few billion on the next Xbox, they could probably get ten or twenty amazingly hot start-ups for the same price.

They're like a fat old bear now. Cranky, slow, but still enormously powerful, just lacking reach.

Being forced to exist in Microsoft's stiflingly bureaucratic organization can't help anyone. The original Xbox team fought to stay independent. The Bing team had to go rogue to get anything done quickly. Both got re-assimilated before they could achieve their full potential.

A good point. MS is trying to play by Apple's rules (or pretty close), but you never win that way. This should be a lesson to the people who claim that HP/RIM/etc. would be successful if only they'd copy Apple's playbook.

If WP7 was released at the same time Android was, it might have taken off. No one is talking about the 500lb gorilla in the room... carriers. Verizon launched Android into the mainstream with the Droid commercials as a hedge against iPhones. Many people call even other Android phones the Droid phones. Similar interest in WP7 is lacking from carriers.

good point, WP7 came too late and the marketing is not as good as the other two phones.

I haven't seen a single WP7 commercial in Mexico yet.

This guy ignores the fact that Microsoft has a fair bit of experience being the latecomer to a ( admittedly less dynamic and crowded) party.

The first Xbox was just a stake in the ground, a declaration of micrsofts intention to play in a field that was already quite competitive and saturated. It won a few people over but it didn't win the market. Then they released the 360 and the main consoles in the market are now in a 3 way battle, instead of a two way one. Microsoft are, I hope, playing a long game that recognizes that people don't stay with their current phone forever.

I didn't ignore it, I hadn't even thought of it! :) That's actually a really good point, and I'm a little disappointed that I didn't think of it. Nearly every time I see Metro, I'm reminded of my XB360 console interface, and I've always felt that the XBox is Microsoft's best product. It works in a way that very few products do. I turn it on, it does exactly what I expect. Except when I get the RRoD... Heh.

I don't think he does ignore it. I think you're ignoring the other cases where they've been a latecomer but weren't successful - Zune and Bing, for example. They have finally gotten there with Xbox 360, although one might argue the door was really left open by the (significantly more successful) Wii targeting a slightly different market segment and Sony really stumbling on the PS3. It's not obvious to me that that will translate to success against iOS and Android which are in strong positions and getting stronger.

People bought an XBox because you had to if you wanted to play Halo.

I'm not seeing a similarly good reason to buy a WinPhone.

Wait until Microsoft spend $500 million on a WP7 exclusive app...

Well, maybe not $500 million, but Office for WP7 will be better than Office for Android or iOS equivalents, even if it means MS have to buy those developers first :)

Yup, if they can do something like that, then they'll get a big chunk of the business market.

Provided nobody else can easily copy it, of course.

WP7 comes with Office out of the box... perhaps MS should try marketing that fact a bit more aggressively.

I don't see that reason yet either, but after playing with a Nokia Lumia I do believe it's within the realm of possibility.

They did get the basics right here, WinMobile is actually surprisingly good. First and foremost it's hands-down the most responsive UI, even an iPhone feels laggy in contrast. Also most of the core interface and features worked really well for me when I tried; the whole thing feels right, the interface is intuitive and beautiful. It seriously makes the iPhone look dated.

What it lacks (apart from bugfixes) is customizability and the app ecosystem. Those are obviously huge issues, but not insurmountable when you have the warchest of a Microsoft.

Brad's post and the industry at large is accurately describing the outlook. Right now. It's a mistake (IMO) to ignore the long term.

The Nokia angle is huge - people have and will buy a Nokia device just for Maps and Drive. Nokia know this so have spent a lot of energy in getting it right on the Lumia. Their killer feature is directions using public transport. This will pay off for them, and consequently for Microsoft.

Some comments here say WP7 should aim for the gaming market. It already does. I watched a 12-year-old kid pick up a WP7 phone a few weeks ago - he went ballistic when he saw the Xbox tile on the home screen. His dad bought him a WP7 for xmas.

Some comments here also say that WP7 should aim at the business user. This it also already does. WP7 and the forthcoming Windows 8 tablets are going to the the only phone/tablet combination that intergrate natively with Active Directory, System Centre, Office and Office 365, DirectAccess, and so on. That is a very compelling sell into a corporate market that is finding it difficult to integrate and secure iPhones and Android phones in "the enterprise."

The last point I think is worth making is that for app developers WP offers a very profitable marketplace.

The five-year plan is very familiar and comfortable territory for Microsoft, and has historically shown it's effectiveness (IE/Netscape, Word/WordPerfect, Xbox/PS, and so on).

