And now, for a bit of comic relief, let us examine the state of Windows Phone 7. It launched just over three months ago in a cloud of hubris – Microsoft’s first-ship party featured pallbearers lugging a huge mockup of an iPhone (and the rest of what you need to know about that moment was that the video was caught by an Android phone). Just how is Redmond’s bid to escape irrelevance doing?
Not well enough for Microsoft to want to disclose sales figures, apparently. While Google reports 200K Android phones a day are shipping, Microsoft is reduced to gamely insisting that it is confident Windows 7 will eventually succeed. At least one of its channel partners is, shall we say, less sanguine.
James Choi, a strategist at handset maker LG, says “From an industry perspective we had a high expectation, but from a consumer point of view the visibility is less than we expected”. Choi holds out some hope that WP7 will make better sales as it is ported to less expensive handsets, but that hope itself suggests the software is hobbled by bloat and poor performance.
Developers aren’t showing up in droves either. Microsoft claims 6K apps in its store, a poor showing when Android and Apple are both well above 100K.
In truth, WP7’s prospects were never very good. It has neither Apple’s reputation for UI and polish to build on nor Android’s low-cost and open-source appeal to hardware partners, and was launched years after both competitors were well established. The disastrous failure of the Kin phones gave Microsoft a black eye in the youth market, and Blackberry had already captured high-end corporate customers with deluxe Microsoft Outlook support before Microsoft itself got there to contest the territory. There was early speculation that Nokia (now helmed by a Microsoft alumnus) might jump to WP7 rather than Android or its faltering MeeGo project, but that prospect has faded in the face of continuing silence from both companies.
Microsoft claims 93% of its customers are satisfied with WP7, but one can’t help asking asking “93% of how many?” This is a product still looking for a market, motivated by Microsoft’s belief that it needs a play in the smartphone space rather than either customer pull or any kind of innovative value-add.
I predicted that WP7 would be a bust, swamped by Android and iOS. This was not a projection that required a lot of nerve even before launch; today, three months in and with nothing in the way of visible market penetration to show for all of Microsoft’s hype, it’s a complete no-brainer. No rabbit got pulled out of any hat, and network effects are pushing against WP7 rather than for it.
It would take an event at least as dramatic as Nokia betting the company on WP7 to revive this product. But I think nothing like that will happen, and that WP7’s affect on the smartphone market will amount to nothing more than statistical noise.