Windows Phone promised several things to its loyal fanbase for the year 2011. The largest promises were copy and paste (NoDo), faster experience (Mango), and stronger international support (Mango). Amazingly, Windows also tossed a huge curveball through its acquisition of Nokia mobility leading to the Nokia Lumia line of Windows Phones. For any platform to make the amount of changes to its OS has been nothing short of remarkable. And yet, on the heels of 2011, a sense of disappointment lingers as a supporter of Windows Phone. Yes, Microsoft fulfilled many promises, and made the platform unique and different, but that didn’t move into increased sales. Windows Phone market share is dwindling, and has been for a few months at a steady rate. It’s nothing as terrifying as RIM or (the now defunct) WebOS, but it begs for some considerations. If developer support is relatively positive and objective user experience is relatively high (according to the February 2011 data), why isn’t Windows Phones being adopted? Charlie Kindel gave us a unique analysis and pointed to carrier and OEM perspectives of Windows Phone 7. But it only tells one half of the story, albeit an important part of the story. There are still several things that Windows Phone needs to change in order to improve market share for the year 2012.
The first change shouldn’t be a large surprise – it’s the hardware. Windows Phone Mango provided users with updated chassis 1 requirements, while giving previous chassis 1 specifications the low end deal. In many ways, the direction is good because it allows for variety of handsets and the ability to penetrate different price points. By meeting the needs of many users, Windows Phone can increase market share. However, the chassis 1 specifications, for the price, are ridiculous. We’ve reviewed the majority of the devices currently offered by Windows Phone Mango, and constantly realize that the proverbial bang isn’t worth the buck. Don’t misunderstand, the experience is magnificent, but the hardware could be improved. Comparing to devices with established ecosystems for the similar price value, what would make a user purchase a Windows Phone? The weakness established has plenty of rammifications from an economic perspective, especially in America. It’s sad to say but the adoption of new hardware has been slow.
An immediate remedy is to improve the chassis 1 specifications to include dual core, higher resolution displays and LTE, which are welcomed additions. But the market moves quite fast. What Microsoft may unveil, may be the industry standard offered by their competition. Make no mistake that while dual core is supported, plans for quad core devices are coming and will be here by the end of next year. Microsoft has to adopt new hardware faster, which can lead to a three different chasses as well as providing a fragmented experience. But would that be a bad thing? Every mobile OS has some form of fragmentation, the key is support and unified experience. It’s possible that Windows Phone can take the Apple approach to fragmentation offering continued support.
Assume that Windows Phone increases their marketshare to maybe 6-10% (a huge achievement), what would the user expect? In its current iteration, Windows Phone is severely restricted in terms of customization. While metro is beautiful and stunning, it’s time to realize needs of the people. People do want to customize! From computers to something as simple as a java device, users want customization. Granted, there are some apps that allow for customized tiles (with the limitation of live tile), but what about wallpaper and tile color changes in the settings? Granted, it doesn’t fundamentally change the purposes of Windows Phone, but emphasizes that people have more freedom over the way their device functions.
Restrictions should also be loosened for developers as well. Granted, Microsoft has performed several positive changes and additions for developers in comparison to the previous OS and NoDo. However, a large issue is the lack of native support. Rumors speculate that with Apollo, native code is coming, but in what form? Are we going to finally see developers given the ability to create incredible games on par with what’s offered on Apple and Android? Or is the native access going to be sand boxed? Hopefully it is the former and not the latter because on a personal level, I am tired of the lackluster gaming on Windows Phone. Windows Phone does have some good titles, but very few graphically amazing. Part of that is due to lack of native code for powerful game images to run on a mobile platform. Come on Microsoft, loosen up a bit on that end?
Perhaps the largest requirement needed for 2012 and Windows Phone is international support. Mango and Tango are introducing several changes to penetrate their markets increasing Windows market share. The problem is, the current international experience lags behind the competition. Why are bing services so lackluster in compared to Google services? There has to be improvement in international support. In addition, a region specific experience is necessary.
For the things Windows Phone has done in a year, it’s been nothing short of miraculous. However, in comparison to the other mobile OSes, the Windows Phone experience could be improved. That’s not to say I dislike or hate the platform. Quite the contrary, I love Windows Phone and the strides made in one year. However, it doesn’t mean that Microsoft should not continue to gain the share it desperately needs. Hopefully with the debut of Windows 8, the cohesion amongst Windows products and the weaknesses will be corrected in a timely manner.