Despite years of development and countless millions in marketing, Windows Phone 7 still has gained no traction with consumers. Charlie Kindel, former general manager of Windows Phone 7, recently blogged about why the device remains a failure -- and he says it has absolutely nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with the malleability of consumers.
Kindel, who left Microsoft this year to start his own company, wrote a blog post "Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn't it Taken Off?" detailing the reasons he believes that Windows Phone 7 sales "appear so lackluster." It has nothing to do with technology, he says, because he believes that Windows Phone 7 is superior to Android, even though Android sales have skyrocketed, while Windows Phone 7 sales have lagged.
I won't bore you with the MBA-speak that litters most of the post. The core of his argument is simple, though: Microsoft has thoroughly failed in gaining the support of device manufacturers and mobile carriers, and as a result, they spend little advertising and marketing dollars on Windows Phone 7, and don't bother to train their sales staff to push the phones. Because marketing dollars are instead spent on Android, that platform has taken off. He writes:
WP [Windows Phone 7] raises its middle finger at both the device manufacturers and mobile carriers. WP says "heres the hardware spec you shalt use" (to the device manufacturers). And it says "Heres how it will be updated" (to the carriers).
Because of that, he argues, manufacturers and carriers spend their time and money pushing Android devices instead.
Kindel has an exceedingly jaded view of the role of consumers in all this, and essentially believes that they have little understanding of technology or what they want in a mobile device, and will buy what they are told to. He says of them:
All they know is they buy phone service from mobile carriers and/or buy a phone from a carrier. They love speeds & feeds and will generally buy anything they are told to by television ads and RSPs (Retail Sales Professionals).
Kindel argues that Windows Phone 7 is failing because Microsoft has a poor relationship with carriers, and hasn't pushed them hard enough to market and sell Windows Phone 7 devices. He writes:
The carriers choose what devices get featured on those TV ads. They also choose what devices to train their RSP (retail sales professionals) to push. They choose to incent the RSPs to push one device over another.This is why, despite being a superior PRODUCT to Android, Windows Phone has not sold as well. Spending marketing dollars on advertising Android devices is and easy decision for the carriers. Pushing RSPs to push Android is easy.
He concludes that in order for Windows Phone 7 to succeed, Microsoft needs to push the carriers to advertise Windows Phone 7 devices more, and to train their sales staff better on the devices as well.
Although his argument about the malleability of consumers may sound somewhat cynical, all you need to do is turn on your television to see that Windows Phone 7 is being out-marketed by Android devices by a wide margin. And all you need to do is walk into a mobile store and talk to the sales staff, and you'll see that they push Android devices more than Windows Phone 7 devices.
But that doesn't tell the whole story. There's also far more choice in Android devices than in Windows Phone 7 devices, and so a wider range of consumers will consider them. And Windows Phone 7 devices break with the familiar app-centric smartphone approach taken by both Android and the iPhone, which means that consumers need to be educated about how to use the phone. That's a lot to ask for in what is typically the harried atmosphere of a carrier's retail store.
So yes, getting more advertising and a better trained sales staff will help Windows Phone 7. But Microsoft also needs to get a wider range of phones into the market, and do a better job of educating people about the platform's appeal.