DEBATE: Why Windows Phone Did Not Take Off As Much As Android

Posted Dec 27, 2011

Former Windows Phone general manager Charlie Kindel started a debate in the blogosphere today about why Windows has not grown as fast as Google Android. The primary argument that Kindel makes is that Google makes too many concessions with carriers and device manufacturers at the expense of end-users while Microsoft has a draconian approach with their hardware partners. Since the device manufacturers control the cost and strategy of marketing the devices, they have more of an incentive to promote Android phones. In my opinion, Kindel is right in some ways and wrong in some ways. Below is what Kindel wrote on his blog and I wrote my opinion about it below that:

Google has been wildly successful with Android (at least in terms of units) because Android was built to reduce friction between all sides of the market. It ?bows down? to the device manufactures AND the carriers. It enabled device manufactures to do what they do best (build lots of devices). It enabled carriers to do what they do best (market lots of devices). It enabled users tons of choice. My hypothesis is that it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts.

With Windows Phone Microsoft has taken a different approach. WP raises it?s middle finger at both the device manufacturers and mobile carriers. WP says ?here?s the hardware spec you shalt use? (to the device manufacturers). And it says ?Here?s how it will be updated? (to the carriers).

Thus both of those sides of the market are reluctant. Especially the carriers, but also the device manufacturers. Remember that end users just do what they are told (by advertising and RSPs). Carriers own the marketing money and spend billions a year. The money is provided by the other sides of the market: OS providers & device manufactures, but the carriers get to spend it; they are the aggregation point where the money actually gets spent. 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.

Spending marketing dollars advertising WP7 requires Microsoft to push hard on the carriers. Getting RSPs to push WP7 requires Microsoft to push hard on the carriers to incent their RSPs correctly.

I would like to believe that at the end of the day the superior end to end experience for the end user matters more than anything.

The question in my mind is whether Microsoft?s continued investment in WP and close partnership with device manufactures such as Nokia will eventually enable a breakthrough here. I know that MS can be very persistent & patient; it?s been so in the past. We will see.

Kindel is absolutely correct by saying that Windows Phone is not marketed very well. Every year when I drive from Michigan to Chicago, I always see this massive Droid billboard on I-94 when entering downtown of the windy city. Hundreds of thousands of people see that billboard every single day. I have never seen a Windows Phone billboard and I haven’t seen a Windows Phone TV commercial in months.

Why companies like Samsung and HTC would want to focus on marketing Android phones more than Windows Phone makes sense. They enjoy having more power of their operating system software and given that Android is an open-source, they maintain that power by making sure those devices are sold. The more Windows Phone sells, the more Microsoft will increase demands of these telecommunication and hardware companies.

Here is where Kindel is wrong: Microsoft is losing brand loyalty when it comes to software and hardware. The growth of Apple shows that Windows market share is being chipped away. The Zune was a flop and so was Windows Phone. People buy Android phones with the expectation that they will have a seamless experience with their registered Google accounts. I use Google Search, Google Reader, Google News, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Finance, and Google Docs on a daily basis. Millions of other people are just like me in terms of how often they use these Google services. It only makes sense for consumers to buy a phone from the company that could create the most seamless experience with all of the aforementioned services best.

Google also did an amazing job setting up an ecosystem within the iPhone too. The iPhone comes pre-loaded with Google Search as the default, a Google Maps app, and a YouTube app. The only time I use Microsoft software is when I want to crunch some numbers in Excel. If I was obsessed with Excel, then I would probably buy a Windows Phone.

The reason why I think that the apps are a moot point is because Windows Phone has a lot of the best apps that are also available on the Apple App Store and Google Android, but that is not doing much for them right now. Even if you stick Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Field Runners, Flight Control, and Grand Theft Auto on Windows Phone, nobody will buy it because of lack of marketing and brand loyalty.