How could Microsoft’s Windows Phone licensing business model stand a chance against Google’s Free and Open Android? None of the Redmond giant’s complicated countermeasures worked, its smartphone platform is dead. And yet, inexplicably, Microsoft failed to use a very simple move…
For a long time Windows Phone was a better phone operating system than Android. By better, I mean it was easier to use, understand and navigate than Google’s phone operating system.
It was also better because it provided essential information in a straightforward way. You could glance at your phone and see the important things straight away.
A better phone OS
Windows Phone was better because it integrated well with Windows on desktop and laptop computers. It was also better in that it played nicely with Microsoft Office. If you were wedded to Windows and Office, you could get huge productivity gains choosing a Windows handset over an Android.
Today’s Android phones have improved on all these things. Yet at the time Windows Phone was first introduced, it was streets ahead.
I know this better than anyone. I used Windows Phone everyday for the best part of two years. For me, at the start of that time, the advantages outweighed the negatives. Before the two years were up, the balance tipped the other way.
From a user point of view, Windows Phone lost its charm because third-party software developers ignored it. At best they neglected it. If any third-party developer did create an app, they failed to upgrade it as fast as their Android or iOS versions. But many apps, including important ones, never made it to Windows Phone in the first place.
Never mind that many of those apps were worthless one-trick ponies. There was a lack of choice, there was a feeling Windows Phone was becoming a forgotten backwater.
In his post, Gassée takes his time getting to the nub of how Windows Phone became a backwater. He writes:
Microsoft made a number of bad decisions that stem from its hardened culture…
For a long time, Microsoft’s orthodoxy placed the PC at the center of the world. When smartphones took center stage, the company’s propaganda censured talk of a Post-PC world. Smartphones and tablets were mere “companion devices”.
The simple move mentioned at the top of this story was making the operating system free to phone makers. That’s what Google did with Android.
Gassée argues that Microsoft’s culture meant it didn’t think to make its phone operating system free until it was far too late. That’s true. By missing that boat, Microsoft’s phone OS never gathered enough momentum to attract third-party app developers. Meanwhile the Android and iOS app stores were filling with every imaginable phone application.
Which is odd, because know how to attract developers was a Microsoft strength with MS-Dos and Windows as it was building an empire.
From there it all went downhill fast.
Could Windows Phone return from the dead? Probably not. Apart from anything else, Microsoft has moved its focus to more lucrative markets like cloud computing.