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Windows Phone 7: Apple has a problem

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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.


  1. Ewan – I appreciate that you always publish what you believe – and it is a great site all-up. Hope you are right – not sure I agree – but let’s hope all this work results in great sales and happy customers! best – Bob

  2. I recently me veterinary surgeon who had never bought a Smartphone. She went in to an Orange shop and asked for an iPhone. The shop assistant then did everything he could to sell her a Samsung instead. She bought the 2 year contract and is now stuck with a phone she didn’t want in the first place.

    The point being, I reckon 4 out of 5 people that go in to a mobile phone shop to get advise on which phone to get next, will end up being sold the handset & contract combination that generates the most commission for the sales person. The OS and capabilities of BlackBerry, Android, iPhone and now WP7 are to ordinary consumers, the same.

    The success of Windows Phone 7 will come down to the commission plans that are in the shops and available to the operators telephone staff. These commission plans get bought by the marketing budgets of OEMs and I have seen Microsoft themselves make contributions to this fund.

    Expect Windows Phone 7 handsets to sell huge numbers to anyone not completely sure what phone they want, the sales people will be rubbing their hands together with glee. Whether it’s better or worse than anything else is a moot point.

  3. yes. they will sell like hotcakes. The excitement and the enthusiasm level of people is far more greater than what they have for Nokia devices. With the kind of money Microsoft, they can easily force any developer to make apps for their platform. Microsoft is a software company so they are going to going to create a wonderful sync, gaming, backup, mail experience by using services like windows live, Xbox, skydrive etc. 80-90% of people all over the world use Windows computer, so their experience with Windows phone would be very smooth. Multiple device makers are supporting it. and… well… Microsoft has been successful in almost everything they do.

  4. “Always Delightful, Wonderfully Mine…”


    That slogan is just unbelievably awful. It sounds like the tagline for the new Martha Stewart product line at K-Mart.

  5. Having played lots with a Kin (remember them?) I can see a lot of design DNA replicated. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    However with no support for tethering, the geeks are out. No external storage (like new Nokias) is interesting, and I see the minimum RAM spec is 8GB for saving all your Zune purchases. No multitasking will be a major drawback unless it can be sorted with an update. Will people miss cut’n’paste? Given lack of multitasking, how are you going to forward someone a URL? The money will help it sell, it always does.

    The vendors are putting rather large toes in the water in the hope MS’s licencing indemnity deal will protect them from patent lawsuits, which are currently thicker on the mobile ground than Hungarian Aluminium waste.

  6. No external storage support, no removable microSD support, frequent OS crashes, ever increasing need for more RAM !!. This will crash and burn. Consumers don’t want this stuff !!!!!

  7. I do have to try using the UI for more than a few hours Mark, so this was most definitely just my initial reaction — I do think you could say similar of the iPhone in terms of having to flick-flick-flick about. I think consumers quite enjoy that. I *don’t* think it’s *that* confusing. Although I might have to revise that position once I’ve used it for a length of time.

    I’m not so sure about Android on-going. I was hugely, hugely shocked by the platform’s inability to control those spammers who downloaded a trojan in a wallpaper app that routinely sent copies of all your SMS, inbox and contacts to some server in China. A few more mainstream media stories like that and Android will not be looking good compared to a more ‘managed’ Windows Phone platform (and others).

  8. I totally agree with you, it really is in ‘the pudding’. I am hopeful. I am excited. I have used it pre-release for a little while, but yeah…as you said in your post… ‘We shall see’

  9. Yeah, nice. General reaction seems to be very positive. TechCrunch have had to really dig around to find something that they would inevitably hate about it.

    The really interesting bit will be when we see Microsoft introduce new services (or at least market old services which have little traction at the moment). The lack of external storage could be a deliberate play to get users onto SkyDrive, and if they can stop pushing their services and properly integrate the best of the social networks and other services, then it could be special.

    But I think it could be down to games. WP7 uses the same development environment and some of the same APIs as the XBox. This may make WP7 the easiest, most powerful mobile games development platform, where code and assests could be easily reused into the mobile version. Halo for WP7 anyone?

  10. What a load of rubbish!!! Are you blind? The interface is as fugly as it could possibly be, truly awful design! This is never going to sell well, it’s such an inferior product compared to everything else on the market. It’s so ugly that it hurts! Being different is not relevant, being better is. Microsoft is trying to be different for sure, but in a bad way! Everything else is better. Apple is laughing their heads off, thinking “Microsoft did it again! An ugly product with ridiculously awful design!”. How could anyone be impressed by this crap is beyond me.

