Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Fails to Impress

In November 2010, to respond to the growing popularity of the iPhone, Microsoft announced its new mobile operating system (OS), Windows Phone 7. The lack of innovation behind this product disappointed technology adepts. With this unimpressive and undifferentiated product, Microsoft substantially reduced its chances of reaching considerable market share in the mobile arena.

Why launch WP7?

As with any company in the technology industry, Microsoft is looking to further build its competitive edge over its numerous competitors: Google, Facebook, Cisco, and Apple. To reach such heights in the 21st century, Microsoft is looking for a share of the mobile phone industry. Windows Phone 7 is a follow up of the failed Windows Mobile 6.5 launched in 2009. With the growing smartphone market and its humble 5% market share, Microsoft needed to catch up to its rivals and quickly respond to the domination of the iPhone and Google Android. Furthermore, Microsoft is looking to leverage its knowledge in the gaming arena by integrating Xbox Live games in its smartphones. Knowing that the phones came with preinstalled Microsoft applications and a dedicated button for Bing indicates that they were also motivated to lock users to their search engine and entice them to use Windows Live services.

Why is it a spoiler?

The WP7 lacks very important features such as multi-tasking, copy-pasting and even HTML5 or Flash compatibility. Moreover, the handsets available are widely viewed as being simply mediocre. After the failed Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft completely changed the OS by using the Zune music player, which was, unfortunately, far from being a successful product; and thus indicating a similar discontent amongst its users.  What will happen to all the applications developed for Windows Mobile? Certainly, this product is not going to leave shelves very quickly as third-party developers will lose trust in Microsoft and turn to competitors for application development. What about all the customers who have Windows Mobile, wouldn’t they need upgrades? The early adopters will definitely be discouraged and somewhat disgusted by the careless strategy of Microsoft. The Windows Phone 7 is not only going to cost Microsoft money, but it will also have a negative impact on the brand.

How is it performing?

According to Asymco, Windows Phone 7 sold about 1.4 million phones in the past quarter giving Microsoft a market share of 1.3%, lower than the level reached by Windows Mobile. Microsoft executives have admitted that WP7 was performing at weak levels. Google, on the other hand, activates more than 300,000 Androids a day. In the smartphone market, catching up to, or copying competitors isn’t enough; Microsoft has to surpass them by adding special features such as fast multiplayer gaming through Xbox Live, and cloud computing with remote access.

Reasons behind performance

I find it hard to grasp that there was no user-testing before the launch of the OS, especially coming from a reputable multinational company with substantial resources. An important element that contributed to the failed launch is the timing. Microsoft waited too long before upgrading from Windows Mobile, only to release a device with a weak application library and no significant features that differentiated it from the iPhone and Androids. Once released, it was slow to come out with upgrades and when it did, the update crashed the system 10% of the time. I think that Microsoft is still suffering from the stigma of being an old company that created Vista, an unstable operating system.  It needed a stylish rebranding to appeal to the new digital generation. Furthermore, Microsoft failed to communicate with the media and industry analysts during the first two quarters of the launch. They refused to discuss sales and intentions, leaving the public to come up with its own conclusions and rumors. This further discouraged shoppers and plunged Microsoft in a deeper hole than they were in already.

What now?

Microsoft seems to always have a plan. Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired Skype to strengthen their position in internet communication services and provide a boost for their mobile OS. It announced that it will inject WP7 with a marketing budget of $400 million and will train its sales team to better represent their upcoming version of the OS – The Mango which is said to have 500 different features and multi-tasking ability. The fresh operating system improved the relationship with device manufacturers HTC and Samsung. Microsoft recently signed a deal with Nokia to become its sole operating system for smartphones and to leave behind the Symbian OS. Mango phones are said to be released in 2012. It appears as though Microsoft is putting a huge bet on Mango.

“How do think WP7 will compete against Apple’s new 4S and Google’s Nexus Prime?”

References:

Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5 Billion. Why, Exactly?

Windows Phone, a year on

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