A lot is made in tech blogs about how users are buying into an ecosystem not just the phone. This is true and grows truer with each passing day. The thing is that ignoring trends is never good. Yes the Windows Phone ecosystem needs to mature but the same needed to be said about Apple’s and Android’s. Sure things were different when the iPhone launched and slightly less so when Android began its ascent in market share. There is no doubt Windows Phone has a steep challenge but please don’t pretend like the task is insurmountable. The growing installed user base, the continued rising app count and the already present strong ecosystem can and should lead Windows Phone to new heights.
Growing User Base
Ten million-This is the magic number most large developers look at to decide a platform is worthy of their time. With each passing day Windows Phone gets closer to this magic number. With a strong marketing push there is no reason to think this number will not rise and rise quicker than at any point since the launch of the WP7 platform. Each new handset that gets sold is an opportunity for network marketing. By this I mean that each new Windows Phone handset sold into the wild gets viewed by a person’s network. Its free advertising. How else do you think iPhone’s got so popular? A beautiful phone added on top of a solid user satisfaction rating and recommendation leads to residual sales.
Here’s a dirty little secret nobody wants to mention anymore. Both the iPhone and Android are built on the strength of “off brand” apps. You know the ones, games like Angry Birds, Words With Friends, Instagram, etc” the apps & games that were not exactly a household name until they became, well, a household name. So it tickles me when Android and iOS users rag on Windows Phone for simply doing the same. Lost in all the smoke blowing is the fact the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace app count continues to increase sharply. There is little evidence of an impending slowdown. I remember 9 months ago there was a lull in the app submission and stories were flooding the tech blogosphere about how that was evidence that devs had already given up on the platform. Needless to say history has shown this to be quite erroneous. We know there are officially at least 70,000 apps in the Marketplace though not all apps are available in every region. Some sites have recently posted the number to exceed 80,000 but I much prefer going with the lower number to be safe.
Netflix, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Ebay, ESPN ScoreCenter, Skype are all present and accounted for. There has not been a single time in the last six months that i’ve needed my phone to do something and there wasn’t a solid app to meet the need. Yes the official YouTube app blows but YouTube Pro rocks. Third party apps are the lifeblood of all platforms so who are we to dismiss one if it has the functionality you’re looking for but not the name. Where would we be as a society if we all thought like that? Elitist pricks. Instagram is cool but you know what its not exactly the filters that make it the hit, it’s the social part. When you post to Facebook using Instagram people could care less that it is an instagram photo they just think the photo is cool.
Before people on iOS and Android got Cocktail Flow guess it was stunning everyone on Windows Phone 7. Whats the best new time waster I play? Wordament which not only has turned into a Xbox Live title but will be a featured app in Windows 8. When Windows 8 is released guess what will become one of the must have games for your platform? Wordament!
Yes there are horrible apps on the market, bad & buggy Twitter apps and even Xbox Live titles that inexcusably have not been updated to support fast app switching and other Mango features. Please just don’t pretend like the problem is exclusive to Windows Phone. I chuckle everyday as my wife gets frustrated with her beloved iPhone.
People like to dismiss Microsoft services but the fact is that hundreds of millions of users utilize their services on a daily, almost essential basis. If you own an Xbox 360 and want to have some nice integration grab the Xbox Companion app from the marketplace. Before there were the cute iCloud commercials Windows Phone offered the ability to sync Microsoft Office files across devices. Whenever my wife, who is a dancer and choreographer, needs a song for a performance I simply grab the song in the Zune Marketplace. There are a nice selection of apps and games to boot.
Yes an ecosystem is much more than just services. A strong ecosystem includes accessories. This is indeed where Windows Phone is lacking but Nokia is changing that by offering their own line of accessories, HTC has a dock for the Titan too. This is the one area where Apple is clearly dominant. Microsoft needs to do something about this and fast. Just like the partnership with Nokia has produced stunningly beautiful hardware they should seek out an accessory partner. There is just something about having accessories that have been crafted with your phone in mind. Get with Case Mate and somebody like JBL to produce a line that will deliver.
It feels very much like a territorial animal protecting its turf. People seemingly have been waiting a long time for Microsoft to fail and fail hard. Its not going to happen, not anytime soon anyway. Mobile is the key play and its not like Microsoft will give up on the market. Microsoft is doing as much as they can to get the app count ramped up, they are prepared to forge ahead without some developer holdouts (I’m looking at you Pandora) and market competing apps. In the year ahead people need to realize having Microsoft backing you as a dev is huge. Windows 8 is coming and I’d much rather be in position to get prime marketing real estate in the Microsoft ecosystem than not. I’m listening to iHeartRadio more and more. Pandora is a thing of non-consequence to me and might serve as an example of how fast something can fall out of favor. Anybody still active on MySpace? The ecosystem continues to improve and the hardware is being taken up a notch. What’s not to like about that?
Its okay to disagree with me just don’t be disagreeable.