Windows Phone fans are a rabid bunch. Well, perhaps rabid isn’t the right term. A better analogy would be wounded animals that are trapped in a corner.
We live in a world of aggression, jealousy, excuses, and sub-2% market share.
It’s dark times for us Windows Phone fans. After all, three years ago, Windows Phone 8 was introduced amongst optimism, a unique UI, and promises of better times. Windows Phone was a hub for all of your services. Sure, there was an app gap, but who needs apps when you can post to Facebook from the Me app and see your Facebook and Twitter timelines combined into one in the People app. With Windows Phone, you would register all of your accounts from social networks and other services and they would work natively from the UI.
Then came Cortana. Cortana is, in many respects, the best voice assistant that exist. It combines the best of Siri and Google Now, and it’s all on Windows Phone 8.1. Add to all of that live tiles and you’ve got yourself a unique operating system that many would consider the best.
Except it didn’t work.
People love to speculate why Windows Phone has failed. After all, wasn’t it better? Wasn’t it the only thing on the market that was different? Surely, Microsoft was too late to the game. Surely, everyone had chosen iOS or Android by now and there was no room for a third party. Surely, if we just had the apps…
Of course, that’s all bullshit.
Fast forward to today. Microsoft has finally finished porting Cortana to iOS and Android. Every service on Windows Phone with the exception of Xbox Video (now Movies and TV, although I call it Xbox Video because Movies and TV is just such a generic name) has been ported to Android and iOS. The 41 MP Pureview camera is dead. Most recently, Microsoft has decided to port the Word Flow keyboard over to iOS, despite the fact that they haven’t even ported it over to Windows 10 for PCs.
It’s fair to say that you can get a better Microsoft experience on iOS or Android, especially with Microsoft’s awesome Arrow Launcher on Android. Many apps are better on Android and iOS than Windows Phone. Office is a great example, the full suite having been available on iOS and Android for between six months to over a year while Windows Phone users are still waiting for Windows 10 Mobile so they can have it too.
Microsoft Garage even launched an iOS app yesterday called News Pro, a news app that’s supposed to show news around your work. Meanwhile, Windows Phone users are stuck with the crusty old MSN News app.
This leaves the rabid Windows Phone fans screaming, “What about us? What is left to make Windows Phone unique? What can I show my friend about my phone that he doesn’t have?”
Of course, the Windows Phone fan is right. There’s nothing unique about Windows Phone anymore. The services integrations are gone, you can get the same services and better ones on iOS and Android, even Cortana.
Windows Phone does Not Need to be Unique
There’s the catch. Windows Phone doesn’t need to be unique. The fact that you want to be able to brag to your friends about your awesome Windows Phone is your own selfish problems, not Microsoft’s.
While there were always aspects of Windows Phone that were better than iOS and Android (and there still are), you’d be very hard pressed to prove that Windows Phone is better as a whole. I’m going to leave a couple points right here:
- The OS that is known for having Office preinstalled and great cameras does not support native printing of documents or photos
- The company that sells mobile Bluetooth keyboards doesn’t support Bluetooth keyboards on their own mobile OS
- The Settings menu is in no particular order, is completely text based, making it harder to navigate, and it can change without warning when a setting is updated through the Store
I’m talking about Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. If we talked about Windows Phone 8, we’d talk about the lack of a notification center and the inability to use a photo in the background of your Start screen. If I was talking about Windows Phone 8.1, I’d have mentioned the inability to put tiles in folders on the Start screen.
Printing, Bluetooth keyboard support, a navigable Settings menu, a notification center, using a photo in the background, and folders are all very basic features that Android and iOS have. Windows 10 Mobile fixes everything on this list, but now we can’t transfer files to a non-Windows PC and of course, Microsoft can’t seem to get Windows 10 Mobile out of the gate.
I’m sure you’re all saying, “Well I don’t need printing from my phone. I have a laptop! That’s the same reason I don’t need a Bluetooth keyboard! Who cares what the Settings menu looks like? I can find my own settings! Why do I need a photo in the background? What functionality would that actually bring me?”
I hear this crap all the time. The fact is that it’s not all about you and your needs! The fact is that when a smart person buys an expensive piece of technology, he doesn’t just make sure it fits his needs, he makes sure it fits the needs he might have in the lifetime of the device. 99% of the time, you might never need to print something, but that 1% of the time that you do, it really sucks that you can’t.
We’ve tried unique. Windows Phone has been unique since Windows Phone 7 was introduced in 2010. It hasn’t gotten us anywhere except for a market share that continues to decline.