One other fact that backs up the author's point is that while Apple has a low percentage of the computer market as a whole, they have >90% marketshare for PCs over $1000. That gives them a lot of loyal, high-end, customers who also happen to be the early adopters for new technologies.


Here are two great steps for MS to put WP7 in the race:

1. treat it like a game console. Make all your 1st party companies (Rare, Halo company, etc) make killer games for it and put them on the market for FREE. make money thru microtransactions if they have to.

2. DOMINATE video editing and sharing ON THE DEVICE.

I think these two wedges will be enough to get the ball rolling to critical mass in 2013 if they manage to do it mid 2012.

1. A phone isn't really a hard-core gaming device which is the type of games their 1st party companies make. They're not going to make an Angry Birds or a Tiny Wings.

2. This is easily copied by Apple/Android -- Apple probably even has a head start on it.

I think WP7 needs to stop concentrating on the consumer side and focus on the business side. RIM is about to implode and Apple doesn't have a strong presence in that area. Microsoft already has the necessary presence with exchange and active directory. Windows 8 will unify their UI experience. They are just wasting effort, time, and money trying to take on Apple and Android on their turf.

Re: 1. iOS runs the Unreal Engine 3 as well as iD's RAGE engine. Look at games like Infinity Blade [1] and Rage HD [2], then try telling me that's not serious gaming.

Re: 2. Yes, iMovie for iOS has been out for 18 months [3]. It's pretty darn good.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDvPIhCd8N4

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl2bAiloQwQ

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j69pZU5d2cs

The iPhone is a very powerful gaming device, hardware wise, for sure. But the real question is, how well do those games actually sell? I just don't think you can save a phone platform by making it a serious game platform.

Over half of all iOS apps sold are games. RAGE HD and Infinity Blade are best selling titles, grossing millions.

That's not to say gaming is the answer for Windows Phone, I'm simply objecting to the notion that mobile OSes don't have anything to offer to serious gamers.

Yes, it wasn't my intention to imply that mobile OSes don't have anything to offer serious gamers. It was more that serious gamers don't have much to offer to mobile OSes. While people who have phones buy games, I don't think they'd buy a phone just for that -- at least not in quantities enough to make it viable strategy.

I agree, the percentage of smartphone buyers who are serious gamers must be in the single digits.

I have no clue how MS could improve Windows Phone so that it will attract iOS and Android users. I also don't see how manufacturers of dumb phones would choose Windows Phone over Android, unless they're offered large sums of cash (like Nokia). IMHO, Windows Phone is screwed.

I couldn't agree more, Microsoft still has a chance to own the corporate side. If they buy RIM, there is a chance for leverage down the road to fight the consumer battle. As it stands, they are just fighting the tide.

It would be interesting if Microsoft "changed the game". Renamed it to the xPhone and made it the best portable gaming device to the point of trying to make it the replacement for the xbox 360. Give it some sort of reason to exist, some reason why users might choose it.

Personally I think they should have gone after the enterprise and business users. They should have attacked RIM and they should have strengthened their own position in areas like point of sale, medical, inventory, and so on.

It's too late now for the business users (a surprising number of corporate shops are supporting (or looking to support) iphones).

As for POS/Medical/Inventory..it continues to be an ignored market segment which is, unbelievably, still best served by pre WP7 windows devices.

How exactly will they do that without developer support and with mobile hardware that is already a year old at launch for their "high-end" devices?

I agree that this is a good idea.

With iOS and Android there simply is no really good reason for WP7 to even exist in its current form. They will need to distinguish themselves to survive.

This is very relevant (How great leaders inspire action):


Hint: It's all about the beliefs of a company and how consumers associate their beliefs with a company's beliefs. We know what Apple stands for (higher quality and more beautiful products). We know what Google stands for (more openess, more user freedom).

What does Microsoft stand for? Can you answer it quickly? The only answer that comes fast enough is "money". I don't think Microsoft has an inbred culture inside the company for much else, at least not anymore.

I also agree with the ending conclusion of the post, about Microsoft trying to cater to the "people in the middle", like not wanting to be close enough like Apple to deliver a great user experience, but not open enough like Android, too. In fact WP7 is even much stricter than desktop Windows. So they aren't addressing neither the Apple users, nor the Android users with this "mediocrity" strategy.

Seth Godin likes to talk about how mediocrity is a bad place to be in, too:


What does Microsoft stand for? Can you answer it quickly? The only answer that comes fast enough is "money".

Really? Two words popped into my mind first: Software and Platforms.

Money is something that all companies strive for. But when you think about Microsoft and what they really push it is software and platforms.

In constrast Google makes me think ot the web and advertising. Apple makes me think of HW/SW synergy and design. Facebook makes me think social and sharing.

