Windows Phone 7 is having an exceptionally hard time catching on in the marketplace. Not only is its market share far behind that of Android and iOS, but Microsoft has yet to prove that it can rebuild its ailing mobile division, which continues to appear slow to adapt to the changing demands of today’s consumers and enterprise customers.
At this point, there’s no telling what the future holds for Windows Phone 7. Research firms such as Gartner believe the operating system will be fine after a few years as Nokia smartphones start running Windows Phone 7. But other research firms, including ABI Research, say that former Nokia customers will opt for Android or the iPhone rather than stick with Microsoft. Simply put, there is substantial uncertainty with Windows Phone 7 right now.
Microsoft needs to act quickly to ensure its mobile operating system doesn’t fall victim to its entrenched competitors. The company must engage in several key activities as soon as possible to gain a solid footing in the mobile marketplace. If it does the right things quickly, Microsoft will see its platform grow over the long term.
Here’s what Microsoft must do now to save Windows Phone 7:
1. More apps
If Apple has proved anything, it’s that mobile applications are integral to the success of an operating system. The company’s App Store, which currently has over 350,000 available applications, has been a significant contributor to the iPhone’s success. Microsoft has an applications marketplace of its own, but as users know all too well, its library is not nearly as deep as Apple’s. If Microsoft wants to save Windows Phone 7, it will need to do a much better job of wooing developers and bringing more apps to its Marketplace.
2. Improve the user experience
Windows Phone 7 launched with a rather interesting user interface that eschewed the traditional gridlike design of iOS and Android for a more fluid layout. However, that design choice turned out to be a bit of an issue for users ,who found that moving between applications was much harder than it should be. Moreover, performing other basic tasks on the device, such as flipping through different screens, takes a bit more effort than it does on competing platforms. It would be nice to see Microsoft fix those quirks and deliver a more appealing user experience.
3. Lean on vendors
Microsoft has partnered with several hardware vendors to bring its software to the market, including Samsung, HTC and others. However, those devices are not as well-designed as the iPhone or even some Android-based smartphones. For the most part, they are run-of-the-mill smartphones running Windows Phone 7-nothing more, nothing less. Microsoft must start to lean on vendors to get them to push the envelope more with their smartphones. The flashier the device, the more likely it will succeed.
4. Adapt it for tablets
So far, Microsoft has said that it plans to offer Windows Phone 7 on smartphones and Windows 7 on tablets. But that’s a mistake. As Apple and Google have shown, adapting smartphone-focused operating systems for tablets is actually a much better idea. Plus, with the growth of tablets in today’s marketplace, bringing Windows Phone 7 to slates might help improve the appeal of Microsoft’s operating system. The time has come for Microsoft to think seriously about bringing Windows Phone 7 to tablets.
Microsoft Must Reinvent the Message, Look to the Enterprise
5. Reinvent the message
If one were to poll the average consumer about the message Microsoft is conveying about its mobile platform, they likely won’t know. That’s a problem for Microsoft. The company’s marketing efforts have been subpar so far. Even worse, when consumers pick up the platform, they don’t necessarily know the benefits of choosing a Windows Phone 7 smartphone over an iPhone or, say, a Motorola Droid X. Microsoft needs to rev up its marketing engine and explain to the world why its platform is a must-have.
6. Get working with Nokia as soon as possible
When Microsoft announced earlier this year that it was partnering with Nokia to bring its operating system to the hardware company’s smartphones, speculation started to crop up over when Nokia would finally sell its first Windows Phone 7-based device. Now that Windows Phone 7 is finding it harder and harder to compete in the mobile market, the software giant should go back to Nokia and get a device running its operating system as quickly as possible. The longer Microsoft waits, the harder it will be to steal back market share.
7. Fix the update process
Microsoft’s update process has been abysmal. The company offered up software updates earlier this year to some consumers, only to find that the issue bricked devices. After trying again, more trouble arose. That is unacceptable. In a market where Microsoft is facing off with Apple, whose update processes go off without a hitch, Microsoft needs to find a better way to get new software to customers-and fast.
8. Offer a Microsoft-branded smartphone
When Google first announced the Nexus One smartphone, some wondered what its impact would be. After seeing sales of the device dwindle over time, it was clear that the Google-branded option, built by HTC, wasn’t a winner in the smartphone space. But it wasn’t meant to be. The Nexus One was designed first and foremost to build up interest and hype for Android-based devices. It’s clear from Android handset sales following that launch that it worked. Microsoft should think seriously about delivering a smartphone of its own to follow Google’s strategy.
9. Capitalize on the enterprise opportunity
Microsoft will continue to have an exceptionally difficult time securing market share in the consumer market because of the success of Google’s Android platform and iOS. But the company should remember that for the most part, Android vendors and Apple are leaving the enterprise open to RIM. If Microsoft can deliver more enterprise-friendly features in Windows Phone 7 in the coming months, it might just be able to turn its attention to RIM and secure a foothold in the corporate world. Once complete, it can then focus on consumers and taking on Apple and Google.
10. Work with Motorola
Motorola is arguably the best provider of Android-based handsets. The company’s Droid X and Droid Pro are outstanding. The Droid X2 looks to be all the more impressive. However, Motorola has not launched a Windows Phone 7-based device. Microsoft needs to address that problem as soon as possible. If it can get Motorola on its side, it might finally get the vendor support it needs to gain a foothold in the mobile market.