We’re now firmly in year three of Microsoft’s mobile platform reboot. We’ve progressed from the initial release, got a reprieve with NoDo, thoroughly enjoy Mango (WP7.5) and have been recently introduced to Apollo (WP8). Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock you should know by now that Windows Phone has not taken the market by storm as Ballmer and a few overly generous forecasters predicted. Read along as I take the opportunity to make a case for Windows Phone gaining significant market share in 2013.
Partner to Prosperity
AT&T has been the premiere launch partner for Windows Phone since its 2010 debut. T-Mobile also offered Windows Phone in the fall of 2010 and actually saw decent adoption rates even though they carried mid-tier hardware choices. Verizon offered a token measure of support by introducing the HTC Trophy in the summer of 2011 and Sprint released the HTC Arrive to dismal results and zero push. The two carriers who actually pushed the Windows Phone as a credible choice for their subscribers (AT&T, T-Mobile) continued to support the platform through the fall 2011 launch of the WP7.5 devices. Verizon and Sprint backed off and there wasn’t another offering from either carrier as they took a wait and see approach to the platform.
Fast forward to now and we see that Verizon has jumped in with both feet support Windows Phone. Running national TV ads, offering multiple attractive models and different price points too. They have even released a red Nokia Lumia 822 for Valentines Day. Sprint has also gone on record to announce their commitment to bring attractive Windows Phone 8 devices to their subscribers this summer. Sprint has also gone so far as to reassure subscribers that they won’t be offering six month old hardware which suggests a commitment to delivering a device that is timely and appealing.
The bigger your goals and vision the more help you need to get it met. Not having the 2nd and 3rd largest mobile carriers not supporting your platform means that you’re left with over 50% of the market that will not be buying a device running your platform. Finally in 2013 there should be appealing devices on all four major carriers. Windows Phone is between 2% and 3% right now. If we simply just doubled that number due to the support of both Verizon and Sprint that is 5% right there.
Also of note is that Microsoft is making a push for smaller carriers like MetroPCS, Boost, etc. to carry low cost handsets. This is huge as I know a ton of people who simply are reluctantly using a smartphone and buy low-cost pre-paid devices for $200 or less because they don’t want a contract. This is an area where HTC, Nokia and Samsung could exploit.
Almost universally it is agreed that the initial Windows Phone 8 device line-up is impressive. You have flagship devices that hold their own against any other phone and you have attractive options no matter what price fits your budget on multiple carriers. The Nokia Lumia 920 & HTC 8X are remarkable devices that each have their own strengths. What is promising is that they both pushed the envelop and didn’t hold back on the tech. Wireless charging, NFC, great cameras, additional amplifiers for music showed that these companies wanted to deliver big.
We’re already hearing rumors of follow up devices that have forums and enthusiasts excited. You can put lipstick on a pig for so long but now Windows Phone is trotting out some real beauties. More OEM partners are introducing devices worldwide and the rivalry that’s brewing between HTC and Nokia promises to keep each OEM bringing up to date and awesome technology. The ability to offer great hardware and great pricing will help keep momentum building for the platform.
Go back and look at the first couple versions of the iPhone software and compare it to the software running the iPhone 3Gs or later. If you’re a fan of Android compare pre-Gingerbread to the wonder that is Jelly Bean. The fact is that as a mobile platform matures your user experience is heightened. Windows Phone 8 feels a lot like a 1.0 release. It has built on the principles established in WP7 & WP7.5 but the switch to the NT kernel has not been without its headaches. The confusing state of Xbox Music, the marketplace, apps not being updated properly, features being inexplicably removed from WP7.5 that users loved and appreciated. Microsoft has some correcting and updating to do. Thankfully everything I’ve been hearing has shown me the Windows Phone is hard at work on correcting some of these shortcomings.
As much as BlackBerry likes to hammer the “flow” paradigm it is in fact Windows Phone that carries with it the best ability for you to interact with relevant apps without having to go in and out to the app list. For example, if I’m using viewing pictures I can easily go to the share menu and choose Apps… to quickly edit or play in my installed photography apps like Fhotoroom and Pictures Lab.
Similar to the massive jump in quality developers made with their apps for WP7.5 compared to WP7 I think that as the APIs mature and developers become more familiar with the coding landscape the app experience will be outstanding. Apps are being updated daily by developers to continuously improve the user experience. Microsoft knows they have work to do with their first party app offerings. Skype, Xbox Music, Xbox Gaming all need to be improved and I would hope that they are. Finally, many users are clamoring for a notifications center and I think it is on the way. It makes so much sense to do it in a multitude of ways and the Windows Phone team did reveal they wanted to do one but ran out of time for the WP8 launch. That means at the very least it will be there by this fall though we all hope it comes sooner.
Lastly I need to mention the importance of a proper sync client for the desktop. We were hoping for something like Zune with just a rebranded and a few features added instead we got a barebones, inadequate offering that has frustrated users. This needs to be on the fast track to being updated.
I’ll get straight to the point. Crappy marketing can make even a great car look like trash and be treated like a plague. Early Windows Phone commercials missed the boat by trying to be too smart for their own good. Your marketing efforts should bring attention to the product and show relevancy to someone’s life. The launch of Windows Phone 8 brought with it a slew of adverts that hit the mark and show the real life benefits and fun that users can expect from a Windows Phone. The adverts aren’t about apps but about how we use our phones to get through the day. As long as Microsoft continues to hammer home this point throughout 2013 much like Samsung has done with their “Next Big Thing” series of adverts good things will continue to be in store for the platform.
So there you have it folks. My case for Windows Phone growing their market share in 2013. Is this finally the year that Windows Phones stop being the tech version of pink unicorns? I’m betting heavily that it is with the obvious caveat that Microsoft can’t make a single mistake going forward.