opinion


Windows Phone 7: Apple has a problem

There’s a real possibility consumers will be pretty pleased with their Windows Phone

There’s a real possibility consumers will be pretty pleased with their Windows Phone

I’ve generally held off commenting on Windows Phone beyond occasionally pointing out that it’s conceivable the company could deliver a decent experience. I’ve also made it clear that I would like Microsoft to have success, especially given the skewed nature of the industry’s obsession with Apple. We really need good competition in the marketplace — and given that Nokia isn’t quite delivering yet, I think Microsoft’s offering is very refreshing.

Before I continue, I should point out that I haven’t spent a long time with Windows Phone 7 yet. Indeed, the only significant exposure I’ve had is with their reference platform during briefings, but now that we’ve seen the launch with Balmer and the comprehensive introduction, I feel comfortable enough to begin making predictions.

Windows Phone 7 devices will sell like hotcakes.

Consumers have been thoroughly warmed up by Apple and I think they’ll like what they see with the Microsoft experience. Whilst the iPhone has sold very well, there’s been limitations — substantial limitations, most notably in the UK, you’ve had to pay cash-up-front for the device. Even though Apple has deigned to allow price plans to drop to 20-odd pounds per month, this has still required consumers to cough up 200-300 pounds because the operator subsidy won’t cover the full cost of the device. No matter how you look at it, this is a real turn off for consumers, especially the UK crowd accustomed to ‘free’ phones (and by ‘free’, I mean you walk out the shop without paying anything — but with a 2 year contract at 35 or 40 quid a month).

The alternatives have been pretty limited. Android has filled the void — and the Samsung Galaxy S has done well, along with the lower-tier £250-300 Android handsets.

But with Windows Phone 7, the consumer gets a good looking new interface along with nice, capable hardware. You only have to see some of the demonstrations of the technology during the press conference to recognise that in phone shops all across the country (and, crucially, all across the States), sales people will be excitedly offering Windows Phone 7 devices to interested customers.

Say what you like about ‘Windows’ and the Microsoft brand (and, let’s be clear, I am not a massive fan of Windows — I own 8 Apple machines), consumers are familiar with it. I think this will go a long, long way to helping Windows Phone succeed.

It’s not a toe-in-the-water approach. Microsoft is all-in with it’s operator partners and manufacturers. LG alone is shipping their Optimus 7 and 7Q devices in 35 countries with 100 operators. That’s *just* LG. We’ve also got Samsung, HTC, Dell… and a whole host of other manufacturers getting stuck in too.

I most definitely do not agree with the rather narrow view offered by the likes of Matt over at TechCrunch (or CrunchGear) who reckons that:

“It’s an iOS, Android and BlackBerry world now and there isn’t room for anyone else.”

There are legions of smartphone owners looking for something else — and there are hundreds of millions of consumers on dumbphones looking to make the next step. For those, Windowws Phone will definitely be in the running.

Microsoft is very, very serious about mobile. Windows Mobile 6.5 was a shocker. Like everyone else in the room during Balmer’s introduction of 6.5 back at Mobile World Congress two years ago, I felt embarrassed and annoyed that Microsoft had even bothered.

I wanted the industry to look at what Apple had done and do better. Or, at least, do something different. I think that’s what we now see with Windows Phone 7.

I’m not sure if I’d use a Windows Phone 7 phone myself as a primary device — I’m still very much wedded to my BlackBerry Bold (or Torch, at the moment) — however I think consumers will very much enjoy it.

Those consumers who were previously forced into choosing between the high-end cash-up-front iPhone, a BlackBerry or an Android device now have a compelling additional choice. I used to cringe in the mobile phone shops when I heard consumers selecting one of the gorgeous but useless Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. I genuinely used to actually cringe. Not any more though. I think I’ll be quite delighted for the consumer, now.

