The success or failure of Windows Phone 7 ultimately won't be laid to Microsoft's reputed $500 million ad campaign or what reviewers have to say about the phones. Instead, it will be decided by consumers walking into stores, testing out the devices, and then deciding whether to buy them. Reports are coming in that in this key area, Windows Phone 7 has lost its first battle.
I've written before about problems with the Windows Phone 7 launch, including warning about shortages ahead of time and slow sales, with one report saying only 40,000 were sold on the first day.
Now reports are coming in from people who have visited stores in order to look at and possibly buy phones, and the news for Microsoft isn't good. True, these are all anecdotal, but they confirm larger reports about phone shortages as well.
In My Sad Visit to an AT&T Store to Get My Hands on a WP7 Phone a blogger describes his awful experience in trying to test out a Windows Phone 7 at an AT&T store. He describes a wall display for Windows Phone 7s in an AT&T store that was small, and put off to the side so few people could see it. Here's what he had to say about the display:
The display wall had no working phones on it. In their place were "coming soon" tags. The Focus was not there because of "limited stock," and the Surround was not there because of a "faulty alarm sensor." The wall's lame interactive display of a WP7 device does nothing but play a feature video when a button or tile is pressed.
It goes downhill from there. Because there were no working phones on display, he had to wait 20 minutes for a sales rep to bring out a phone. The rep then displayed ignorance about the phone itself. The blogger writes:
If I had been a "normal" customer looking for my first smart phone phone, or an upgrade, more than likely, I would have walked out with an iPhone. This type of half-assed support in the phone stores can kill WP7. No, you don't have to have instant success, and massive lines around the block...but you do have to have store staff who are excited and knowlegeable about the phones. It would be helpful if they actually used the phones so that their enthusiasm would sell the product. Just the way Android is pushed hard at Verizon, and the way iPhone has been pushed hard at AT&T, WP7 needs to be pushed hard at AT&T and T-Mobile.
On Liveside.net, Kip Kniskern wrote about problems he encountered trying to buy a Windows Phone 7, the Samsung Focus. He reported that stocks of the phones were short, and that at the store he went to, he met someone who had been shuttled from AT&T store to AT&T store in an attempt to put his hands on a phone. Here's what Kniskern wrote:
During my wait one potential Windows Phone 7 customer came in, this his third AT&T store of the morning. In each store he was sent to the next one, told each time that the next store down the road had "5 phones" only to find that wasn't true and what phones the stores did have were gone, poor guy. In talking to the salesperson, although they had been promised more (and indeed my calls to the store over the weekend confirmed they were expecting bigger stocks), but only received 8 phones total at the time I left around 11:30.
Both of these bloggers, by the way are fans of Windows Phone 7, and went out of their way to find one to buy. If people like them are having these kinds of problems, and had these types of experiences, just consider how consumers who don't come in to a store predisposed to buying a Windows Phone 7 will react.
Some people in the military like to say that wars are won by boots on the ground --- the soldiers actually fighting the war. If the same thing applies to cell phone wars, Microsoft has lost its first battle.