Windows Phone 8, is it compelling enough?

More than half of the first world’s consumers already use smartphones. Most  devices out in the wild are iPhones or Androids.

This means Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 challenge isn’t about carving out virgin territory. The software giant must grab market share from incumbents.

Microsoft, can you remember how hard it was for your rivals to win customers away from Windows during the PC era?

That’s what it will be like.

Great looking smartphones

The new phones look great. Without getting my hands on one, I’m reluctant to say they beat the competition. Yet, considering what I’ve seen of the iPhone 5 and the latest Androids, then taking my Nokia Lumia 800 experience into account and reading the specs, Microsoft is possibly now top of the heap.

Sadly, being best isn’t enough.

Again, this is the lesson from Microsoft’s PC era dominance. Windows wasn’t always the best PC operation system, Office wasn’t always the best software. The products had momentum and they were safe purchases.

To win the smartphone game – in this context winning and survival are the same thing – Microsoft must prise consumers away from their existing investments in apps, music and add-ons. Not to mention getting them to climb back up the learning curve.

And the market demands it does that faster than consumers normally update phones.

New-look Microsoft

Microsoft now has the right products in place across all its main low-end product lines. They fit snugly together – glued partly by SkyDrive.

I’d be more confident if Microsoft had positioned its Windows 8 and Surface tablets as Windows Phone 8 afterthoughts, and not the other way around. Smartphones are today’s flagships. They should be the priority.

Microsoft won’t disappear if Windows Phone 8 fails: it will be less relevant and less in control of its own destiny.