Microsoft is backing up their desire for mobile relevance by pouring in $200 million for a new marketing campaign to boost the sales of Windows 7 phones. It’s a bold move and indicates that Microsoft is scrambling to catch up with mobile to the other tech giants (Apple, and Google). So where do Windows 7 Phones find its little bit of turf in the current and future mobile landscape?
Microsoft completely revamped the Windows Phone 7 OS. They stripped away a lot of unneeded excess and focused on simplification. The result is a user experience that is more beautiful and considered by some to be superior to Android (I concur, while not up to par with iOS, Windows does have better UX than Android). For example, Microsoft concentrated on integrating motion into the experience, so as you navigate from screen to screen, the transitions are similar to peeling away a band aide. Overall, it’s a major upgrade from previous versions of the OS. But will this translate into market success for Microsoft?
Achilles Heel: App Marketplace
The lack of apps is one of the biggest deficiencies of the Windows Phone 7. The Apple App Store has over half a million apps, Android has more than 400,000 app. Windows? Around 25,000. A stark contrast between the leading mobile platforms. Microsoft MUST develop their app marketplace for Windows Phone 7 to have a fighting chance. The value proposition for users to switch to a Windows phone is low. Compared to its old self, it’s amazing. Compared to the iPhone, Windows 7 is still the black sheep of the mobile family. And if your friends’ favorite apps are not available to you, why invest in this smartphone? Getting more brands and developers on board with Windows Phone 7 will be key to getting greater market adoption.
Developing on Windows Phone 7 OS
In order to really be competitive, Windows must improve their developer ecosystem dramatically. Microsoft knows this and has taken strides to remedy this (i.e. send free phones to developers). But a real opportunity could be Android’s weakness. Android hardware is so fragmented that it’s utterly frustrating to developers. Why do you think so many apps start out as iOS even though they’re losing market share? Simple, developers don’t have to design their initial app for dozens of handsets (HTML 5 will change this in the future). While Windows has multiple handsets, there are far less than Android. By being able to decrease production time of an app on Windows, along with their improved UX, could help Windows cut into the Android market share. They also need to cut the costs of app in their store, because right now, Windows apps are too expensive. It’s not going to be an overnight turnaround, but there is definitely opportunity for Windows 7 phones.
Windows is currently fighting for third place with RIM and Nokia in the mobile industry. They’re just too far behind iOS and Android to even think about cutting into their market share just yet. But they’re well positioned to solidify third and close the gap between top tier mobile operating systems. Because it appears that Microsoft is dead set on throwing as many dollars at Windows Phone 7 OS as needed to make it a viable option in the mobile ecosystem, Windows 7 Phone is not to be taken too lightly, they have a future in mobile.