Windows Phone 7 : Unstoppable Trainwreck Unfolding 4

Update 3: eWeek’s Don Reisinger dishes out some tough love
In a presentation on 10 smartphone and tablet flaws,  Microsoft and RIM bear the brunt of Don’s slings and arrows,  as he tells the vendors what are their “showstopper flaws”.

Update 2: More Windows Phone 7 Unfoldings from Dec 27. 2010
eWeek has a late December update on why, despite discounting, Windows Phone 7 sales have disappointed..The announcement of ‘sales at 1.5M’ was from Microsoft to its many retailers and distributors:

“Microsoft finally offered some hard sales numbers for Windows Phone 7 this week, suggesting that mobile operators and retailers had purchased some 1.5 million devices from manufacturers.”

This is a far cry from end user activations of Android phones at 2.1M per week.

Nontheless, the British blog, FoneHome, suggests that Windows Phone 7 may have its revenge with a tide of new catchup software features and gobs of great hardware goodies on tap for 1st half 2011. FoneHome says look at the Xbox 360 as an example of what Redmond can do in the ketchup game. But Google continues to push the Android OS feature set super agressively – here is what arrives at 2010, year end. And with Apple rumored to be releasing a Verizon 4G iPhone … the opposition to WP7 is not exactly standing still. 2011 is shaping up to be a decisive year in both the mobile phone and tablet spaces. Any miscues by Redmond and the wreck is complete. The one opportunity for Redmond – make development and developer bucks easier than Android [easy right now] and iPhone [very tough].

Update: Steady stream of news updates says The Windows Phone 7 Trainwreck is unfoldingNovember 11,2010 update

Infoworld Mobilize – Why I’m returning my Windows Phone 7 smartphone
PCWorld/Infoworld – Mobile Deathmatch: Windows Phone 7 vs. Apple iPhone 4
eWeek Mobility – Android to Leapfrog iPhone, Nokia, Windows Phone 7 with $50 Smartphones
Maximum PC – Windows Phone Sales Light on First Day

Today, Windows Phone 7 reaches the wilds of “available for sale in the intensely competitive smartphone market”. This is no small deal. This is Microsoft’s proverbial third or more kick at the smartphone cat. And Redmond is throwing money and manpower and marketing muscle in behalf of making Windows Phone 7 a big launch success. Three models are available in the US: a $199.9 HTC HD7 from T-Mobile with 2 year plan; a $199.99 HTC Surround from AT+T with 2 year plan and a $199.99 Samsung Focus also from AT+T with 2 year plan

Microsoft has at stake not only a position in the smartphone market but also two other huge marketplaces. First, Windows Phone 7 is a complete rewrite and replacement of Windows Mobile 6.x and predecessors which are on a downward spiral in smartphone market share. This is important because it means that the Windows Phone 7 is not compatible with the previous Windows Mobiles – nor does it fit closely into the Windows OS hierarchy. But Windows Phone 7 is vital to Redmond because smartphones lead by Apple’s iPhone and the many Androids plus tablets are gaining millions of users. This means a growing class of users will bypass PCs and go directly to smartphone and tablets for their computing experience. Microsoft cannot afford to be outside looking in on such a big new Computing market.

The second large risk for Microsoft’s is its client UI position. Microsoft’s dominant position on PCs means that all its UI software has had to do is track the Mac UI closely enough to retain its market lead. Curiously, Redmond has been aided and abated mightily by Apple over the last few years. But no longer can Microsoft afford to be modestly interoperable at best. The new client UI realities are so stark that software developers are rejecting proprietary software development tools like Microsoft .NET and instead, by sheer necessity, embracing cross platform and interoperable tools like Appcelerator, Adobe Flash+AIR, AJAX+HTML5. Even Java/JavaFx has been revitalized because it offers developers cross UI platform and some of the fastest code available for mobile apps. In sum , Windows Phone 7 succeeding is vital to Microsoft.