It seems like you just wanted to write an attack dog post.

95%+ of phone buyers couldn't care less about the company beliefs, forget about even knowing them. They go to their carrier store, where they see 10 Android phones and 1 Windows Phone in the corner which the salesmen steer them away from.

I agree with the first part of your statement, depending on your definition of "company beliefs". Corporate culture is pretty far from most consumer's minds at the time of purchase.

You have to ask questions regarding the second half of your statement though:

1) Why are there 10 Android phones and 1 Windows phone?

2) Why do salesmen steer consumers way from Windows Phone?

In my view, the first has to do with Microsoft's approach to Windows phone. Like Apple, and in contrast to Google, want tight control over the end-user experience. This combined with the fact that they were late to the market is creating a negative incentive for carrier's to put WP7 on handsets.

I still maintain that the second has to do with the enormous momentum of consumer sentiment at this point. Phone salesmen spend a lot of time around phones. Many of them are "in to phones", so they're more acutely aware, albeit often misinformed, of the tech-punditry's view of these devices and the types of consumers that buy them. WP7 also lacked a strong device at launch, so a lackluster start resulted in negative feedback. The salesman is going to push what he likes, and gadget people like Android devices.

He's right about how Apple users (like me) think and act. I like this analysis.

Windows Phone is failing because people are not putting it on handsets, and people are not putting it on handsets because Microsoft charges a licensing fee that needs to be pre-paid and that reduces already pretty thin margins.

I disagree. At the very most 3 to 5% of Android users use Android for the openness. I believe the pundits need to spend more time with normal people and not just geeks.

My friend has her iPhone 4 with the same OS as when she bought it a year ago(never updated it), there are always 30 to 40 updates pending for the apps which she never does. Talk to many Android users about what Android version they're running and their eyes glaze over and they've never heard of Gingerbread or ICS, forget about choosing Android for openness.

I disagree with you - "normal people" love their live screensavers and wallpapers and the countless other tweaks they can do that are prohibited on both iOS and WinMo ;-) "normal people" also love that they can install software from third-party sources. It does have the downside that piracy is a problem, but we aren't talking about publishers here and normal people consider this a bonus.

Also normal people buy Android phones because of openness, even though they may be unaware of it - because Android is open, carriers and phone makers also love it. This is one thing iOS fans hate about Android and for some valid reasons too, but if carriers/phone makers where too restricted in what they could do with Android, then Android wouldn't be open, or as popular as it is.

No, he's right. Nearly no one is buying an "Android" phone. They're buying Sony Ericsson, Samsung, HTC, etc. The're buying brands they trust.

Honestly, if MS could just see this is and would make a nice deal with these phone vendors to get Windows on their phones I think Android would be down to a few percentage market share within a year.

In my country, Vodafone and Orange, the biggest mobile carriers in Europe are doing commercials for Android phones like crazy.

And in every commercials I've seen, the Android brand is emphasized, which doesn't happen when they are promoting feature phones with Symbian or whatever.

That people aren't buying Androids, that's a myth promoted here on HN that I haven't seen in the wild.

Companies may be advertising it, but users don't know and don't care. I know tons of people who own Android phones and not one of them bought it because it was "Android". They all bought out of brand loyalty or physical specs. Half of them didn't even know what "Android" meant.

When they see the same brand they trust with a much more polished, professional looking OS that has much better games, etc., they'll jump in a heartbeat. MS just has to get the price low enough that the vendors will feel compelled to push it at least half as hard as they're trying to ram Android down everyone's throats.

Samsung and HTC make Windows Phones. Sony Ericsson is also talking about making them.

Nobody seems to be buying them.

Give it time. They are very nice, unlike the amateurish Android look and the advantages you get from the development environment can't be ignored forever.

I specifically avoided the term "open", because I agree with you 100%. No one knows what the hell open is. There is, however, a not-insignificant amount of talk in the main stream press about Apple's constrictive nature. Headlines like "Will Apple Boot the Kindle App?" [1] raise red flags in consumers' minds. Some people I've talked to are startled to learn that Apple can even do that. After all, they can load any software they like on their Mac/PC, and there's nothing Apple or Microsoft can do about it.

1 - http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/15/technology/apple_kindle/inde...

Ordinary users only care about cost, choice and being limited - in that order.

Not only are Android phones cheaper than Apple, including pricing plans, but there are a lot more Android than Windows phones.

Finally, even the most casual smartphone buyer understands apps are key to not being limited. The perception is that Apple and (then?) Android are the leaders.

"Openness" as a concept is simply not on the radar for most users, but the consequences very much are.

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