Windows Phone 8 Is Awesome…In Theory. Microsoft Surface is a game changer…In Theory. Both well intended products are not what they could and should be at this point. That is the regrettable state of Microsoft’s mobility efforts.

I think there are multiple problems for Microsoft right now. The fact they’ve gone to a new OS and the APIs are still immature, what Microsoft considers a PC and non-pc, and the fact they are still treating Windows Phone as an afterthought. Microsoft seems to only get the importance of the mobility movement. This is my attempt to give an adequate analogy for Microsoft’s mobility efforts. In particular the treating of Windows Phone as an afterthought.

For years the University of Michigan has carried a strong, national brand as a prestigious and leading university. The football team (Windows for Microsoft) is never allowed to fall behind the competition in focus and effort. State of the art facilities are abundant. The basketball team meanwhile has great potential and is a sleeping giant. Most people knew it and they all knew one thing. In the arms race that is big time college sports nobody is going to choose to go with a program that is clearly being treated as a stepchild. My first visit to Crisler Arena (Michigan’s basketball arena) as a high school junior shocked me. It was dark, nondescript and tattered. As little as 2 years ago the electric sign outside the main entrance didn’t work. It wasn’t until the new athletic director was hired and a coach stood up and had it in his contract that every resource and effort would be made available to be the best that he’d accept the job. Now equipped with one of the best facilities in the nation after spending $100 million to renovate Crisler Arena and build a practice facility the team is arguably the best in the country and the bandwagon is getting fuller by the day.

Windows Phone is a a lot like the Michigan’s men’s basketball program. Tons of potential, people can see the sleeping giant but administrative apathy and unawareness is its own worst enemy. Microsoft gets the need to be relevant in mobility but current leadership simply does not understand what it takes to get there. Apple is focused on providing the best mobile based experience. Their focus has zero to do with how it impacts their desktop division. Google has made a very clear effort to be at the forefront of mobility usage. In no way are they holding back because it might potentially jeopardize their desktop search business. Microsoft, on the other hand, continues to bicker and bite each other’s hand and push the desktop with everything they have and there have been plenty of times in the past year that we’ve seen them intentionally make the decision that would harm Windows Phone adoption.

I too have a dream. Its that one day very soon in the future the vision of the Windows Phone team gets to be fulfilled and not have to spend so much effort fighting agendas within the ranks of Microsoft.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Very right, what you said. It looks like Microsoft is not loving Windows Phone as it should be, there should me more updates, more features etc.. They could so much with WP8 games, like exclusive Xbox games like NFS Most Wanted or Halo etc., but it looks like Microsoft doesn´t give much effort about this, sad.

    • @ TheBOSS – Just check out the WPCentral’s article on how screwed up the certification process is for developers to get Xbox LIVE approved. I agree that there is so much that could be getting done with exclusive games for the platform. It isn’t a chicken and egg problem its a commitment problem.

      One of the main reasons I was confident of Windows Phones growing quickly is that Microsoft played up the Xbox LIVE on the phone when WP7 was first introduced. I, like many others, wrongfully assumed that meant we’d quickly see titles like HALO, NFS, Call of Duty come to the platform as exclusives. Now that WP8 is here and the underlying coding language is there the fact no plans have been stated to do so gives no other impression that whoever is in charge are either idiots or don’t care much. Either way it speaks bad for the platform. Its gotten to the point I have held off buying a WP8 device as I decide if i’m sticking with the platform.

    • Agreed. My brother got a Windows Phone when it first launched specifically because he thought there would be significant Xbox integration. He has since jumped ship for Android as those hopes have failed to pan out.

      • @Philip – I started off telling friends to hold off because they’d have a phone that would give them Xbox LIVE games. About 6 months in I had to stop recommending the phone because it was obvious Microsoft was not following through full speed ahead on the promise they said. Sad thing is that Microsoft has a solid history of making big announcements then belated getting around to it. Everything other than Windows just seems to be put on the back burner until Windows is ready to lead the way.

  2. I’d give more credence to your argument if you included any specifics in support. There are no facts here, just broad stroked opinons. Maybe this is all well known to developers in the industry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. Especially because as a user and not an industry insider I’ve been very happy with my Windows Phone experience.

    • Here is a link to an article with specific, clear examples of the struggle of developers trying to get the elusive LIVE certification.

      http://www.wpcentral.com/how-microsoft-can-save-xbox-games-windows-phone

      I have also spoken to several developers who have lamented the extended time it takes to get issues resolved with their updates and app submissions.

