Windows Phone 7 is in a state of crisis. At last tally, the operating system owned just 1.5 percent of the market, and its chief competitor, Android, had over half the worldwide market in its pocket. Meanwhile, handset vendors have been showing off Windows Phone 7-based products that have failed to match Apple’s iPhone. Through it all, Microsoft has waited patiently in the hopes that something would change.
But nothing has changed. And the situation won’t change unless the software giant starts making drastic moves to improve its position in the mobile space.
However, improving its position in the mobile market might not be so easy. Windows Phone 7 is largely viewed as a joke by consumers, and even enterprise users have been loath to adopt the platform. It’s as if Microsoft has put its operating system into a corner, and it has done nothing to get it out.
Luckily for Microsoft, however, 2012 presents a fresh start for the company to try something new and put its platform into a better position to be successful. Read on to find out what Microsoft should do to address its Windows Phone 7 crisis.
1. Create a Nexus-like strategy
Google made the intelligent move to brand high-quality Android-based smartphones “Nexus.” Although the company isn’t developing its own smartphones, Google is playing a role in the Nexus product development. That’s important. The Google brand is a big name, and it carries with it respect from consumers and enterprise users. Maybe Microsoft should develop its own “Nexus” alternative with hardware vendors.
2. Start playing nice with carriers
Microsoft hasn’t been so nice to carriers over the last year. The company has pushed its software on device makers, told them how the hardware should operate and left carriers with all the risk of marketing those products. At what point will Microsoft realize that the sooner it starts to seriously help carriers the sooner it will see sales rise?
3. Give developers what they want
Developers are an integral piece of the puzzle for Windows Phone 7. If Microsoft can find a way to attract developers from Android to Windows Phone 7, the company can go a long way in improving the platform’s chances of success. Coaxing developers will mean offering better profit-sharing plans. Improving the Windows Phone 7 app ecosystem might even require Microsoft to acquire some developers. Microsoft has a huge amount of cash on hand. It’s about time it starts using it to improve its position in apps.
4. Buy a handset maker
Aside from apps,Microsoft should also use its cash to start the process of acquiring a handset maker. Whether it’s RIM, Nokia or some other company, Microsoft must drop a few billion dollars to buy a big-name handset maker. It might ostracize other vendors, but if Google can do it with Motorola Mobility, why can’t Microsoft follow suit?
Bring On More Updates in 2012
5. Be patient
A former Microsoft executive, Charlie Kindel, wrote on Dec. 26 thatAndroid fragmentation will only get worse in the coming years. If that’s the case, it’s important for Microsoft to be patient. Eventually, fragmentation will start to annoy customers, and they’ll be looking elsewhere to spend their mobile cash. Add that factor to Android’s security woes, and letting Android implode might be a solid strategy.
6. Keep it closed
It’s also important that Microsoft doesn’t panic. The last thing Microsoft should do is go open source or try something drastic with its operating system. Part of the appeal of Windows Phone 7 is that it’s closed, which enables Microsoft to control the platform as it sees fit in the same way that Apple controls the iOS platform. Keep Windows Phone 7 closed, Microsoft. It’s the smart play.
7. Bring on the updates
Google has done a good job of delivering multiple Android updates each year. However, the company hasn’t done such a good job of getting those updates to handsets. After a few initial missteps with Mango, Microsoft has been able to deliver timely and readily available updates. In 2012, the company should bring on several updates to show how easy it is to keep the software up-to-date with new features.
8. Leverage the Windows brand
Microsoft’s decision to change Windows Mobile’s name to Windows Phone 7 was an odd decision. “Windows” is the brand that people know and respect. It would be a mistake not to leverage that brand identity. In 2012, Microsoft should focus more on the “Windows” half of its mobile operating system’s brand name by demonstrating a real and valuable link between that platform and Windows 8. If it can do so, it might help generate more mobile sales.
9. Consider tablets
Yes, Microsoft has said that Windows 8 will be its tablet operating system, but what’s wrong with also offering Windows Phone 7 on smaller slates? The operating system seems ideally designed for a 5- or 7-inch form factor. With a few improvements here and there, it might be a worthwhile option for enterprise customers. Tablets are the next big frontier for mobile OS makers. To bypass the tablet market would be a mistake on Microsoft’s part.
10. Forget about Apple
Microsoft should totally ignore Apple. The iPhone maker might be selling boatloads of smartphones, but its overall OS market share is on the decline. Plus, it controls both software and hardware. Google is the company Microsoft must worry about. Android has the same basic business plan as Windows Phone 7, and it’s targeting the same vendors. Forget about Apple, Microsoft. It’s just distracting you from the real threat.