Phone 7 Chances

Given the importance of Windows Phone 7 to Microsoft what are its chances? I like two reviews… the one at Tech Radar which clearly delineates these 3 things:
1)this is not just a copy of the iPhone interface but rather is a unique and compelling design;
2)the responsiveness of Phone 7 on its various hardware versions appears to be uniformly fast; and
3)the integration with Microsoft software such as Exchange, Outlook, Calendar, Xbox, Office 2010, and so forth appears to be well started but not perfect as IE9, Project, Silverlight, SQL Server and other Microsoft software are not yet included. But missing from the TechRadar review is what David Pogue at the NYTimes provides in detail – a list of what is missing versus Phone 7’s major competition:

So while Windows Phone 7 shows some real genius, it is missing an embarrassingly long list of features that are standard on iPhone and Android. Ready?There’s no copy and paste. No folders for organizing your apps. No way to add new ringtones. No way to send videos to other phones as MMS messages. No video chat. No front-facing cameras. And there’s no multitasking. You can play your own songs while working in other programs, but you can’t listen to, say, Pandora Internet radio.

Sound familiar? These are precisely the features that were missing from iPhone 1.0, too. Furthermore, there’s a search button, but it can’t search your whole phone at once (for apps, contacts and e-mail simultaneously, for example). There’s no visual voice mail. And there’s no tethering option (where you pay an extra $20 a month to use the phone as a glorified Internet antenna for your laptop).

Like the iPhone, the Web browser doesn’t play Flash videos on the Web — but it also won’t play the HTML5 videos that the iPhone plays, or even videos in Microsoft’s own Silverlight format. So, no YouTube, no Hulu, no online news videos.

The e-mail program can’t unify your e-mail accounts into a single in-box. In fact, each e-mail account winds up as a separate icon on your home screen. There’s no message threading. The calendar can sync with online calendars like Yahoo’s or Google’s. But, incredibly, it can show only one category at a time, like home or work. If you’ve color-coded your life’s appointments, then this feature is all but useless.

The address book has the opposite problem: it displays everyone from all of your accounts, including Facebook, in one long list. If you have hundreds of Facebook friends, they clutter up the list of people you call often. (There’s no Twitter integration at all, only a separate app.) That sounds like quite a lengthy to-do list for Microsoft, and it is. But heaven knows, if any company is famous for its slow, dogged, multiyear, multimillion-dollar approach to software improvement, it’s Microsoft. The company swears that it’s going to make Windows Phone 7 a contender. At the least, it’s safe to assume that it won’t kill the project completely after only two months, as it did with its Microsoft Kin cellphones this summer.

Based on David’s review and CNET’s Bonny Cha’s 5 key complaints , Phone 7 the first edition may die the death of hundreds of wounds small and large. The reviewing pundits have collectively sighed with relief that Windows Phone 7 is not a Windows Mobile 6.5. There is at least a few things in Phone 7 to praise highly. But what most reviewers  missed or overlooked is how far behind Windows Phone 7 is from the other smartphones and tablets. Not just the number, range and quality of apps [which Microsoft is mocking in its most puckish ads] – but in baseline phone features. This gap is made even more telling as Google releases Android 2.3 and then 3.0 in the next 6 weeks packed with features. Likewise Apple iOS 4.2 with a similar bundle of fixes and features is due in the next few weeks. So Windows Phone 7 will have a serious uphill climb. It is worthwhile comparing what Windows Phone 7 is doing versus ye Keep an Open Eye editor’s recommendations.