  11. Ewan, it is the enterprise that is going to hand MS the golden ticket. Remember how the enterprise shifted to the Blackberry because of email? Now the enterprise will shift back because of MS. The large corporations will ditch the other OSs in favor of a MS device. It sounds ludicrous, I know, but I have heard of two such fortune 100 companies already planning to get rid of all their corporate Blackberry’s in favor of MS and WP7. Once the platform is proved stable, the enterprise will come knocking. It has nothing to do with “cool”, as the iOS has this. It has to do with all the CTO’s and CIOs in the corporate world, already dealing with Windows, and not wanting to deal with another OS.

  12. Ewan much as I think you have good things to say in the world of mobile, and a great platform to do so, I am confused by your fickleness – you seem to change your tune as soon as the next piece of news comes along. For weeks we’ve had the fact that Win 7 was a disaster plastered all over the front page of MIR, and now suddenly with one snazzy Microsoft launch it’s suddenly all happy, happy, joy, joy and going to sell like hotcakes. Surely you’re not that taken in by slick marketing?…Surely?

    We see the same thing with Nokia, and all the rest. Some piece of negative news floats by you and suddenly whoever is the subject is crap, rubbish, dire, about to disappear and be forgotten to history. Next week some positive news comes past and the same subject is now lauded as the future of all things mobile!

    At least, that’s my impression of MIR. Maybe I’m wrong. But you and MIR do seem to be lurch from one extreme to the other on a regular basis 🙂

    As for Win 7, it’s at position zero. No handsets in consumers hands, no developers, no apps, no nothing.
    Quite how in the same breath you can say “Nokia isn’t quite delivering yet” I don’t know! You’re comparing zero, to a company with 1.3 billion handsets in daily use, and overwhelming share of the smartphone market, amazing new handets and OS, and stonking Ovi statistics:

    Microsoft are absolutely nowhere in mobile. They MAY get a piece of the pie if they’re very lucky. I seriously can’t imagine any sane developer choosing to develop for Win Pho 7 instead of (not as well as) Nokia Qt unless they were targeting specific enterprise markets.

    I agree with you about “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.””. TechCrunch normally talks out of it’s arse and doesn’t have a clue.

  13. > The excitement and the enthusiasm level of people is far more greater than what they have for Nokia devices.

    What an unusual and interesting world you live in! 😉

  14. @Alex – I’ll comment on this line “No handsets in consumers hands, no developers, no apps, no nothing”

    Correct, MS are at position zero. Just like Android was a year ago but now they’re easily outselling the iPhone. So position zero means zilch.

    As for no devs/no apps – you’re quite wrong there. There were over 500K downloads of the dev environment with a rough estimate of at least 200K of those being real devs. Also, as the phone uses Silverlight and there are some 10 million Silverlight developers, I’m quite sure “just a few” of them well move their apps across to the phone as well – which can be done with just a few hours programming.

    As for Apps, there have been quite a number of apps available for the past few months and for the past month, I’m seeing apps being announced in #wp7 almost every hour.

    Microsoft has intentionality limited the number of ‘launch’ apps to 2,000 and thats because they can only authorise “so many” in such a small amount of time (i.e. “we’re only human”) plus its pointless to just flood the marketplace/app store on launch with some 8000 apps.

  15. @Mike42 – correct, there is no tethering in the launch version but it is on the list to be added.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “no external storage” – most of the phones have a microSD card slot that either come with a card or are empty. For example, you can add/replace a 32GB microSD card if you want. WP7 support expandable storage via microSD.

    A lack of multitasking didn’t hold back iPhone sales for the past 3 years… but like Apple, multitasking is on the list to be provided via an OS update next year, just like the copy/paste support being supplied in an OS update in Jan/Feb.

    “How are you going to forward someone a URL?” – right now, the phone uses intellisense to ‘sense’ numerous field types such as phone numbers, addresses, names, url’s, etc. You can tap on any one of these fields and choose what you want to do with it; email it, sms/txt it, post it to facebook/twitter/etc.

  16. Its all to do with the apps……I had Windows mobile for years, purely for one piece of software. There were no Windows phones available when I came to renew and so I HAD to go for Android which I now love, and have learnt to do without my software…it will take useability and apps to tempt me back to Windows.

  17. I had a go on a O2 HTC HD7 in an O2 shop. They let me try out my GiffGaff SIM card, it worked perfectly.

    Amazingly HTC have not been tempted to muck about with it’s interface. There were Microsoft’s fashionably blue status-tiles unmolested by HTC’s abominable Sense UI. It’s a good device. A lot of people will love it. I was even tempted to buy one (only they had sold-out).


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