For the past several years it has seemed like we have been waiting for Microsoft’s smartphone strategy to emerge and truly take form. Windows Mobile 6.5 was an unmitigated disaster, and while the initial Windows Phone 7 launch held promise there were simply too many compromises and missing features for a very late 2010 device.
It was only about a year ago with the launch of Windows Phone 7.5 ‘Mango’ that things really got interesting. New ‘second generation’ phones such as the HTC Titan launched with great features and the hardware capabilities to take advantage of the updated OS. Then along came Nokia with the huge partnership and the launch of the Lumia 800 and 710 … and it really looked like we were getting somewhere! Suddenly folks (like myself, Dan, Judie and others) were starting to feel that Windows Phone was pretty awesome and worth a chance.
From there it got better with the launch of the Nokia Lumia 900, an amazingly stylish, solidly built and top-performing smartphone with a gorgeous screen; Judie bought one and liked hers so much that she recommended it to Chris G. and Bryan. There were also the ads declaring that “the smartphone beta test is over”, which showed no small amount of swagger for a company and operating system struggling to outsell the last remnants of Windows Mobile!
But then in the middle of June Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8 … and EVERY phone running Windows Phone was made obsolete – including the two month old flagship Lumia 900! Apparently, everyone noted … the beta test was NOT over. Existing phones would get a new ‘Start’ screen … and pretty much nothing else. Windows Phone 8 apps are incompatible, and Windows Phone 7.8 won’t even bring in-app purchases to devices – which is clearly not a technical hurdle.
So we have a history of failure and customer abandonment (add the Zune to Microsoft’s pile there), made worse by early adopters seeing enough promise that we started promoting Mango devices as an alternative to iOS and Android, now getting the carpet yanked from under us as the flagship device is ‘end of lifed’ after 2 months – worse than even Android!
But truth is – Windows Phone 8 looks pretty awesome. The OS shows tremendous promise, and WP7 got our support through efficiency and an interface that was all about getting stuff done. There is an integrated strategy from Microsoft that will work between phone, tablet and desktop with mixed processor types – sure the phone and tablet get cut-down Office versions, but things look promising.
But is it enough? According to a recent survey … NO! According to Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu:
people just don’t want Windows Phones.
“Our research shows that for many years, poor sales of Windows-based phones stem from a deep and stable lack of consumer interest for the product,” Ferragu wrote. “Despite numerous and repeated efforts of manufacturers (Nokia, but also Samsung (005930) and HTC (2498)) and Operators to develop an alternative to Android and Apple (AAPL) based on Windows, and despite the launch of numerous phones based on Windows with strong features, reviews and marketing support, the operating system remains cornered to less than 5% market share in smartphones.”
He continued, “The lack of consumer interest for Windows-based phones has been very consistent in marketing surveys we have carried out across the globe over the last several years. The situation of Windows in mobile phones is now very unlikely to revert. Smartphone Operating Systems benefit from ecosystem dynamics in terms of application ecosystem but most importantly consumer advocacy and adoption.”
Ferragu believes that despite new developer opportunities presented by the coming Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 platforms, Microsoft’s (MSFT) mobile ecosystem will never catch up with iOS or Android. As a result, he sees nothing but heartache ahead for Nokia, which is expected to unveil multiple Windows Phone 8-powered devices during a press conference next week.
At Gear Diary, many of us felt stung by the way Windows Phone 8 was rolled out, as it made us feel like fools for recommending devices like the HTC Titan and Nokia Lumia 900; it also made us very cautious about recommending any Windows Phone device, and has us taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to upcoming devices.
As a result, when Nokia announces some cool new devices running WIndows Phone 8 next week, we will join the overwhelming majority of folks who will think ‘that’s nice’, and go back to our iOS or Android phones while we wait to see if Microsoft is actually planning for the long haul in terms of supporting Windows Phone customers this time.
Unlike every other time.