Where Are the Vendors?

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Where Are the Vendors?

Looking around the Android ecosystem, it's hard to find many companies that aren't making devices with the operating system. When it comes to Windows Phone 7, however, the number of vendors using the operating system can be counted on a single hand. That's not a good thing.

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Its Becoming a Nokia-Only Game

Even worse, the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem is quickly becoming a Nokia-only landscape. Nokia currently owns 33 percent of the Windows Phone 7 market, and most believe that figure will only grow in the coming years. What will be left for all the other vendors?

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Consumer Knowledge Isnt There

Microsoft simply hasn't done a good enough job educating consumers about the benefits of using a Windows Phone 7-based device. Today's consumers know all about iPhones and Android, but Windows Phone 7 is still a mystery. If Microsoft does not address that now, it could scuttle its chances of ever seeing things turn around in the mobile market.

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Carriers Arent Playing Nice

Unfortunately for Microsoft, some of the troubles its operating system is having can be directly attributed to carriers. Whereas Verizon Wireless and AT&T, among others, are more than willing to promote the iPhone and Android devices, you'll be hard-pressed to find them showing off their Windows Phone 7-based handsets. Until carriers start helping out, there's no chance Microsoft's operating system will gain significant ground on its competitors.

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Android Licensing Is an Issue

Microsoft has decided that Android violates patents it holds. Rather than take companies to court over those alleged offenses, the software giant has instead employed its licensing team to strike deals. For licensing revenue, that's great. But for forming strong, friendly relationships with vendors, it's a big mistake. Microsoft needs to start playing nice with Android vendors-not force them into paying it a fee for using Google's operating system.

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Marketing Is Important

If Apple's iPhone ads have taught us anything, it's that strong marketing that shows off a product's value is extremely important. Microsoft, however, hasn't done enough to market Windows Phone 7 or the products it's running on. When will the software giant finally wake up and realize how important marketing is?

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Whats the Target Market?

It's not immediately clear if Microsoft wants to target consumers or enterprise users with its mobile operating system. If one were to ask Microsoft, it would say both markets. But as RIM, Apple and Android have shown, catering to both groups at the onset is not a good idea. Microsoft needs to choose one market-consumers or enterprise users-and target it. To do more would be a mistake.

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Building the Link to Windows 8

One of Microsoft's key opportunities to improve Windows Phone 7 adoption resides with Windows 8. The desktop operating system, which is scheduled to launch later this year, comes with Live Tiles, the same feature found in Windows Phone 7. The smart move would be for Microsoft to point that out, leverage Windows 8 and link that product with Windows Phone 7.

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Theres No Way to Know Whats Best

When Google announced its Nexus line, some criticized the company, saying that it was showing preferential treatment to one vendor. However, the move turned out to be a good one. By giving a device the "Nexus" name, Google was telling customers which device was at or among the top Android smartphones on the market. Microsoft so far has not applied that strategy. It should.

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Whats the Vision for the Future?

When it's all said and done, companies that are providing mobile operating systems need to have a real vision for the future. What will they do with the operating system when it hits a certain point? What sort of features must be brought to the operating system to make it a winner? Microsoft doesn't appear to have that roadmap in place. And it could cost the company boatloads of cash (and serious market share) over the long term.

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