      Let me be very clear. Every single Windows Phone team member i’ve met has been outstanding people who are some of the best in the business at what they do and are excited to help. The main issue is that the Windows Phone team doesn’t make the final decisions and dictate the time frame for when apps or updates get LIVE certified. To some extent its the organizational structure itself that has to change. Its just not built to be quick and responsive.

      Guys like Brandon Watson, Charlie Kindel, Joe Belfiore, Ben Rudolph are all people who get it. Brandon and Charlie are no longer with Microsoft but if you have the time i’d encourage you to read their blog posts on mobility and tech issues. Talk to them on Twitter and you’ll quickly realize they know what needs to be done in the mobile space for success.

  3. Sorry dude, but I think you’re wrong.
    Please allow me to launch into my own tirade regarding this issue… or non-issue.

    The “problem” is that the mobile world, especially in the US is largely made up ignorant buyers. Not ignorant as in stupid, but ignorant as in uninterested for the most part none the less. The AVERAGE mobile buyer isn’t coming to these types of websites to read up on what’s new or next. They aren’t worried about “the state of the mobile nation”. They care about a few things… can I call, text, go online (whatever that means to them), tweet and/or update my status. UI, UX, OS (for the most part), none of that really matter to most buyers.
    Both apple and google have benefited off of that ignorance. Apple is popular for a lot of reasons, but none of them are because they are “focused on providing the best mobile based experience”. If that were the case they would have done more with the iphone when other OS’s clearly started to catch, and pass them in so many different ways instead of incremental bumps on a tired OS. Android has been far more capable than the iphone for a while, right? Actually in many ways, when the iphone came out the current line-up of Windows MOBILE phones were more capable. Does it matter to the average buyer? Nope… can it do the few things they need? Yup. That’s all that matters. Add to that the overall trendy aspect of iphones and you understand why they are where they are.
    Android has had a shit-load of issues since it came out. But with it being “free” to OEM’s and therefore being put on damn near every type of device which results in carriers being flooded with them they are being force fed to the average buyer. People get the carrier’s pushing them in their face, they ask can it text, go online, and update status… yup? Sold! Issues don’t matter if you’re not comparing it to anything else… they are easy to ignore if you don’t know and aren’t interested in knowing better.
    And THAT is it. Most mobile device users simply don’t know better, and aren’t really interested in knowing better.
    I mean, so many Blackberry users are stuck on their devices because they were pushed onto them by their jobs, and see them as being “good enough for what they need”. Yet for the most part BB’s can’t hold a candle to the other OS’s out there.
    Add to that, the few people who do actually read and get caught up in visiting mobile device sites all see the same shit… ALL sites and “reviews” spew and regurgitate the same tired shit about WP’s “lack of apps”. As if android and ios users are prancing around with 500K apps on their phones. Or even more to the truth, as if the other OS’s have that many quality apps.
    WP is a GREAT OS. The devices are damn good. The ads have been on point, and have actually succeeded in accentuating what the device is, and can do, the prices are almost too good to be true in some cases. But it’s all about mind share… Can they convince people to drop the ignorance and just look? Are they willing to step outside group mindset (lemmings…?) and leave behind your friends opinions?
    MS is not making mistakes that hurt the OS, but the few minor mistakes they make overall get blown way out of proportion.
    But keep this in mind… For the most part the doom ‘n gloom that is constantly lumped onto MS is almost identical to what was being said a few years back about the Xbox. It was “dead in the water”, it wasn’t selling well enough in Japan, it couldn’t compete with the PS2… but look at what’s going on now.
    Yes it’s a bit of a different ball game. Mainly in that you are dealing with a lot more ignorance (not stupidity) in the mobile sector. But people should keep in mind who they’re talking about before they put the nail in the coffin.

    • @Sean D – You make some good points. I don’t want to discount the amount ignorance, as you described it, plays. What I wanted to highlight is Microsoft’s lack of coming through on one of their main points of emphasis when they introduced Windows Phone.

      Recent evidence certainly points to the unfortunate conclusion that Microsoft is still not all working for the same goal of putting Windows Phone in its best position to succeed.

