My name is Brian and I use Windows Phone.
Confession: I want Windows Phone to succeed. I want it to succeed because I believe users will benefit from Microsoft innovation and renewed market competition. I want Windows Phone to succeed because as Android increasingly takes over the computing world I am increasingly fearful of the success of an OS whose very existence is to track and record user behavior across the world.
I want Windows Phone to succeed because I want great, American companies to continue to dominate the global tech market.
I am not at all sure Windows Phone will succeed.
This has nothing to do with the silly, breathless rumors about a Nokia Android device. Rather, even given Microsoft’s money, brainpower and massive “Windows” install base — and 10+ years of fruitless R&D — the world continues to reveal that it is quite happy choosing between Android and iOS.
My hope, thus, is cruelly crushed by market reality. Must be doubly bad for Microsoft, I suspect. Therefore, I offer the following advice to help save Windows Phone.
1. Fewer Apps
Yes, this is counterintuitive, but absolutely necessary. You lost the app battle, Microsoft. It’s over. Accept defeat. We now live in a world where there are far more software applications for Apple products — and they are much easier to buy.
Stop pumping bad apps through the system in a futile attempt to make the actual numbers look not so awful. Instead, focus on offering the absolute best apps of any platform.
I have spent the past 4 years using iPhones as my go-to device. I have spent the past several weeks using the Lumia 1520 almost exclusively. In nearly every case, I’ve found an app equivalent for Windows Phone to match my iPhone. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is awful. Limited functionality, poor to no integration with web services (or iPhone apps), bad design. Indeed, the vast majority of apps in the Windows Phone store appear to me as little more than high school projects. End this anti-user behavior. Ensure that any app offered from your store is absolutely awesome and in no way a pale, brittle facsimile of what’s long been available for iOS and Android. Reject far more apps than you accept.
Fifty thousand great apps is better than 150,000 awful ones.
I also recommend you pledge every single of the many billions of dollars you receive from Android patent scofflaws to fund app projects with the very best app development houses. Bonus: offer huge cash windfalls for successful tie-ins with your very best mobile offerings (Skydrive, Bing, Office, Skype).
2. Fewer Devices
Windows Phone, the platform, will not be widely embraced by OEMs the way Windows was back in the 20th century. Android has won that war and its presence and pace throughout the world is accelerating. Your best hope is to focus on your own great devices. Luckily, you now own Nokia, which makes the most beautiful, best designed smartphones in the world.
Nokia’s problem is its insistence on offering as many variations of devices across every possible region, industry and demographic. This is no longer a viable strategy in a world where we are all connected. Worse, it increases manufacturing and marketing costs, generates user confusion and capitulates to self-serving carrier demands.
This is what you should offer:
- Student model — for children, students, grandparents and those of lesser means. The Lumia 520 is amazing for the price. Does the target market even know this?
- Business model. Your premium offering. The Lumia 920 (or equivalent) with Office, Outlook, Skydrive and Skype included is a powerful combination.
- Globetrotter model. The Lumia 1020 with 41mp camera is the baseline device for artists, photographers, creative types.
- Gamer model. Your “gamer” phone fully leverages Xbox and the beautiful large-display Lumia 1520. Maybe offer Xbox credits with every purchase.
Next, you must give each of these devices comprehensible names. 520, for example, means absolutely nothing to absolutely no one. 920 is (obviously) less than 925, which obviously has lesser hardware than the 1020. Right? Nobody knows. Stop such nonsense.
3. Be Mobile First – Really
From this day forward, the role of Office and Windows is not to maximize shareholder value. Rather, it is to maximize profits to fund the future. The future is mobile.
You’ve bravely taken a few baby steps in this direction, and have now evolved from believing smartphones are mere satellites revolving around the PC sun to your current belief, where you appear to grudgingly accept that smartphones and PCs can be equivalents. Still wrong. The smartphone is the center of the computing world. Until you accept this your giant company will continue to flounder.
I fear this will not be an easy fix. Your Surface ads reveal that you, dear Microsoft, can’t even conceive of a “computing” device that is solely and purely touchscreen and mobile. In the second decade of the 21st century you still promote computers and “slates,” such as your Surface, as devices that work best when there is a physical keyboard attached and the user is seated. This is a profound misunderstanding of the future of everything.
Focusing on non-mobile, non-touchscreen devices is like if Android is the Death Star, iPhone is Ben Kenobi and you are Aunt Beru. Don’t be Aunt Beru, Microsoft.
Change your strategy. Radically improve touchscreen responsiveness. Offer a movie store. Make multitasking really work. Fix the (virtual) keyboard. Mobile first — really.
It’s not all bad, of course. Your instincts are sound. Note that the much-lauded Jony Ive continues to parrot what Windows Phone and Nokia have been doing for years: “Unapologetically” plastic devices. Bright colors. Polycarbonite-like feel. Flat design. Lots of white space. He knows.
4. Start A War With Apple
Android is good enough for most of the world. For what it offers, for its price, availability and ecosystem, you aren’t going to convince many to choose Windows Phone over Android, particularly at the low-end. You must prove your worthiness by taking on Apple. Fortunately, that’s where most of the money may be found.
Focus your marketing on a Mac vs PC-like campaign.
- Your live tiles versus their static icons
- Skype versus FaceTime
- 20mp and 41mp cameras with Zeiss lenses and Nokia imaging controls versus iPhone’s 8mp camera
- Office versus iWork
- Outlook versus Apple Mail
- Nokia Maps and real-time transit data versus Apple Maps
- Xbox versus Game Center
- Mock Siri. Belittle Touch ID.
Pay no attention to the Apple echo chamber. Ignore what people may say on Twitter. “In marketing, what looks new is new.”
A relentless assault against the iPhone earns you respect, customers, and helps focus your company. If possible, hire the “PC” guy to do the ads.
Reminder: not one moment of these ads, not one image, may include a keyboard or a person seated. Commercials advertising a “real keyboard” to do “real work” is my grandfather insisting that music used to be so much better. Probably, he’s wrong and if he’s right, it’s irrelevant.
Having spent the past month with a Nokia Lumia 1520, and having used every iPhone, several Android devices, BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian, Asha, MeeGo and others, I know that your odds are slight. Your potential remains great, however. Go forth. No excuses — you’re Microsoft. The time to line up your pawns has long since passed. These are the smartphone wars. Ball so hard.