The big loser, I reckon, will be Apple. I think there’s a real possibility consumers will be pretty pleased with their Windows Phone. I don’t think consumers will feel too short changed by their show-off friend in the pub who’s been lording it over them with his or her iPhone 4. I can imagine the consumer taking a look at the fancy flying Windows Phone tiles, the nice photo features, the easy integration of email and the swooshy menu structure, and thinking ‘yeah, this is nice’. And when it comes to the price conversation, I think that’s what will clinch it.

So, I’ll wait and see — I need to try a week or two using Windows Phone 7 before I can be sure — but I think Windows Phone 7 is good news for Microsoft, good news for the consumer and good news for the competitive landscape.


12 comments

  1. Blad Rnr 12/10/2010 @ 4:03 pm

    Microsoft might be serious about their new Win7 phone (ridiculous name, IMHO), but who will buy it? They are three years late. An eternity in this market. For the potential buyer they would have to spend a lot of face time (no pun intended) in order to decide to gamble on a new smart phone, when there is the iPhone and plenty of Android devices with open source apps. I feel the market has lots of choices for those who like the walled garden (Apple) and others who enjoy the freedom of an Android. phone. I’m not sure what Win7 phones bring to the table. A glitzy UI does not sell phones. And I just don’t see, with MSFT having 5% market share now, why they are even bothering. At the end of the day, Apple will scoop up the lion’s share of profits in this market. MSFT will only be making $15-20 per handset. That’s peanuts compared to the revenue Apple will bring in. If WIN 7 phones were as revolutionary as the iPhone, then maybe. But being a little better (a relative term) gets you nothing.

    MSFT is too little, too late. The Zune is a failure, and so was the Kin. MSFT has zero brand image anymore. Zero.

  2. fring 12/10/2010 @ 4:19 pm

    ‘…you’ve had to pay cash-up-front for the device. Even though Apple has deigned to allow price plans to drop to 20-odd pounds per month, this has still required consumers to cough up 200-300 pounds because the operator subsidy won’t cover the full cost of the device. No matter how you look at it, this is a real turn off for consumers, especially the UK crowd accustomed to ‘free’ phones (and by ‘free’, I mean you walk out the shop without paying anything — but with a 2 year contract at 35 or 40 quid a month).

    Eh ???
    That’s the weirdest definition of free I’ve come across.
    Put another way, compared with an iPhone (or other premium phone) these phones are given away for nothing because they are worth… nothing.

    And since when did Apple determine or control price plans with the carriers? You don’t seem to have a clue as to how the mobile phone business works if you think the carriers are not covering the price of buying the phones they give away.

    Logic like yours provokes me to wager 50 squid that Apple loses no sales to WP7 phones at all.

  3. Tim 12/10/2010 @ 4:52 pm

    I think Microsoft has one thing going against it, it’s OS. Tech pundits loved the Zune OS, but consumers didn’t.

    I went to a Best Buy and heard a guy ask someone how to get out of “demo mode” on the Zune. When he found out it didn’t have a demo mode and that was just how it operated he laughed and put it down.

    That’s probably why most Zunes on display were non-working models.

    People may come to the Windows Phone 7 because they feel at home with Microsoft, but if they have the ability to try it out first, that may be a big problem for the platform.

  4. Steve W 12/10/2010 @ 5:37 pm

    “I’m not sure if I’d use a Windows Phone 7 phone myself as a primary device — I’m still very much wedded to my BlackBerry Bold (or Torch, at the moment) — however I think consumers will very much enjoy it.”

    You should stick to writing about what you use.

  5. mbaDad 12/10/2010 @ 7:15 pm

    Apple? This will hit Android much harder. I think all 3 will do well.

  6. theLedger 12/10/2010 @ 7:33 pm

    I disagree. Without a very compelling experience and the growing stickiness that comes with investing in apps for a specific device, I doubt that we will see WinMo 7 dong much more than slowing the erosion of the current base of WinMo 6.5 users.