1)Much moolah will allow Microsoft to offer its phones at a 40%-off reduced price – until the first update to Windows Phone 7 users will be able to buy at a 30-50% discount. Microsoft already prices all its desktops and laptops at half or better than the correspondingly equipped Mac Books -so just repeat the ploy for Windows Phone 7 but with a “retire date” for the discount. Amazon is offering $99 versions of all 3 new Windows Phone 7 for the same 2year plan; how long this offer stays in effect is anyone’s guess.
2)Windows Phone 7 will be behind Android, iPhone, and RIM in a number of missing features that Redmond says it will have available in the next quarter or two. So keep the purchase price down until then plus offer that first few software updates to Windows Phone 7 as free including any associated hardware upgrades. Guaranteed future-proofing for a  year or more. Nothing declared by Microsoft and given the deficits vis a vis iPhone and Androids this is not smart pricing/marketing by Redmond.
3)Microsoft will be behind all the major vendors in the number of apps available. So give away for the next half year, the users choice of 3-5 free apps. This will help launch the sales of phone units, will attract developers whose downloaded apps will be paid for by Redmond, and will get the gadget community all excited about ranking the 5 Best Apps for Windows Phone 7 buyers. Its free marketing excitement. Behind the scene pay the top 3 apps a bonus. Again nothing here – rather Microsoft is saying in its ads apps are overrated.
4)Relax the Microsoft Marketplace exclusive selling place – allow other selected retailers to get into the Windows Phone 7 retail space and help drum up business. Nada
5)Make sure that Windows Phone 7 has direct connect capabilities with Zune, Xbox and Kinect
– be these Wifi, apps, or some other combo; allow users to interact and move among the Microsoft consumer stable as easily as possible. Play down the lack of true multi-tasking with these interconnects. Done.
6)Get Adobe Flash running on Windows Phone 7 ASAP – Flash has 3 big benefits. Hundreds of thousands of games and apps become nearly instantly available; filling in the big app void with Apple. It also has the possibility of discrediting Apple and Android if Windows Phone 7 runs Flash faster than Android and much better than “Mr. Innovations” Steve Jobs ever gave credit for. Finally, it shores up the IE7 based browser on Windows Phone 7 which will be the worst of the mobile browsers. Done but no date for intro of Flash on Phone 7.
7)Up the on-board CPU and memory – Microsoft is famous for winning by using the next-gen hardware upgrades. Follow the old playbook; speaking of which RIM is doing that to iPad and Android tablets with its RIM Playbook using dual core chips. Do the same. Sorry, no cigar yet.
8)Tethering and Syncing are the near-futures in Mobile – be there with some of that capability from Ford Sync or Microsoft Research and match/beat Android/Apple feature sets. Not close as Phone 7 goes to market without tethering ; but some sync capabilities but only to Microsoft software plus Facebook, Flickr.
9)Offer a good deal with broadband providers – again, do this on a short term, get acquainted basis of a half year or so. Just make sure that the sales numbers for 4Q2010 are very competitive. No and so does not look likely.
10)Integrate, integrate, integrate – make the Windows Phone 7 devices the remote or portal to the Cloud, Exchange, Office, Zune, Xbox, Sharepoint, SQLServer etc. And surprise people with connections to 3rd party services like Amazon EC2, Lotus Notes, and others. Become the point of integration for Web, Cloud, personal computing.
As you can see from our color-coded notes, Microsoft appears to have not come close to pulling out all the stops in preventing what now appears to be The Unstoppable Phone 7 Trainwreck. The only question now , if ye Keep an Open Editor is right, who will get to clean up the wreckage?

2 thoughts on “Windows Phone 7 : Unstoppable Trainwreck Unfolding 4”

  1. Too much criticism for a entirely new system that is only two months old, have sold 1.5 million units and have 5000 apps in its marketplace. ‘Fanboyism’ apart, please compare the situation of the first two monthes of WP7, iPhone and Android. I can see clearly that WP7 have real good chances in regaining the marketshare that Microsoft had thrown away with its aging Windows Mobile.

    1. Slight problem here on the sales figures – that is Redmond’s wishful thinking and “lets dupe the masses” speak. There has been 1.5million sales from vendors to distributors and retialers. How many final sales less returns is still a closely guarded secret.

      And as for being two months old … it is really 22 months late.

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