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Bill Bennett


Why people won’t try Windows Phone

My time with the Nokia Lumia 930 is up. Microsoft called on Friday asking me to return the review smartphone. I’ll miss it.

Like all recent high-end Microsoft smartphones, the Lumia 930 is big, beautiful and powerful. I hesitate to describe a phone as intuitive. Still, anyone who has spent time with modern technology will have no trouble finding their way around Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft’s Lumia 930 straddles the gulf between personal needs and productive working. All the fun phone stuff is there. At the same time Windows Phone 8 integrates with Windows desktops and tablets.

And, as you’d expect, it works well with Microsoft Office and OneDrive.

If you can drive Windows, you’ll get a lot out of Windows Phone. If you spend most of your working life using Microsoft’s technology, the Lumia 930 is an obvious choice.

Windows Phone not on the radar

And yet, for most people, Windows Phone isn’t even on the radar. Windows Phone accounts for just 2.5 percent of the market.

Only one smartphone in 40 runs Windows Phone 8. Compare that with Android which accounts for around 34 phones out of 40 and Apple’s iOS which accounts for the other five out of 40.

Why have geeks and non-geeks alike turned their back on Microsoft’s phone technology?

At Geekzone Mauricio Freitas reconsiders why people say they aren’t buying Windows Phones. His post follows the why won’t you try Windows Phone? discussion in the Geekzone forum.

Unfounded Windows Phone app complaints

Freitas says people complain they don’t like the look of Windows Phone apps. He dismantles the myth that well-know apps look different on Windows Phone.

Likewise, Windows Phone’s most talked about shortcoming is not what it seems. Sure, there are fewer apps in the Windows Phone App Store than in iTunes or Google Play. But how many do you need?

Almost every significant app is there. In some cases there are functional replacements.

Missing deal breakers

There are iPhone or Android apps I miss on Windows Phone. Some look like deal breakers. Yet while I like having them on my phone, I don’t use them that often.

The lack of apps in the Windows store is more about perception than reality.

There’s a deeper problem. Microsoft isn’t on the phone buyer radar. Most don’t even consider Windows Phone.

There are two parts to this. First, Microsoft’s fall from grace. Microsoft’s brand is devalued.

Lingering monopoly hangover

In the 1990s Microsoft dominated all aspects of computing. You didn’t buy Microsoft because you wanted to, you bought Microsoft because there was no alternative.

That changed. Rivals like Google offered alternatives. Apple returned from a near death experience. Open Source emerged.

When this happened, there was pent-up resentment against Microsoft. It wasn’t just political or irrational resentment, although both exist. Instead there’s a grudging unwillingness to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt.

A meh feeling. A let’s not go there mood stands between some older consumers and Windows Phone.

Younger people grew up in a world when Microsoft was no longer a name to conjure with and wonder what all the fuss is about anyway.

Windows Phone too late to market

Microsoft’s other problem is that it was too late to market with a useful, modern smartphone operating system.

Apple introduced the iPhone and iOS in 2007. Android appeared around the same time. Windows Phone 7 didn’t show until 2010. Microsoft wasn’t competing on an equal footing until Windows Phone 8 arrived in late 2012.

By then Apple and Android had vast smartphone empires. They took the low-hanging fruit, built customer loyalty and market momentum.

PC market all over again

There’s a precedent for this. No-one came close to catching up with Microsoft in PC operating systems.

Now the boot is on the other foot. Those with long memories will recall attempts to challenge Windows that never got traction. More to the point almost no-one tried or even considered the alternatives.

Microsoft may never recover the money it sank when buying Nokia. Microsoft probably makes more from selling software licences allowing Samsung to use Android than in makes from its own phone.

Microsoft’s smartphone niche

There are options. Microsoft could head for a niche, aiming to sell phones to corporate customers already using the company’s other products. BlackBerry tried that without much success.

This strategy ignores Apple’s success in getting its hardware into the corporate market. iPhones and iPads dominate mobility at the big end of town.

