Microsoft Must Create a Windows Phone 7 User Community

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-12-29 Print this article Print

And I think this goes to the basics of why Windows Phone 7 is selling so poorly. There aren't more sales of WP7 because there haven't been many sales. This means that there aren't thousands of users out there showing their phones off to their friends and colleagues and telling them what a cool phone it is. Since people haven't been told that it's cool, they don't buy it. They don't even take the time to try the interface. They don't give it a chance.

This is different from the problem that the iPhone had because people expected the iPhone to be different. Apple had built a reputation for being different; people expected a difference and they were willing to accept the new interface because it was from Apple. Of course, it also had a ton of marketing money behind it, and that helped a lot.

When Android phones came along, the interface was basically the same as on the iPhone. Yes, of course there are important differences, but by then people had come to expect that grid of icons and that made acceptance easy. The fact that Google made Android cheap and accessible and also dumped a ton of marketing money on Android also helped.

But that doesn't mean that the screen model has to be that way. BlackBerry, for example, presents its icons as a ribbon across the bottom of the screen. It also gathers the most commonly used apps on one ribbon where they are easy to find. You don't need a grid of icons for most of what you do. Windows Phone 7 uses hubs instead of a grid to bring together similar apps and services in a common space. Yes, it's different from the iPhone and Android devices, but being different doesn't make it worse.

And this, I think, is where Microsoft ran into trouble. The WP7 phones are hard to find, they aren't particularly cheap and as a result a lot of people haven't bothered to look at them, never mind buy one. This means very few people, including the critics, have any idea how they actually work.

If Microsoft and its partners want to get some movement in the WP7 market, they need to get more phones into the hands of more people. It may be that really aggressive pricing is the answer. It may mean that more informative advertising is the answer. It may be a combination of things. But the bottom line is that people aren't buying the Windows Phone 7 because other people aren't buying it. It has nothing to do with the quality of the phone or the OS, but rather the lack of social acceptance. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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