I’ve generally held off commenting on Windows Phone beyond occasionally pointing out that it’s conceivable the company could deliver a decent experience. I’ve also made it clear that I would like Microsoft to have success, especially given the skewed nature of the industry’s obsession with Apple. We really need good competition in the marketplace — and given that Nokia isn’t quite delivering yet, I think Microsoft’s offering is very refreshing.
Before I continue, I should point out that I haven’t spent a long time with Windows Phone 7 yet. Indeed, the only significant exposure I’ve had is with their reference platform during briefings, but now that we’ve seen the launch with Balmer and the comprehensive introduction, I feel comfortable enough to begin making predictions.
Windows Phone 7 devices will sell like hotcakes.
Consumers have been thoroughly warmed up by Apple and I think they’ll like what they see with the Microsoft experience. Whilst the iPhone has sold very well, there’s been limitations — substantial limitations, most notably in the UK, you’ve had to pay cash-up-front for the device. Even though Apple has deigned to allow price plans to drop to 20-odd pounds per month, this has still required consumers to cough up 200-300 pounds because the operator subsidy won’t cover the full cost of the device. No matter how you look at it, this is a real turn off for consumers, especially the UK crowd accustomed to ‘free’ phones (and by ‘free’, I mean you walk out the shop without paying anything — but with a 2 year contract at 35 or 40 quid a month).
The alternatives have been pretty limited. Android has filled the void — and the Samsung Galaxy S has done well, along with the lower-tier £250-300 Android handsets.
But with Windows Phone 7, the consumer gets a good looking new interface along with nice, capable hardware. You only have to see some of the demonstrations of the technology during the press conference to recognise that in phone shops all across the country (and, crucially, all across the States), sales people will be excitedly offering Windows Phone 7 devices to interested customers.
Say what you like about ‘Windows’ and the Microsoft brand (and, let’s be clear, I am not a massive fan of Windows — I own 8 Apple machines), consumers are familiar with it. I think this will go a long, long way to helping Windows Phone succeed.
It’s not a toe-in-the-water approach. Microsoft is all-in with it’s operator partners and manufacturers. LG alone is shipping their Optimus 7 and 7Q devices in 35 countries with 100 operators. That’s *just* LG. We’ve also got Samsung, HTC, Dell… and a whole host of other manufacturers getting stuck in too.
I most definitely do not agree with the rather narrow view offered by the likes of Matt over at TechCrunch (or CrunchGear) who reckons that:
“It’s an iOS, Android and BlackBerry world now and there isn’t room for anyone else.”
There are legions of smartphone owners looking for something else — and there are hundreds of millions of consumers on dumbphones looking to make the next step. For those, Windowws Phone will definitely be in the running.
Microsoft is very, very serious about mobile. Windows Mobile 6.5 was a shocker. Like everyone else in the room during Balmer’s introduction of 6.5 back at Mobile World Congress two years ago, I felt embarrassed and annoyed that Microsoft had even bothered.
I wanted the industry to look at what Apple had done and do better. Or, at least, do something different. I think that’s what we now see with Windows Phone 7.
I’m not sure if I’d use a Windows Phone 7 phone myself as a primary device — I’m still very much wedded to my BlackBerry Bold (or Torch, at the moment) — however I think consumers will very much enjoy it.
Those consumers who were previously forced into choosing between the high-end cash-up-front iPhone, a BlackBerry or an Android device now have a compelling additional choice. I used to cringe in the mobile phone shops when I heard consumers selecting one of the gorgeous but useless Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. I genuinely used to actually cringe. Not any more though. I think I’ll be quite delighted for the consumer, now.
The big loser, I reckon, will be Apple. I think there’s a real possibility consumers will be pretty pleased with their Windows Phone. I don’t think consumers will feel too short changed by their show-off friend in the pub who’s been lording it over them with his or her iPhone 4. I can imagine the consumer taking a look at the fancy flying Windows Phone tiles, the nice photo features, the easy integration of email and the swooshy menu structure, and thinking ‘yeah, this is nice’. And when it comes to the price conversation, I think that’s what will clinch it.
So, I’ll wait and see — I need to try a week or two using Windows Phone 7 before I can be sure — but I think Windows Phone 7 is good news for Microsoft, good news for the consumer and good news for the competitive landscape.