Now that the Microsoft Kin smartphones have been discontinued after less than two months of availability, the company's mobile strategy is being called into question. From the beginning, most tech pundits could predict that the Kin devices didn't have what it would take to last in today's tech market. Not only did the phones focus on social networking-mistake No. 1-but they also delivered an experience that most consumers didn't understand. They were simply a mess from the beginning.
But the Kin smartphones are just one small piece of Microsoft's mobile strategy troubles. The company is undoubtedly a major player in the mobile market. But due to problems it has been experiencing with Windows Mobile, the delay of Windows Phone 7 and the fact that it has been totally incapable of stopping Apple, some might wonder exactly how Microsoft will turn things around in the increasingly hostile mobile market.
Microsoft has major issues to deal with right now, and until the company starts addressing them, its chances of competing effectively in the mobile market will be slim. Read on to find out why Microsoft's mobile strategy is such a mess.
1. Windows Mobile
Any discussion of Microsoft's mobile strategy must start with Windows Mobile. The software has been available for far too long. Even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that his company missed an opportunity by holding onto Windows Mobile and dragging its feet on the release of Windows Phone 7. Windows Mobile has been disastrous for Microsoft. The software is a hobbled alternative to the iPhone operating system, and isn't doing its part to attract vendors the way Google's Android OS has. Luckily, Windows Mobile will be replaced later in 2010 by Windows Phone 7, but until that happens, Microsoft's mobile market share will continue to decline. And it can do nothing to stop it.
2. Where are all the smartphones?
By definition, Windows Mobile devices are smartphones. They allow users to do more than just place calls and send text messages. But let's be honest. Just about every Windows Mobile 6.5 product on the market isn't a smartphone at all. These phones lack a viable App Store, don't deliver solid e-mail functions for most users, lack touch screens and are running outdated software. Today, the smartphone, thanks to Apple and Google, is a much different device than it was just a few years ago. In the average customer's mind, today's smartphones have elements that Windows Mobile devices just don't. And until Windows Phone 7 comes out, that difference will only hurt Microsoft.
3. Apps are a major issue
Mobile applications continue to be a major question mark for Microsoft. According to the company, its applications store will feature tens of thousands of apps when Windows Phone 7 launches. There is just one problem: Will developers have a real desire to build apps for the platform? And will the apps be good enough that those who decide to buy a Windows Phone 7 device will actually want to use them? Applications have become a key success factor in the mobile marketplace. So far, Microsoft has said little about how its store will compete with the Apple and Google stores. But the longer it takes for Microsoft's app store to match the competition's, the worse it will be for Microsoft.
4. The Kin? Really?
It's impossible not to bring up the death of the Kin One and Kin Two in a discussion about Microsoft's awful mobile strategy. The smartphones were marketed to people who wanted a device dedicated to social networking. But as Microsoft found out six weeks too late, consumers aren't looking for that. Several smartphones in the space feature third-party social networking applications that extend the functionality of devices that can do so much more than the Kin One and Kin Two. Why would users opt for Microsoft's smartphones? If nothing else, Microsoft's decision to even release the two Kin smartphones highlights how poor its mobile strategy really is.