A Recent Article on "Saving" Windows Phone

[sc:mobile-category ]Yesterday there was an article on The Register that was an opinion piece on what Microsoft could due to “save” Windows Phone.

It boiled down to five points:

  1. It’s a device business, stupid
  2. Growing up
  3. We need to talk about the UI
  4. Give it all away?
  5. Telco’s hate smartphones. They don’t have to hate yours.

Let’s look at these a little more…

It’s a device business, stupid

The article is saying that phones sell when they are front and center in the store and that variation is key.  I think neither of those assertions are particularly accurate…

Does anyone believe that if every retail outlet stopped displaying the iPhone that suddenly nobody would buy it?  Of course not,  they sell and therefore retails put them at the front of the shop.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Yes, being front and center will get a small percentage of naive shoppers to by that phone, but the cost of the phones and the length of the contract terms tend to make smart phones less of an impulse purchase.

Likewise the iPhone hasn’t changed its form factor in any significant way since it came on the market, but still sells like hotcakes.  Clearly variation is not required to have a successful line of phones.  In fact take a look at the majority of Android devices, they all have the same basic form factor and layout.  In fact the biggest differences (other than the internals) is often just how thin they are.  There’s nothing stopping any WP licensee from doing the same thing.

The real difference is core’s and screen resolution/size and yes MS has some catching up to do here, but it’s not a make or break for most users.

Growing up

This point boils down “keep doing what your doing” due to the fact that OS’s take time to mature, iPhone and Android have both taken 4 revisions to become the juggernauts they are and WP is really only at version 1.5.  But Microsoft has never been a quitter and it looks like WP8 is going to be a big step forward in maturing the OS.

We need to talk about the UI

Microsoft makes a lot of noise about the glance and go nature of the OS and this article is basically saying that’s good, but it sacrifices having lots of detail on the screen.


I’m sorry but most users (not techies… users) don’t want lots of details.  I know several people (in the tech industry but not techies) that still have old phones because “it has a big font”!

I’m serious here though, some people live by how much data they can get on their screen, but most don’t and that’s what you target for the device.  Microsoft has it right in a larger consumer sense, even if that doesn’t satisfy everyone.

And let’s face it, the example of the third-party app isn’t a good one because the third-party developer didn’t have to use the Metro design, they could have designed the app to be more “dense”, but they built what they thought would sell.

Likewise he bring up the white on black color scheme, but you could always just change to the black on white scheme.  Just saying Winking smile.  Heck maybe that’s why e-mail only supports black on white!

“There’s too much thumbing going on.”, you do realize your using a touch screen device with a, relatively speaking, tiny screen right?

Yes, Microsoft could stand to allow some more options in to Windows Phone, but the vast majority of people would be unlikely to change them so they dedicate their resources to, hopefully, more important things.

Give it all away?

I really don’t know what the author was trying to get at here, maybe that Microsoft should be trying other ways to generate revenue from the OS than charging OEM directly for the license, but that doesn’t really seem to be a problem as they have multiple hardware OEMs and more coming on as time goes by.

Telco’s hate smartphones. They don’t have to hate yours

Telco’s don’t want to be dump pipes, they fear it more than anything.  They have seen their profits from traditional landlines fall through the floor because they lost control to the modem and eventually the Internet.

Telco’s LOVE smartphones, as long as they can get “exclusive” phones on their networks they know that people will buy their service even when they charge more for it.  They HATE giving up revenue they thing they should have to other companies.  Most come from a monopoly background and have a culture entrenched in the idea that they are the only ones that should make money from their services.

Over the long term, when phones plateau in features they will no longer be the draw they are and wireless vendors will have to scramble to find another way to lock customers in.

The idea of Microsoft making Skype (or other services) exclusive (or cost more on other platforms) is a dangerous idea.  Making Skype available as widely as possible increases the value of Skype, reducing it to being only on WP would drastically reduce its value overall.  It would leave the market open to competitors that were not tied to WP and Skype would be replaced by someone else as the king of VOIP.

Microsoft has a diverse portfolio, Windows Phone is just one part of that and they shouldn’t shoot themselves in the foot to chase after just one market.  There is a balance that can be struck to make the Windows Phone  versions of their other properties the best way to experience them, but to limit those properties to just Windows Phone would be a disservice to the entire company.

The verdict

The title of the article was “Five ways Microsoft can rescue Windows Phone”, but really the author doesn’t give even one concrete suggestion that Microsoft could use to “save” Windows Phone.

And I’ll argue it doesn’t need to be saved, what it needs is time.  Just like they did with the Xbox, they have to give it time to get in to the mainstream.  Microsoft is committed to this as you can tell there NO discussion of discontinuing Windows Phone from MS, in fact they talk it up all the time and have even started talking about WP8.

Many people fail to remember the Microsoft is seldom first to market with their products.  There were other OS’s before Windows and DOS, Word and Excel entered a market dominated by WordPerfect and Lotus 123, Exchange (and MS Mail) fought Notes and Groupwise.  But Microsoft has an uncanny knack of making their products dominate over time because they don’t give up just because it didn’t succeed beyond everyone’s expectations on the first try.

Five ways to make Windows Phone the consumers choice

So what are my “Five ways to make Windows Phone the consumers choice”?

  1. Get ahead of the hardware curve, if Android is supporting quad cores, Windows Phone had better support 8 cores.  It doesn’t matter if the hardware exists or not, the OS had better be ready for it when it does exist.
  2. Open up the OS more, Live Tiles are a perfect example of code that is on the phone but only Microsoft can access.  A third-party app can only make one type of Live Tile (the default square one), but Microsoft can make rectangular ones, animated ones, etc.  If the code is available to MS developers, it should be accessible to third party developers.
  3. Marketing.  MS hasn’t done a good enough job of getting its fans organized.  They should be sending out bumper stickers, posters, shirts and anything else they can think of to everyone who buys a phone or ask for them.
  4. Make unlocked phones available at the MS stores.  I should be able to pick up the latest and greatest right from MS even if my carrier of choice decides not to carry it, delays putting it on sale or is a small player and can’t carry every phone under the sun.
  5. Make the OS more modular.  By this I mean make the applications separate from the ROM image.  Imagine if Outlook was a separate app instead of baked in to the ROM.  The issue with Exchange 2003 would have been solved and deployed through the Marketplace instead of waiting for carries to eventually deploy one of several different OS versions that had the fix implemented with it.  Microsoft is still using a monolith development model for the OS, separating it out would make new features appear faster and not be as dependent on the carriers.

Well that’s my rant for the day Winking smile.

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Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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