A Failure of Microsoft Marketing

With initial iPhone 4 weekend sales pegged at potentially 4 million units, I’m reflecting on Microsoft’s failure to generate much excitement (or sales) from their competing Windows Phone 7 platform. And, as the freshest mobile experience on the market, the reception surely has been a failure.

Microsoft’s first, primary, and ongoing error is in the branding department. At launch, their arguably late Windows Mobile replacement operating system was titled “Windows Phone 7 Series” … which is saddled with a whole lot of baggage. Like Microsoft’s derivative “I’m a PC” commercials, Windows Phone sounds like a wannabe iPhone. Except I wouldn’t say Windows has the most positive connotation. For many, Windows is a relic and something we’re forced to use at work. With a large number of folks still stuck on XP, this isn’t the message Microsoft should be projecting. Quintuply so given Windows Phone actual innovative, vibrant, and fast Metro UI.

Then there’s the “Series” problem. As Microsoft doesn’t actually create it’s own hardware, a device running this software would have been known by the cumbersome and redundant “Windows Phone 7 Series phone.” While the redundancy hasn’t been entirely eliminated, Microsoft did at least streamline relatively quickly by dropping the “Series” monicker. But it’s all still too pedestrian and not reflective of their software experience. Would anyone have bought a Windows Gaming Console? Boo-ring! But Microsoft “Xbox” on the other hand exudes mystery and sex appeal. And happens to sell quite well. I’m left wondering why they weren’t as aggressive when rebooting the mobile experience. I’d say it’s a lack of vision. Yet, Metro’s execution indicates otherwise. So perhaps this is the result of branding by committee and they decided on something safe.

At this stage of the game, it’s too late to deviate from Windows Phone 7 into something like Microsoft Metro. So Microsoft is doing what they often do. Instead of correcting a problem, they’ll throw money at it and hope for the best. They’ll put some dollars into retail motivating sales staff to feign enthusiasm (and possibly earn commissions) and shore up hardware partner advertising to the tune of millions. It should help.

However, Microsoft once again blew another opportunity. Surely they knew another iPhone was in the pipeline along with some software surprises. Why not rally the troops (carriers and manufacturers), and throw an Apple-esque event introducing Windows Phone 7.5 (aka Mango) with some specific details on new hardware. As it stands, there’s no telling when HTC handsets will be arriving on US shores and even less information on Nokia’s plans. Another missed opportunity as the various entities continue to operate in their various silos, without strong leadership/direction from Microsoft, while iPhones continue to fly off shelves. Perhaps it’s just not a priority for Microsoft given their growing bounty of Android licensing fees… and, hey, Windows Phone 7 sales have already bested the short-lived Kin.

24 thoughts on “A Failure of Microsoft Marketing”

  1. Just so we’re clear, I REALLY like Windows Phone 7. It’s something special with a bright future (if they figure out how to market it) and there’s a possibility I’ll sport it on my next primary mobile device. It’s very well executed and provides a unified experience in a way iOS and Android do not (similar to webOS in that regard, if not execution, but webOS is dead as far as I’m concerned). I also hold no grudges for the initial release of Windows Phone 7. They HAD to get it into the market, even if not nearly as well rounded and polished as 7.5.

  2. I echo your remarks. I’m on Android (HTC Evo) right now, but I could be persuaded to jump ship. I’m just not clear if the support is there yet or will be there in the future. Android and iOS have a lot of support for the platform. Will the WP7 ecosystem gain momentum?

    I work in the Microsoft world and I like what they do, but as you said their marketing is, well, disappointing to say the least.

    I’m also still sad about the possible demise of webOS. Palm is dead. Long live Palm!

  3. The iphone sheep were going to buy anything iphone, even if it had razor blades to grip onto – they would grab and smile.

    Apple has made owning an iphone part of an ego elite of a fake tech savvy person. You must own one, or you will not be that person you always wanted to be or told others you were.

    That, like the emperor with no clothes, it only lasts for so long. There will always be sheep. Jobs legacy will sadly be his death – as you cant argue against a dead guy. Android took off and took at least 2 years to even catch on – and thats with a scattered market and inability upgrade phones across the market. They are still beating iphone globally.

    WM7 is going after the droid market first- globally. I do think that Microsoft will begin its campaign around November – wait for it. They have everything in place. The peek at Windows 8 is showing their plan as well.

    Wait for it.

  4. Microsoft makes more money from android sales then they do the windows phone. Mango should have been there first release. They are behind the 8 ball and have a big hole to dig out of. They will, eventually. I have 3 boys (10,13,19) that have asked for the windows phone to replace their iphones. Seems like they are catching on at school.

  5. i had an windows mobile phone, it was boring. Now I have an Adroid phone and I am sure that I will never return to a microsoft product.

  6. The reason is becuase the hardware maker is suppose to market the phone, llike they did with android, since most hardware makers got the OS for free they no longer have their own OS department therefore have cash to market and make discount deals, MSFT dont, and their OS is not free, but now google has now trapped themself since they have no pantents (buying motoralla) and have no research unit to speak of, like msft or IBM, now samasang have new OS called bada just in case google defaults. its like game of chess and fun to watch.

