In my almost two years here, we have seen a lot of really cool things happen. We’ve seen fingerprint scanners and 41 megapixel cameras and always-listening voice activation, phones charging other phones, and all manner of really cool advancements. But one thing has remained consistent throughout – Windows Phone’s dismal market share. Despite everything, it still takes a really generous soul to give it anything more than a 6% market share by any measurable standard.
It’s not like Microsoft/Nokia aren’t trying. They have released a $50 smart phone for Pete’s sake. Microsoft has gone after Google (seriously, I can’t even believe that stupid site is still up) and Apple, done a lot of product placement, and has even done some clever marketing, but still it can’t seem to crack that 10% barrier that I wrote about as myfirst piece here on Pocketnow. What gives?
Well, the Internet isn’t much help. Seems there aren’t a lot of surveys out there cataloging the reasons why people choose what they choose – just that they chose it. They’re NOT choosing Windows Phone, so we’re left to our own speculation and experience to try and fill in the blanks.
Microsoft didn’t start out very well in the app department. Since its inception, Microsoft has improved its app situation by an enormous measure. There is scarcely an app nor app category (not made by Google that is) that doesn’t have a place in the Microsoft ecosystem. It’s true, not all of these are first party apps, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some third party apps are arguably better than the original apps themselves.
But shaking the app gap reputation is not an easy thing to do. Getting people to dive in headfirst and try it out is incredibly hard, especially when you consider the prices of phones today. Plus, it needs to be said, there are some apps there are simply still not there? Want an example?
Cartwheel is an app released by Target stores. Cartwheel is a collection of products that Target sells – usually its generic brand – that are offered by the Cartwheel app and nowhere else. When my wife is going shopping, she needs to use my Nexus 7 to check out those deals, pre load them, and take the tablet with her to shop. That is slightly annoying. “But who gives a rat’s patootie about Target?” you might be asking. Housewives and househusbands, that’s who. There’s a few dozen million of them in the US alone and a lot of them shop at Target. They want phones that will allow them to shop at Target. It’s a stupid app, and the very fact that I had to explain what it is probably says something. But it’s shutting out millions and millions of potential customers.
In addition to a bad app reputation (that is not without its merits), Microsoft itself isn’t exactly smelling like roses lately either. Windows 8 was – now remember, this is an opinion piece – a disaster in just about every way it could have been. I personally like the OS. It’s not the most intuitive, but it does some things really, really well. But in the court of public opinion, it was a mistake. Maybe not as big a mistake as switching from U-verse to Wide Open West Internet, but it was quite the pooch screw by all measureable standards. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s phone operating system carried the name “Windows” and all that baggage along with it.
Again, I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about public opinion here.
Up until recently, Nokia was the only player in town when it came to Windows Phone phones that consumers knew about. Then Microsoft bought Nokia. Then came to left over stuff in the pipeline that Nokia was close to finishing – the Lumia 1520, the Lumia 2520, etc. But since then, there are been really no flagships following up that are worth getting excited about. This is going to change, and it will probably change very soon, because now that the deal is final and the cutbacks are done, Microsoft can really start making some high-end phones to support its platform.
But in the meantime, only the HTC One M8 for Windows has been worth talking about in the Windows Phone landscape. Heck, Adam Lein justbought a year old phone, which is arguably still a good purchase, but who is going to do that with iPhone 6’s and GS 5’s out there waiting to be toted?
Turning it around
So all that being said, what needs to be done? First of all, the app gap needs to be closed – decisively. Microsoft needs to look at the top 100 apps from Android and Windows Phone in every category and approach each and every one of them and get them to release on Windows Phone. Easier said than done? Sure, but so is supporting a mobile ecosystem.
Get a smartwatch. Get Pebble on board. Pay them to make an app, whatever it takes. Apple and Android will both have smartwatches by Valentine’s Day, you should have one no later than Arbor Day. Put down this article and start on it now. Seriously.
Finally, deliver on your promise of one true ecosystem across all devices. It’s not enough for all of them to look the same. They need to act the same on every screen a customer cares to look at it on. They need to have apps that seamlessly transition from one to the other and transfer documents and game states as well. Seamless and easy.
More ads, but the right ads
But smartwatches and apps alone will not put butts in the seats. That’s when you need to start running commercials where you randomly approach strangers on the street and ask them what apps they use. Then show them the same app on Windows Phone – Every Single One. Then show them the 41 megapixel camera and wireless charging. Do it all in 30 seconds. Ya know…no pressure.
None of this is easy. No one is saying otherwise. But “easy” went out the door in 2009ish. It’s going to take an insane amount of effort – and money – to break in and really be a solid contender. It will be hard and expensive. “Easy” and “cheap” is what you get at Target, but not if you carry Windows Phone. At least, not yet.