Windows Phone Is Still Fighting…
Still there are many people out there who don’t see any future for it. Robert Scoble has never made bones about his belief that the app parity Windows Phone experiences is a huge factor in the small market share Microsoft has been able to garner and last he hammered the nail in again.
The truth is Microsoft made 3 substantial mistakes in their mobile strategy: –
- Steve Ballmer’s famous quote about iPhone was the definitive moment for Microsoft mobile strategy for several years, leaving them way behind.
- Failure to build a competitive developer community for apps where Startups with limited funds would make Windows Phone apps a part of their roadmap and strategy.
- Microsoft once they realized these two mistakes were slow to iterate past Windows Mobile, which was “Let’s put Windows on a small screen.”
- Twitter friend @gaborfari was kind enough last night to give me input on one more very important reason
@jonathanross One more factor missing in your post: WinCE was a dead end. Fork and port was not sustainable. Took years to retool main OS.
— Gabor Fari (@GaborFari) January 4, 2016
What did Microsoft do right?
- Windows Phone and Metro UI. The Windows Phone UI and Live Tiles were a glorious change in smartphone UI/UX which influenced the designs of others. (Put a phone with Android’s Material Design next to a Windows Phone and tell me the word homage doesn’t occur).
- Reducing hardware restrictions for OEMs. By doing so and making Windows 10 free for 7″ and smaller devices Microsoft made it affordable for OEMs to invest in Windows Phone handsets.
- Windows 10 as a mature ecosystem. Windows 8 had issues and fighting for desktop and handsets was too bigger fight combined with the fragmentation of Windows 8, RT and Phone. Windows 10 is effectively one OS that behaves / responds based on the device it’s on.
- Universal Apps. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again) This may be the Holy Grail for app developers, one app that works on mobile and desktop.
- Windows Phone as an Android ROM. Microsoft provided Xiaomi with a Windows 10 ROM for their flagship Android Mi4 handset to broach the Chinese market. By all accounts the experiment worked well. (Theoretically one could have a dual ROM Android / Windows Phone device should one desire the geek cred).
- Windows Phone hits India. Microsoft offered a variety of affordable handsets worldwide but especially in India. The Indian smartphone market is predominantly Android but several OEMs in India now make Windows Phones in addition to the Lumia line.
Is Robert Scoble Right?
He is correct that Microsoft needs to entice more developers onto the platform and I was hoping he was going to offer some insight on how he would do that. He seems convinced that the “market has already picked its phones”. Master blogger and marketing ace Hillel Fuld provides some insights in the comments to the Facebook post on how he thinks Microsoft might succeed.
There are a few factors that make the mobile market consistently volatile; go back a few years and tell people to kiss Nokia and Blackberry goodbye and you’d probably be laughed all the way home.
The things Microsoft did right tie together. Assaulting the Indian and Chinese markets shows that CEO Satya Nadella continues to employ his insights on untapped foreign markets. These markets are ripe not just for consumer handset ownership but also for building robust developer communities. He’s in India evangelizing to startups right now.
Universal Apps is huge and many Startups and larger companies are waking up to the fact. The sheer number of devices running Windows 10 is to be ignored at one’s peril. I know of several Startups who have realized this and are making the leap. Having one app that will allow you increase your user base on desktop and mobile?
Why would anyone invest in a company that ignores that kind of potential?
But it’s not just Startups, drone maker Parrot have advertised through their French offices for someone to run a project to outsource a Windows 10 Universal App and there are new Universal Apps appearing in the store every day.
Turning a disadvantage into an advantage: go to the iPhone App Store or Google Play Store and oversaturation isn’t the word. Getting noticed is a colossal endeavor but the disadvantage of Windows Phone means a huge opportunity as more and more developers build their Universal Apps before the Windows Store becomes oversaturated too.
Windows 10 Phones have rolled out some game changing features including Continuum and Hello. Continuum means your primary productivity device is your phone and all you need is a monitor and your Continuum dock.
The Warptest POV
I’ve been a Windows Phone user since Windows Mobile’s earliest days. I won’t deny that or the level of personal investment / passion. My new Lumia 950XL is being shipped to me over the holidays. Do I believe Robert Scoble is right or wrong? He’s right about one thing, it’s up to Microsoft whether they succeed in bringing more developers onboard or not.
That said, don’t just ask Developers who are strongly invested in the status quo about if radical change can succeed. The first line of attack is the startups. Microsoft needs to demonstrate the ROI of Universal Apps to those sitting on the fence. In addition, building stronger community, offering help to app developers and hosting events like Hackathons worldwide focused on getting new apps onto Windows Phone.
For what it’s worth, I’d be working just as hard on those learning to develop. Tomorrows app developers are just waiting and have a lot less baggage or prejudice. Microsoft needs a strong, active presence on campuses working with students to show them the potential of Windows Phone and at the same don’t wait for people to walk into Windows Stores in the US / UK, get out there and put Windows Phones into consumers’ hands to try out. People need their perception of Windows Phone to be shaken and then have them pass on that experience to their friends and family.
Hillel Fuld is correct when he writes that solving battery issues, screen fragility and other problems is another big way that Microsoft can increase market share.
Meanwhile Microsoft isn’t satisfied with the new phone it has. Rumors of a “spiritual equivalent to Surface” phone were (sort of) addressed by Microsoft’s CMO in an interview with Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley. Earlier rumors spoke of a Surface Phone and many hoped this meant a high-end phone, the gorgeous spun magnesium case with kickstand but then the big rumors began flying. This was going to be an Intel powered phone capable of running 32 bit apps. Your desktop in your pocket. Still this is unconfirmed as is the end of Q2 2016 arrival. Meanwhile with CES 2016 kicking off tomorrow there are sure to be other Windows Phone handsets announced.
When you look at all these factors I’m confident Microsoft is going to do amazing things in mobile. When the Lumia 950XL arrives I’ll be sure to share my impressions.
I’ll end by paraphrasing Mark Twain, “Reports of Windows Phone’s demise are greatly exaggerated.”
Moments ago I got a tweet from Hillel Fuld which indeed made me laugh. I’m comparing my thoughts on the subject to his and if you read this I recommend you read his post from 2012 on the subject (see embedded tweet for link) and follow him on Twitter and elsewhere for a stream of insightful content:
— Hillel Fuld (@HilzFuld) January 4, 2016