No one cares about unique except for the selfish fanboy that wants to brag to his friend about his Windows Phone. The original iPhone came out in 2007. When Android came out in 2008, it was pretty much a clone of iOS in terms of interface. While Android climbed to an over 80% market share, no one was saying, “Man, I wish this OS was more unique!”
If we can learn anything from Apple’s incredible success, it should be that a great OS isn’t something that translates into a feature sheet.
Windows Phone Does Need to be Better
Whenever I get into a discussion about the failure of Windows Phone and why it has done so, there are a number of things I never say. If I do say it, I’m saying why it’s wrong. These are those things:
- If we just had the apps…
- Microsoft just showed up too late to the party…
- Everyone has made their choice…
- If they would just release a Surface Phone…
Just so you know, this is all crap. Surface is nothing more than a brand. Making something called Surface isn’t going to revive the platform. Very few people have actually made a choice. I would estimate that 99% of smart phone buyers don’t care what platform their smart phone runs as long as it fits their needs best. The other 1% are the enthusiasts. Microsoft did not show up too late. They did show up late, but new technologies come along to replace old ones all the time. As far as apps, if Microsoft was providing a better experience, people would buy them and developers would make apps.
The whole point is that Microsoft isn’t providing the best experience. I am so sick of hearing about how Windows Phone has “failed”. The truth is that they never even tried.
Let me put it this way. Apple’s number one priority is to make the best iPhone that they possibly can. No one can deny that. The iPhone is their greatest source of revenue and Apple wants it to continue to be so. If you watched the 60 Minutes episode with Tim Cook, you know that Apple has 800 engineers working on the iPhone camera alone. How many people do you think Microsoft has working on all of Windows 10 Mobile (that’s kind of a trick question, as Windows teams have been combined, as have Lumia and Surface teams)?
I don’t think that Windows Mobile can ever displace iOS. Apple is too good at what they do and their customers spend too much money. Consider that iOS has 15% of the market share and yet developers still make apps for them first. If Windows Phone got to 15%, 90% of that would be sub-$100 phones, so you still can’t expect to see any apps being made.
Then there’s Android. Android is the OS that Windows 10 Mobile needs to displace. Ask yourself where Android lies on Google’s priorities and ask yourself how it compares to Microsoft’s priorities. Now ask yourself this: All three of these companies have massive amounts of resources. If Android and iOS is more of a priority to Google and Apple than Windows Phone is to Microsoft, how can Windows Phone ever displace either of them?
It’s impossible. Windows 10 Mobile can never beat Android or iOS as long as Microsoft doesn’t care as much. Microsoft would rather try to revitalize a declining PC market with the “PC Does Whaaat?” campaign than focus on their own mobile platform.
Make no mistake, Windows 10 Mobile does need to displace Android in order to survive. There is no room for a third horse in this race. Technology rarely has room for a major third competitor.
The Golden Ticket Strategy
Microsoft’s current strategy is what I like to call the “golden ticket” strategy. It’s where Microsoft changes something and thinks that because they changed this thing, Windows Phone will suddenly become successful. For example, when Windows Phone 8.1 came out, Cortana was supposed to make Windows Phones start flying off the shelves.
Later, they decided to begin making all low end phones. After all, the Nokia Lumia 520 was far and away the best-selling Windows Phone, right? Of course, the Lumia 520 was quality for a low price. It brought a decent 5 MP rear camera with autofocus and 720p video recording for as low as $29.99 without a contract.
Microsoft decided to make it a race to the bottom after that. The Nokia Lumia 635 was a decent phone, although there was still no front camera and no flash. The Nokia Lumia 530, while it should have been the successor to the Lumia 520, was complete junk. It only recorded 480p video, it had half the storage of the Lumia 520, it was thicker and heavier, the camera was 5 MP fixed focus, and it was just awful.
As it turned out, selling all low end phones didn’t work either. Now it’s Continuum.
Windows Phone failed, so when you’re losing the argument, you change the conversation. They’re not Windows Phones anymore, they’re Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft isn’t losing anymore. Microsoft is winning in PCs.
The fact is that the PC strategy isn’t going to work either. Do you know why? BECAUSE THERE IS NO GOLDEN TICKET!
There is no magical thing that Microsoft can do that will turn the Windows Mobile platform from something that no one uses and few people even look at in the store into a successful platform overnight. That’s just not how it works.
Apple sold 75 million iPhones over the last quarter. Can you imagine if they called the original iPhone a failure so they rebooted the platform for the iPhone 3G. When that didn’t sell 75 million units, they rebooted it again for the iPhone 3GS?
No, Apple got to 75 million iPhones in a quarter by creating a platform and working as hard as they can for the next eight years to make it as good as they can over and over.
This is the only way to make Windows Phone successful. Build it and they will come.