Microsoft has lost the smartphone market. There’s no clear recovery from this point. It can’t even sell Windows Phones to the legions of customers already committed to Microsoft technology stack.

It’s hard to see what Microsoft can do. After all, if the people who read a site called Geekzone aren’t interested in trying Windows Phone, what chance is there others will take a look?



3 thoughts on “Why people won’t try Windows Phone

  1. I get the impression that Microsoft doesn’t care. They could have had it all, but they weren’t committed to it, which could one day turn into a fatal flaw. When we first launched the Cassiopeia, followed by the iPaq (I still have a couple of those) they were in the driving seat. They had a channel strategy, but they weren’t convinced of the size of the potential market. That’s because of the bean-counter strategists in the ivory tower who were (as did and do most corporates) looking for solid year on year EBIT. They didn’t employ or rate futurists. People in the labs did, but they weren’t part of the strategic planning group. Windows Compact Edition was simply an extension of Office which came to include voice and other mobile functionality through brands like HP.

    This is something I write about a lot because it so frustrates me when companies latch on to a cash cow and drain that poor thing until there’s nothing left. They give it proteins and vitamins, hormones and TLC. That’s like the guys back on the days of the railroad and the Model T who said “We just need faster horses” or the guys that said “All we need to do is put pay-walls behind digital newspapers”

    You mentioned Blackberry. They took over the safe corporate/government market by looking after the Exchange market place and the seeds were sown in the corporate space. The phone companies got it for a while, they realized that the world of computing was going to go mobile, even whilst they clung to the killer apps continuing to be voice and TXT.

    Anyway I could write a book on this, but I’m frustrated because I was a major evangelist for Palm and Windows Ce / Windows Phone and then Windows Mobile. As the song goes “We could have had it all.” but Microsoft continues to focus on that cash cow Windows and Office. Life has been good for them, but unless they change their philosophies and genuinely embrace mobility, the IoT and what foresight tells us people will want, their revenues will shrink. Of course the people in the ivory towers will probably have retired by the time the huge redundancies and losses start, so they won’t get the blame.

    Google has embraced futurism, they have people like Ray Kurzweil, They are asking the world what they want. Microsoft, however is sending a clear message that they whilst they have some commitment to mobility, it’s still about Office. It may be Office in the cloud, Office as a service, but it’s still about Office. It is a really good medium business model, but it tells me that Windows phone is only as good as the commitment of the men in the ivory towers have to it and on the grander scale of that spreadsheet, it’s a blip. It’s one of the smaller license fees they get and if it gets much smaller, someone will say “I told you so” and they will drop it.

    It doesn’t matter how nice to use, clean or robust Windows Phone is. If it’s parents aren’t committed to what the future generations want and they are signalling that to the market already, then why would consumers bother buying it? Even knowing that your mobile is going to be replaced in 18 months to 2 years, why would you not buy a product from a brand on an operating system that is fully committed to the future we want to embrace?

    Sorry to get on my soap box, but Microsoft has so much potential, but they are slowly giving it away like a frog in a pot on the stove. “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…..”

    1. For me the strangest thing about this is that Microsoft appeared to be getting these things right for, perhaps a year, before CEO Steve Ballmer left. Since then it seems to have retreated. The new boss seems to be as out of touch as the old boss — at least in this department.

      Ray Kurzweil has some daft ideas. But crazy thinking can lead to real, practical progress. In a way that’s what made Apple what it is today. Nobody can accuse Kurzweil of being stuck inside a corporate bubble.

      Microsoft needs to seed Kurzweil-like free thinkings throughout its management ranks. If anyone in Redmond is reading this, both myself and Luigi are open to lucrative employment offers.

      Of course, it’s not really about individuals. It’s about understanding how the world has changed and how it could change. Google and Apple are good at that. Microsoft seems to be resisting change. It’s not on the same trajectory as BlackBerry, but that could come.

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