Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Windows 7 Phone? Succeed or Fail?

The Windows 7 Phone is on it's way to the wild and it's raising a really interesting question - will Microsoft succeed or fail with it? There are two perspectives on it - one from the tech geek and one from the every day Joe Bloggs user.

Honestly I think that MS have gone down the correct path with this device. It has an extremely smooth and simplified UI. Now this doesn't seem like the ideal solution for us. We can't hack it, mod it, change it to be individual. But this was the beauty of the Apple OS. It was clean, basic and ultimately utilitarian. The every day user just wants their phone to work, no faffing, limited set up and instant gratification.

Microsoft have something of a 'Tech stigma' bought about by years of dealing with mediocre products and half assed approaches to support and updates. Even among the techy, MS have somewhat redeemed their image with Windows 7 - which I personally believe is the superior desktop OS out there - even more so (dare I say it) than OSX. MS have the advantage now of seeing who the market leaders are, what their devices are capable of and ultimately what the end user wants. Undeniably the iPhone has been the final word with smart phones in the past 3-4 years especially when it comes to UI and hardware design. It is stunningly simple and, up until the OS 4.0 roll out which broke anything below the 3Gs) slick as you like!

Android has been the result of a backlash against Apples aggressive and money-centric marketing strategy. 'Everyone wants Apple product so we'll screw them for every bit of cash we can and whilst we're at it we'll take the service providers as well'. Basically if you treat someone like crap for long enough then eventually they'll wake up to it and look somewhere else. Google with the Android OS has provided this outlet. Lets be honest about the Android operating system. It works, on the right hardware it's actually pretty slick. In it's basic form it's not terribly pretty and again, if we're being honest, this is where Google excels - they take and idea and get it out there as quickly as possible in a working and usable form. Design gurus they are not. It has been left with the likes of HTC to work on the GUI and make it attractive and far more functional. There have been other iterations out there not the least being Sony Ericssons X10 - but as we all well know the more these things are modified the slower they are to be updated.

So I believe that Microsoft could actually be onto something with the Windows 7 Phone. It is designed to appeal to the average joe user that 'just wants it to work'.

This brings me to where I think it could fail. Microsoft's strong points have never been making something funky or design-centric unless you take the XBOX into account (however I think that XBOX is a brand solely aimed at a youth market). For them it has always been the enterprise potential of their products and this is reflected in their earnings. The vast percentage of Microsofts profits come from it's desktop and server side operating systems and tools. Their one major entertainment success has been in XBOX and that largely has been down to having the right 3rd party developers on-board and some cunning price points on the console.

So clearly MS has the Enterprise side of things down pat, but every recent foray into the mobile entertainment market has been met with at best indifference and at worst scorn. Zune - failed, Windows Mobile (outside of enterprise) - failed with a current 5% market share, Kin smart phones - failed, tablet PCs - failed, Web-TV - failed, MSN Music - Failed. The problem with the majority of these things is that there was a better and more functional offering out there. Whether it was Tivo, iPod, iPhone and more recently the iPad, there has always been something more desirable and ultimately more functional for the every day user. Where this could fail is not in that it's a Microsoft product, not that the operating system is lacking, and not in the pricing but in it's desirability. When presented with a selection of phone and mobile operating systems, will the average joe go for a stock looking touch phone with a slightly flashy OS? That's the hard question with an even harder answer in my opinion. The possible saving grace? Android has proven that people are ready for something different and the risk to Android? Windows 7 Phone may just be that bit more polished, that little more pretty and have the right element of 'it just works'.

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