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The Windows Phone, Part 1: What’s the Point?

competition marketing Apr 24, 2012

Disclaimer: I am fully away this article might make me a few enemies. But it must be said. Because really, it’s what we’ve all been thinking anyways.

What’s the point of the Windows Phone?

I’m not trying to be unnecessarily biting here. Really – I’m genuinely curious.

What’s the point?

I’d love to pose this question to Microsoft’s development team. Or rather, I wish I could have been in the room during their stage gate process. What was their marketing team thinking? How did they answer the question, Should we bother making it?

Because the brutal answer, I’m sorry to say, was NO. No, Microsoft, you shouldn’t have made the Windows Phone.

And it’s not because it’s a poorly made product. It’s because the closed market has already been taken – cornered and conquered, as it were – by Apple.

Let’s unpack this a bit more: Apple is undeniably the king of closed systems-based phones. Android came in and said, “We can’t have another closed system,” and competed by working with an open system. They gave it away, in a manner of speaking, and have since posed a substantial threat to Apple’s dominance of the smartphone market. And let’s not forget that early on in the game – when the timing was right for closed competition – the Palm Pre was released on a closed system and it was crushed by Apple.

So then, Microsoft enters. Way, way late. Too late. This is not a case of “making an entrance” and being fashionably late; this is a case of missing the boat entirely. Microsoft thought, “Hey, we’re the king of closed systems – we’ve got this one in the bag,” but this “in-the-bag” thinking has failed for them as a strategy.

To add insult to injury, Microsoft’s attempt at a clever marketing campaign completely backfired. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the “Smoked by a Windows Phone” challenge, in which customers were encouraged to bring their smartphones into the store and compete against a Windows phone. Basically, the faster phone would win, and there were prizes to be gained.

Well, Sahas Katta of Skatter Tech met the challenge, and his standard-model Android won. But instead of losing gracefully, the Microsoft store employees acted like 10-year-old kids on a school playground. Not only were they sore losers, they (initially) refused to accept defeat. Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph contacted Sahas – not to give him the prize, but instead to offer a rematch. However, since Sahas is a blogger, the unfortunate experience had already viral, and Rudolph eventually sent out a tweet to offer him the winner’s prize. But the damage had already been done.

Again: too little, and way too late.

Please understand, I’m not saying that the product is garbage – it’s a good product. Maybe it’s even superior to what’s already out there. But if you’re going to enter into the smartphone market a little late, then you’ve got to be radically superior in order to replace what’s already out there. And the Windows Phone has yet to prove that it’s radically superior.

If you don’t believe me – if you’re fired up from this post and think I’m wrong, then just answer this single question: Do YOU know anyone who has a Windows Phone (and isn’t trying to auction it on eBay)?

What do you think about Windows Phone? Do you think they could have had a fighting chance at a different point in the game? Do you think they still have a fighting chance?