  7. As a long time iPhone user – had two from the initial introduction to a month ago – that has switched to a Windows phone (htc HD7), I have no regrets about making the change. While I will probably own an iPhone in the future (great software and hardware) and I still use iTunes and an iPad, the change has been nice. There is a lot to like about Windows 7. Metro is a great UI; the camera works great for stills and video; while not Siri, Bing voice search is very accurate; and I love the integration with Zune. I suspect things will get even a little better once I am able to update to 7.5. Also, looking forward to Xbox Companion – the remote control app – to provide even tighter integration with my Xboxes.

  8. Microsoft this, that, and wait for it. Yes, went through 3 xbox 360’s until the black one worked. Yeah! I “waited” for them to fix the damn things.

    Chalk another missed opportunity? Hell, There should have been free phone stands within one day of the latest blackoutberry system. And the fanboys screaming about the NEXT Microsoft launch….

    Don’t you people get it? Waves of people got up and left Ballmer’s last speech at Safeco Field. Just retire Ballmer, and let him play with a professional sports franchise….

  9. If marketing can not help sell their products, it shouldnt be blamed on marketing. THey get hundreds of millions of dollars. Hundreds of millions on a single product launch. I doubt its the marketing and advertising. Its the product themselves and the greed they want.

    Microsoft is a greedy company that over charges for products that only take six months to make and five developers. Ridiculous over charging by a greedy corporation that makes billions in profit. I hope they fail and all the banks with them should be nonexistent. They represent the wrong, the filth, the robber barrons, the banks, the wealthy who continue to rape from the poor. Microsoft is the front man to bankers profits. They spend hundred millions dollars on advertising and blame the marketers for not profiting. Its called greed and there is no place in the new world for companies like this. This should go when the banks go. They represent everything the world has come to hate. They will continue to take as much from the poor as possible. They will demand more from states, they will lobby with their lawyers, they will pay off politicians to get their way. The illegal business practices and profiteering when Americans who live in the same town still can not afford their products. They sell to the rich and screw the poor. They represent a digital divide and love the profits. If you cant afford a computer, tough. They roll around in money like fat children who need more. When they go under, will be the day that Washington state is free. The politicians that hold office cause of the payoffs will be imprisoned. This company has to go, its the only way.

    -From a starving and homeless 6x ex-microsoft worker.

  10. Heather, A little hyperbole perhaps? If you REALLY were homeless and starving I doubt you would have the means or inclination to post such a lengthy diatribe.

  11. @jabberwolf “The iphone sheep were going to buy anything iphone, even if it had razor blades to grip onto – they would grab and smile..”

    How is this any different than all of the millions of Windows users who won’t consider anything else? How often did/do people call any OS other than windows a toy? Or what about pre-windows when PC users called a GUI a gimmick? I find it offensive to call someone sheep because you disagree. Apple had a commercial in the day with lemmings walking over a cliff. People were offended by that.

    It seems to me that you are behaving like an old sheep, clinging on to the past and wishing that people would go back to MS so that you would feel happier. Baaaa

  12. Microsoft used ‘Series’ when they introduced the phone back in early 2010 and soon they dropped it. They went production as “Windows Phone 7”

    A little research wouldnt heart.

  13. Marketing doesn’t matter. We’re still in the pre-3.1 Windows era on the desktop timeline. We’ll all be using Metro phones in a few years. Building platforms is hard. Marketing is easy.

  14. The “Series” moniker was dropped several months before launch. Do some research before you write an article.

  15. Atriusny, John, I’m well versed in Microsoft’s mobile initiatives and story arc as I’ve been engaged since the days of monochrome Windows CE (Philips Nino, anyone?), before there were smartphones, and through Mango.

    Look, here’s me quoted in the NYT (01/06) discussing watching video on a Dell Axim that I also used as an e-book reader before there were such things. The Axim, along with a Blackberry and EVDO card, was replaced with a PPC 6700 (by HTC). And I went through multiple WinMo handsets including the Blackjack 1 & 2, Motorola Q9, Palm Treo 750 (by HTC), and probably a few others. The thing is, this isn’t the first time Microsoft has fumbled the branding thing in mobile. Remember the multiple Smartphone vs. Pocket PC edition confusion? I do. (And I waited around through all the Project Pink rumors, Danger acquisition, etc.)

    But perhaps you guys are merely taking issue with my use of the word “launch” – Microsoft introduced the software to the public as Windows Phone Series 7 and yes they did quickly clean it up (as I indicate in the article) before retail devices were available. But if you’re fixated on semantics, you may be overlooking the broader point (and issue) of this write up.

    jabberwolf, what if those Apple sheep buy more iPhones this weekend than the total number of Windows Phone devices moved in the last year? I don’t know that they will, but most companies would absolutely love to have Apple’s level of enthusiasm (and sales).

