The crucial part of Microsoft’s new phone strategy is the quality control it imposes onto its hardware partners. Rather than code an operating system and allow manufacturers to do whatever they want with it — like Google is doing with Android — Microsoft is requiring hardware partners to meet a rigid criteria in order to run Windows Phone 7.Yep, I'm sure a more closed, rigid OS is exactly what's needed to gain more market share. Good grief.
Each device must feature three standard hardware buttons, for example, and before they can ship with Windows Phone 7, they have to pass a series of tests directed by Microsoft.
The effort to control quality and consistency may be just what Microsoft needs to regain some ground in the phone battle.
Microsoft may carve out a marginal slice of the smartphone market share. It's a rapidly expanding market with lots of room. But they are not going to pose a serious threat to Android's trajectory to become the dominant player in the market. The two main reasons are: apps and specs. Microsoft has actually done a pretty good job providing the necessary tools to devs to make cool apps for the platform. But there has to be some intrinsic appeal to cause devs to cross-port or migrate. With Android it was an obvious platform to lure devs away from iOS because it is a less restrictive development and publishing environment. The two things that are going to lure a dev to a new platform are either money or coolness. Android initially didn't have the first, but it had the second. What does WP7 have? If the app store ramps up and they get enough phones into people's hands this holiday season to make it seem like a viable decision to port apps over, then Microsoft might be able to muscle into a minority market share.
But the other big issue is the one highlighted in the article, which actually works against them: hardware.
As one commenter pointed out, when you put more restrictions on the hardware manufacturers, you get more consistency, but you limit the range of devices and the speed of adoption to new hardware. The new WP7 devices are shipping with chipsets that are already second-best in the market. That gap is only going to get worse as the development cycle for WP7 phones lags while Android devices flood the market at blinding speeds. This is the same reason Android will continue to chew away market share from the iPhone. The rate of innovation for Android, both in terms of the OS and hardware, will drastically outpace other restrictive platforms. Very soon we'll be seeing dual-core chipsets in devices running Android, with version 3.0 and a revamped market. Android will be on a broader spectrum of devices, meaning a wider demographic will be able to buy the phone for their budget, and the high-end devices will be clearly superior spec-wise than models with competing OSs.
And Microsoft's head-scratching marketing campain won't help either. Check this out:
The commercial is well done, if what you want to do is make people feel bad or guilty for using their smartphones. It would be a great public service announcement to spend more time and pay more attention to your loved ones. What they're sort of trying to say is that their phones are so efficient you won't want to use them. I think that's pretty counter to the motivations of most users and buyers, though. This is exactly the opposite of "There's an app for that", or the Droid's campaign of morphing you into a next-level cybernetic entity by augmenting you with their device. The WP7 campaign isn't saying you'll want to spend more time with your device because of all the cool stuff it can do, but that you'll want to do less with it. I understand the strategy, but it's a horrible one.
I'm always ready to eat some crow when it comes to prediction, but in this case I'll be very surprised if WP7 is able to carve out even 5% of the smartphone market.