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.