It is no secret that Microsoft is losing the cell phone battle. The Windows Phone platform is not taking off and is barely holding on now. There are many problems that Microsoft needs to fix to right the ship but will they? From lack of advertising to no exclusive apps, Windows Phone is in dire straits with fans. The diehard Windows Phone supporter is dwindling, and fast.
If people don’t know about Windows Phone they can’t consciously make the decision to buy it. I, like many people in the United States, frequent the local Wal-Mart stores (I have six or seven of them within 30 miles of my home). I have seen many people at Wal-Mart looking at the AT&T GoPhone section (the only place I have seen Windows Phone for sale). I know because I am one of them. Most people who are looking at Windows Phone are unsure what they are looking at. Sure, the operating system (OS) is unique but that doesn’t tell the whole story for uneducated cell phone buyers. We already know that most staff at Wal-Mart are not given much education in the products they sell so asking for help usually leads to being told to read the package material (or watching the employee read it hoping for specs of some sort to spout off). I am not knocking Wal-Mart employees, they are just doing their job based on the training they receive. Advertising Windows Phone would certainly help new adopters understand what they are looking at.
Too Much Product
Too damn many phones and brands carry the Windows Phone name. Microsoft did the Google thing when they launched Windows Phone. They licensed out the name and OS to third parties who then produced cell phones for consumers. The problem with this is, well, how the hell do you get across to consumers that this set of phones are basically the same hardware under different names. This one over here is the “flagship” phone. These here are “mid-range” phones- all in a 30 second, or less, commercial or print advertising or banner placement on the Internet? You can’t. This has hurt Windows Phone quite a bit as it has never had a chance to take off and produce demand from handset makers to drop cash on costly commercials (why would they if they feel they won’t see a return on that investment?).
Apple, while overpriced, has done advertising right. They have at most two versions of the current iPhone (only counting screen sizes). When looking for an iPhone today it is a matter of what size screen do you want? Big or bigger. Years ago it was even simpler as you only had a choice of storage sizes in regards to the iPhone. Windows Phone not only offers a plethora of screen sizes, memory options, colors and more. All confusing the consumer beyond belief.
The problems with Windows Phone offering too many options is compounded by one company. Nokia. Their line of Lumia phones are numbered. There are more than 10 Nokia Lumia phones available, or have been over the life of Windows Phone. From the 520/521 to the 1020 and a lot in between, there are tons of variations just within the Lumia line.
The leading, most popular, Windows Phone was the Lumia 1020. This phone was popular and well-known due to it having a 41 megapixel camera. This is where there was a big snafu within the decision-making part of Microsoft and Nokia- there has not been a follow-up to the, several years old now, Lumia 1020. Not even a quad-core CPU, with more RAM/storage/Micro SD slot option- all no brainer updates that would have damn near printed money for the Windows Phone line.
Instead, Nokia focused on the lower end market and Microsoft has continued that since their buyout of Nokia. Big, big, big mistake. Had there been an updated version of the 1020, maybe calling it the 1025 or something, it could have been a great showing as fans wanted better hardware to power that camera. By not releasing a new, updated, Lumia with that camera just put off a lot of fans that were initially excited.
The Operating System Itself
Everyone complains that the operating system for Windows Phone is horrible, looks wrong and is cumbersome to use. Those people have never used a Windows Phone. For the most part, people that have used a Windows Phone for more than a few minutes demoing it, like the style. Microsoft had a hit with the operating system aesthetics, now they just had to get the apps and games to draw the fans in.
The Windows Phone OS is rather nice thanks to the live tiles that update with new information at the ready. No longer were you required to open an app to get the latest information on the weather, sports teams, stocks you followed, e-mails, texts, etc. That was all at the ready on the main screen thanks to live tiles.
Where things went to hell for Windows Phone is that there were no killer apps that were exclusive. Microsoft, for a period, did offer Cortana exclusively to Windows Phone owners- they quickly shot themselves in the foot by announcing Cortana was coming to Android. Same for their popular productivity software- Office. First it was only on Windows Phone and wasting no time in shooting that bit of support out of the air, announced Office was coming to Apple iPhone and Google Android. What were they thinking?
Sure, Microsoft today is not the Microsoft of 10, 15 or 20+ years ago. Microsoft today is a software and services company. This means supporting the competition for those valuable users of Office and Cortana and Bing. Google has proven there are plenty of ways to monetize “free” users and now Microsoft is interested in that revenue stream. Even at the expense of their own mobile platform.
Microsoft has to support competing platforms if they are to grow their user base. The Windows Phone platform is just too small to support Microsoft like they want. That doesn’t mean they have to support the competition from day one though, or even before their own platforms. Give Windows Phone six months to a year of exclusivity for new apps, updates to popular ones like Bing and Office, etc. This would help push people who “have to be on the cutting edge” to Windows Phone, and it would give first party supporting consumers a bit of support they desperately are looking for.
This is probably a weird one for many people to see listed as a problem with Windows Phone. I think one of the biggest problems with Windows Phone is Microsoft themselves. No, not the fact that they released it, but more the fact that they named it “Windows” Phone. With the Xbox, Microsoft has proven they can produce a consumer product that is a success and not have it carry a long-standing moniker. Microsoft went out of their way to keep their name off of Xbox and the games in advertising. They understood they had an image problem around this time and took steps to get around it. Why didn’t they continue this “anti” company marketing with their mobile efforts? Would the response have been significantly different had Microsoft dropped “Windows” from their cell phone line?
What if, considering the “second screen” idea that was an option in some Xbox 360 games, had Microsoft labeled Windows Phone the “Xbox Phone” or something similar?
Microsoft still has an image problem. People don’t equate Windows as being “the best”. Nor do they particularly search out Windows product- seriously, go to a big box store and try to buy a computer with an operating system other than Windows. Sure, you can buy Chromebooks and the like but will most people? Probably not.
Microsoft needs to rebrand the product line somehow as they have mired the whole “Windows Phone” nomenclature within the mobile world. The chances of them doing this is pretty much nil though.
Microsoft will probably continue to piddle along with Windows Phone rather than making it into anything worthy of taking on Apple and Google’s offerings. This is sad news because they did so many things right with their mobile option.
Do you own a Windows Phone? If so, which one(s)? I personally have a Lumia 521 and 635 and eventually will get a 1020. I see a lot of potential in the product, too bad more users don’t see it.