Former Microsoft VP: Windows Phone Not Attractive for Carriers and Hardware Makers

Ex-Microsoft Exec Explains Windows Phone 7 Failures

by Anton Shilov
12/26/2011 | 11:02 PM

A former general manager of Windows Phone developer experience at Microsoft explained why Windows Phone 7 platform still has not managed to gain traction on the market despite of clear advantages over Apple iOS and Google Android operating system. The platform is just too unattractive for both carriers and hardware makers


Although Windows Phone OS provides consistent end-user experience across a range of devices, the platform has very strict hardware requirements which reduces their abilities to compete between each other. Carriers hardly like to keep the stock of similar phones in various boxes without any clue of which of them will actually be sold. By contrast, since there is cut-throat competition between makers of Android-based phones, from time to time companies like Samsung Electronics may launch ultra-popular models like Galaxy S II.

"The fact that Windows Phone has, thus far, avoided fragmentation actually points to one of the core reasons [of WP7 failure]: the device manufacturers, mobile operators, OS providers, and end users operate in an overly complex virtuous cycle, where each side of the market both gives and receives positive value from the other sides. So much positive value is exchanged, with low friction, that the cycle grows and grows, like a snowball rolling down hill. The more sides to the market that exist, the more complex the system and the harder it is for the cycle to happen,"
 explained Charlie Kindel, an angel investor and founder of startups.

The current structure of the mobile market involves carriers, device manufacturers, OS providers and end-users. All of those parties need each other, even though all want to have a part of each other.

"Apple has been successful in this space by cutting the device manufacturer out. They have then used that fact to force the carriers into being even more of a fat dumb pipe. [...] My belief is over time this strategy will start to deteriorate for Apple. [...] Google has been wildly successful with Android (at least in terms of units) because Android was built to reduce friction between all sides of the market. It ‘bows down’ to the device manufactures and the carriers. It enabled device manufactures to do what they do best (build lots of devices). It enabled carriers to do what they do best (market lots of devices). It enabled users tons of choice. My hypothesis is that it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts," explained Mr. Kindel.

The clear problem for Windows Phone 7 is that it forces manufacturers to build devices according to specs provided by Microsoft and carriers to sell tens of similar devices, lock customers' choice and obey to Microsoft update requirements. As a result, carriers do not spend money on promotion of Windows Phone 7 devices or selling them to the end-user. For Microsoft, it means that the operating system which provides, according to the software giant, superior user experience, owns just 1.5% of the smartphone market.