  16. I’m homeless,
    at the library and can verify by posting the source code of any project that I have worked on. I want to ensure anyone reading this that this need to be told of the greed involved in a company that is loosing, as they get more greedy, they want my profits. And this is at the hands of the people who work their. These stories never get written. I can prove that I am a 6x ex ms employee. I can name hundred of other people. You just need to live int eh area to know. Cause if you live here in Washington/Silicon Valley you understand these problems facing greedy companies wanting more profits when profits are getting smaller. I can post some of the worst stories on the planet, the worst working conditions ever. Heres (JUST) one… while I was developing the Zune prior to version one was released in the winter of 06, it was october and cold I didnt have electricity in my home and with no heat. This was a problem as I developed the zune and some of the best components for the device. What was it like, well lets just say the fire marshall was always coming intot he buildings writing up the corporation for having too many people int he small building. People were using closets, scattered int he hallways, they would turn copy rooms into offices with siz people in them, this was so crazy you couldnt walk anywhere, and when the fire marshallgave them tickets they still continued on, after paying the fines! They careless about the wokers, only profits.

    I have ten years of complaints and can write thousands of books. Just have no time. I only ask for reporters to report and come down to Redmond and see the homeless people (ex microsoftees) begging for food. Please come to Washington and ask anyone on the street. There are people everywhere wanting there voice heard. I can prove every thing I write.

    ALSO, for those who can not understand. There are no unions here. I am not a union person,, but think this could have helped some. There are zero unions at Microsoft. This is why workers are abused. This i why they import workers monthly by bus, and still pay in rupees and pesos. They know how to use the system cause the state politicians are in their pockets. I need help from the media to spread a simple message that this corporate design for business is broken and have profited at the expense of the workers who are now homeless.
    I was in the FOODLINES while making the biggest products for them. There was only a few people who developed these products and most are unemployed after making them. Microsoft has now gotten into hiring JUST interns!!! These MS Interns DO NOT GET PAID MONEY! They are given housing allowance and a vehicle, (sweet). In the end the dumb interns think they are doing something when in fact they get paid ((less than minimum wage)). Where are the laws against this? I will post more later.

  17. Heather, I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Microsoft’s mobile platform. I’m sorry you feel wronged by them, but let’s please keep the discussion relatively on topic.

  18. “let’s please keep the discussion relatively on topic.”

    Click on Cam 1 for the best live view. (No iOS devices allowed, as the livecam is Flash-based.) Strangely enough, it’s a day for this topic in tech-land.

    How long ’til they send in the Pinkertons? It’s pretty bizarre when late 19th century history is the best guide to life in 2011…

  19. @galcticwaste

    You ask?!
    Simple – Windows is an OS that has the most applications that actually collaborate using common functions on Windows. The desktop was designed not just for the user to collaborte with others, but actual programs to collaborate and communicate with another. This is very unlike other programs that are islands unto themselves and are very isolated. They are nice, easy to move about, but limited. This is why moved away from dinky limited programs – oh about 15 years ago.

    This is why people use windows – for function. Not because of sheepish following. Now if you use OSX and programs only available for it, for stand alone and specific applications – its understandable because its for function. But most Apple users simply get on it to browse the internet and dick around.

    Function of WP7 – able to get to a function and finish faster, sync functions – also future plan to integrate all devices under 1 OS.

  20. Okay, seriously folks. This ain’t Engadget. If you want to troll for flame wars from your ‘enemies’ please go elsewhere.

    People who like other platforms than you aren’t idiots or sheep. They’re just fans of other products. And they often have good reasons for their choices. Perhaps not reasons you find valid. Too bad. Posting vitriol on this or any other blog won’t change anything.

    It just makes us all not want to come back. Personally I stopped reading Engadget because of this sort of garbage.

    I promise you the readers of this blog are generally relatively well informed about what they post about.

    I have an iPhone. I like it. I’m entirely aware of the Windows Phone 7 universe and looking forward to the big Nokia reveal, and in particular the Sea Ray, which should be coming soon. And *might* change the game. Or it might not.

    Regardless of how it goes from here, you can’t deny that Windows Phone can’t possibly have lived up to the hopes Microsoft had for it when they launched. Lots of reasons for that of course, but I agree with Dave blaming naming for at least a part of that. And yes I too had a (horrid) Windows Mobile phone just before I switched to the iPhone some years back. Ugh. Why they wanted to remind us/confuse most customers with the new name I have no idea. Windows Metro would have been a much better idea.

    Also agree that as Windows 8 rolls out (almost a year from now though) on tablets and such it SHOULD help, as people are exposed to the ‘metro style’ UI and maybe take a second look at Windows Phone. Whether Windows Phone will still be around by then? Hard to say.

    One thing I think you can’t deny–Microsoft has done an AWESOME job of convincing developers to support Windows Phone. Given how few units they’ve sold, the solid app store is even more impressive.

  21. “Also agree that as Windows 8 rolls out (almost a year from now though) on tablets and such it SHOULD help, as people are exposed to the ‘metro style’ UI and maybe take a second look at Windows Phone. Whether Windows Phone will still be around by then? Hard to say.”

    That’s why I’m sayin’ that marketing is not the issue here.

    Microsoft doesn’t have a “good enough” mobile platform to market yet. Once they do, then marketing will enter the picture.

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