    Judging by my own personal experience, I would wager that the majority of WinMo purchases are by corporate IT departments that are extending control through Microsoft tools.

    The Zune is actually now a very nice product but how many people are buying it?

  7. steffenjobbs 12/10/2010 @ 8:23 pm

    I think there will certainly be consumers that like WP7 handsets. They seem to be rather nice on first glance, but it’s really in the hands of consumers, not a bunch of tech-heads. Windows handsets will either sell or they won’t. It’s as simple as that. We need to wait and see how they do. So far there’s no indication how consumers are taking to these new handsets. I just don’t expect them to sell out in unexpected numbers based on those handsets don’t look all that different from the typical Android handset. Microsoft needs to plaster some big Windows logo on them or something to get consumers’ attention.

    WP7 is missing some software features that other smartphones lack, but I wouldn’t consider that a deal-breaker. I’m curious to see how consumers react because I don’t have a clue about how popular WP7 will become.

  8. synthm 12/10/2010 @ 8:29 pm

    Windows is much more a threat to Android, than Apple. But WM7 still has serious deficiencies which I will quote from another website:

    Missing the memo. Apparently Microsoft didn’t notice that Apple was slammed for three years over iPhone’s lack of copy-and-paste. With all of its software skills, Microsoft couldn’t get copy-and-paste into its 1.0 product? Coming “some time in 2011.” Stunning.

    Multitasking. Gee, look at that. No multitasking either. When “pressed” by Engadget, WP7 head Joe Belfiore wouldn’t say when multitasking was coming. Which leads one to believe it’s even farther off than cut-and-paste.

    Flash. Et tu, Microsoft? No Flash in WP7. Not even Silverlight. Add that to the list of future enhancements. I’m not hearing a lot of complaining about this. In fact, you really have to search the reviews to find any mention of the lack of Flash. Bias!

    Verizon MIA. Welcome to the good ship AT&T, Microsoft, where you will find Apple as your fellow passenger. True, there’s a plan to expand to multiple carriers by next year, but early adopters face the same sad choice that iPhone users face: AT&T or AT&T.

    The Microsoft App Store. Oops, there isn’t one. But there will be. Current status: “working with developers.” The idea of being one of the first on a new platform will appeal to some developers. Most, however, are already deciding between two big, established money-makers — iPhone and Android — or spreading out their resources to support two platforms. Adding a third to the mix? That’s one very large hump to get over.

    http://kensegall.com/blog/

  9. me 12/10/2010 @ 11:06 pm

    We really need good competition in the marketplace!!

    I completely dismissed this article with this comment.

    Do we not have a dominant player in the PC OS market?

  10. John 12/10/2010 @ 11:41 pm

    It sounds like the MS phone is getting good reviews. It will take more than that. Mind share, sales outlets, applications all come into play as well.

    Having said that, I don’t think this will be a flop. MS will push hard and spend a lot of money. Eventually they will work up to 10 to 20% share.

  11. Martin Hill 13/10/2010 @ 12:17 am

    Ewan,
    I think you’ve got it wrong – if WinPhone7 does manage to grab any traction,it will be at the expense of Android.

    MS targets that same customers (cell phone manufacturers like HTC, LG, Moto etc) that Google targets and this will only cause them to split their attention between these two platforms.

    Apple will actually benefit if WinPhone7 is at all successful as a more fragmented market is better than just one large competing platform such as Android.

    -Mart

  12. Eddy 13/10/2010 @ 7:58 am

    Ewan you say: “…given the skewed nature of the industry’s obsession with Apple”. I beg to differ. You seem to be an MS apologist. The reason we are ‘obsessed’ with Apple is because they do not have an epileptic operating system that constantly requires patches, hangs and loses data. Period.

    MS had an opportunity to enter the mobile market in 1999. I recall someone from Seattle saying that it was not their strategy at that stage. MS was only interested in winning browser wars, controlling the desktop and dislodging Lotus notes.

    So, ge tyour facts right. Dude.

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