      The retail pricing through carriers is amazingly low. That is as much, if not more, to do with HTC and Nokia’s push to penetrate the market. I visit a retail store every week to keep building valuable relationships with the retail sales representatives. There is more pushing of Windows Phones as a viable option now than ever before. Part of its due to what you stated, very good hardware out now for Windows Phone.

      The iPhone has the trendy name and most of us know Android has far since outpaced it in terms of raw capability.Just in the last 2 days we find that on Verizon 3 out of every 5 smartphones sold on the carrier during Q4 was an iPhone. I keep asking myself how can that be. I would think Android would be 3 out of every 5 but somehow those numbers keep popping out.

      I’m still using my HTC Titan & WP7.5. I still thoroughly enjoy my day to day experience too. You’re right that for most people they just want to be able to play simple games, text, update their status and make calls. We tend to overestimate the importance of all the bells & whistles that most of us enthusiasts have come to view as mandatory for considering a smartphone a viable purchase option.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. But logically, what more can MS do for WP? I understand, and share the frustration of updates, and them being slow to fulfill their promises. But what more can THEY do to improve things?
    The crying public… visitors to this site for instance kinda unfairly held MS’s feet to the flames for them not offering features in WP7 that android and ios also didn’t offer in the beginning… MS made a point to put most of them in, and nobody cares. People are more impressed with ios’s weak-ass panorama or the ability to block certain callers. Ya know… shit that windows mobile had 5-7 years ago.
    Why does MS get called out for what’s lacking on WP8, but so very few people hold apple accountable for a T I R E D iphone OS with minor incremental updates?
    I looked up the top 50 apps for the other two OS’s, and I found it funny that on a couple of the android lists they have anti malware apps? Really??
    GTFOutta here!
    MS never gets credit for having things built into the OS that eliminates the need for certain types of apps… it’s always “they are lacking apps”. What can they do??
    The OS is NICE, the devices are nice(er) the majority of the apps that everyone cries about are offered on WP as well, they’ve been in commercials, and videos with catchy phrases (Smoked by Windows Phone!) they’ve put them in the hands of celebrities, there’s adds on TV, radio, billboards movie theaters, online… I honestly don’t know what else they can do. I mean, If they had done what the others did and used an already tired phone OS on their tablets they would be crucified by the media… wouldn’t they?
    If they do anything they have to keep plugging away at the general public’s mind share. Because, in MY opinion the OS far exceeds the others out there in UI, UX functionality and usability.
    Convincing people that it’s ok to change is difficult.

    Can you tell I’ve been wanting to vent about this for a while? ;-)

    • From a consumer adoption stand point there isn’t too much more that Microsoft can do. At this point it comes down to making sure Windows Phone gets apps before or at the same time iOS gets them. I remember that a couple years ago, even now actually, a fun and unique app would come out for the iPhone and people would associate the iPhone with all things cool.

      I want Windows Phone to succeed as much as anyone. Heck, i’ve used Windows Mobile and came straight to WP7 when it launched. Still rocking the platform but organizational decisions that stifle the work that the Windows Phone team is trying to accomplish pisses me off.

  5. I have a question about apps… I know it sounds like I’m on some conspiracy theory shit so bear with me.
    In light of the constant tears about instagram not being on WP is it possible that some of these app developers are being paid to not develop for WP?
    I know it sounds crazy, but when you consider that a smart developer wants their app in as many hands as possible why wouldn’t they put the effort into it?
    It’s not that difficult so the time/effort angle is bullshit. A company like Rovio has a lotta loot (I assume) so what held them up with angry birds updates for WP? I don’t know, but a lot of it seems odd to me.
    If I’m missing something else here PLEASE enlighten me.

    • I’m not one for conspiracy theories but honestly that might be a very good possibility. There are a few apps that Microsoft has made themselves and are just waiting for permission from the developers to release the app.

      There are quite a few cases where its common knowledge that Microsoft was willing to build the app themselves or foot the bill for development costs of “hot” apps. Yet these apps still aren’t present on Windows Phone but they are in development for BlackBerry 10.

      Truthfully there is a clear tech war taking place between Apple, Microsoft and Google. It would not surprise me one bit to learn that Apple and Google weren’t making it financially beneficial to certain app developers to hold off on developing for Windows Phone.

  6. If it’s not that they are being paid to NOT develop apps for WP then developers are clearly choosing sides in that tech war, and using their own apps as “deciding” factors in determining a winner. Either way it’s pretty pathetic.

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