I have been pretty hard on Microsoft Mobile and rightfully so as they have been a rather stagnant organization and as I posted in my earlier blog (A Microsoft Mobile Disaster) one that has failed to listen to the market place. It now seems with the launch of Windows Phone 7 that Microsoft has decided to compete. Some at Microsoft would say they have always competed and others say they have never competed. I side with the marketplace on this one.
When I look at Windows Phone 7 everything I read is this is a consumer phone. It seems stupid when you hear it. Why wouldn’t you have been making a consumer mobile phone? A little history may shed some light. I was on vacation for a couple of weeks and when I got back I received an email that SteveB had sent to the Windows Mobile Team. While I was away he had come to Bldg 117 and spoke to the Windows Mobile Team. At the time Pieter Knook was Sr VP of Mobility. During that time within te team they were focused on the business professional. One of the least sexiest segments, if not the least sexiest, in the mobile industry. It focused on the suits of the world, and frankly since they no longer do martini lunches they lack personality. Steve told the audience in a moment of wisdom, “You can focus all you want on the business Pro, but unless you have a consumer play the numbers will never add up to greater market share”. Unfortunately the email I received was not about that. Apparently the troops were a little down trodden after his talk, so he apologized. Steve…why!?!?! For whatever reason Steve did not trust his instincts on this one. This set off another 5 years of sub par performance.
When the iPhone launched and Billg saw it he said, “We have set the bar too low..”. The iPhone really ripped the Microsoft Mobile team to the core and with the latest quarterly results from Apple it may be a juggernaut too great to catch, but to my old companies credit a technical challenge is something that will never be shunned. My old team had VP of Development Scott Guthrie present once. Scott said it was painful to get the Windows Mobile team to scrap the old code base, but it was realistically the only way that Microsoft was even going to have a remote chance of catching up with Apple. But it was interesting to hear how many opposed this idea.
Now that the phone is in the market (in Europe) a bigger challenge will be to get application developers to write cool apps for the phone. The goal was to have 10,000 applications at launch. To put this in perspective Android and the iPhone have over 100,000. When you are asking internal people at Microsoft to write apps so you can make your number a certain amount of sadness comes over me to hear that company needs to issue that directive. If you cannot excite the developer then it is time to pack up and go home.
At the end of the day the market will decide and it is already a pretty crowded field so what does Microsoft Mobile 7 offer that separates it from the rest of the mobile crowd? Having seen it and test driven a little, not a whole lot. Don’t get me wrong the touch screen UI is nice and responsive. But as far as I can tell there is no “wow” moment. Those type of moments are hard to come by. Even Android does not have a “wow” moment but it was out way earlier than Windows Mobile 7 was, so it had a head start. Plus i think the open source driven development model had a “sexy” appeal to developers. The interesting change in mobile is the need for application’s and both Google and Apple have high marks in getting developers to write these “cools” apps. Getting back to the Ray Ozzie final memo it demonstrates the idea of technology as part of an appliance. No longer is one chained to the desk, sitting and watching their waste line expand. In todays new world everything is mobile.
We have come along way in mobility and though Microsoft jumped on at the midway point it is just now starting to understand the battlefield. Is it too late? When you have $40 billion in the bank you have weapons that others don’t you have a chance. The reviews so far has been mixed and Microsoft has been working hard to get developers to write Windows Phone apps. The market was tough when Microsoft entered but now the landscape has completely changed. It is no longer RIM they are after, but Apple and Android. I will be honest I am really skeptical on this one, but maybe a catastrophic defeat is just what Microsoft needs, for a brighter future…maybe.
Good Night and Good Luck.
Hans Henrik Hoffmann Oct 27th, 2010