A lot has been said about Microsoft’s adventure into mobile with Windows Phone. I believe that one critical issue has been overlooked by almost every analysis of why Windows Phone is failing in the market.
It is clear that Microsoft chose to follow in the footsteps of Apple’s closed system and simple user interface. Not necessarily a bad idea. However, Microsoft failed to copy the model accurately.
Here is my submission in a nutshell: a closed model that ensures uniformity and conformity like iOS requires a single manufacturer, not a plethora of manufacturers as Microsoft is currently pushing.
You see, Apple is a single manufacturer and the uniformity and simplicity of iOS distinguishes them. IOS is so closed as an OS that the only way it can be pushed in the market is by one single but strong manufacturer.
Windows Mobile was open enough to allow various levels of customisation by different manufacturers. Windows Phone, a totally different beast, is closed and limits manufacturers in too many ways. Like iOS, the latter will not play well with multiple manufacturers. Simple.
Android, like Symbian used to be, is open too to allow for different variations and flavours from different manufacturers. Windows Phone and iOS are anti-types of this sort of openness.
Another manufacturer with a closed operating system is RIM. Once you have used one BlackBerry, you might as well have used all other BlackBerries. BlackBerry OS is closed and uniform. We have heard rumours of RIM seeking to license BlackBerry out to others. Bad idea, unless they are willing to open it up and allow licensees to toy with it deeply. Without opening BlackBerry up, the licensees will find it hard to differentiate their products to consumers, something that is essential to their brands.
What Windows Phone needs is one strong manufacturer to push it in the market, not a line-up of multiple manufacturers who end up struggling to differentiate their products. With one strong manufacturer with good brand awareness and loyalty committed to the platform, it stands a better chance of success in the market. When you want an iOS device, you think Apple. When you want a BlackBerry device, well, you think BlackBerry. There is no dillydallying about what brand to pick. Those closed platforms are branded to their manufacturers. That’s how closed platforms work in the mind of buyers.
Note that even open platforms usually end up with one dominant manufacturer who eclipses everyone else. Think old Symbian and Nokia. Think Android and Samsung. The dominant guys run away with the market, while all others dance on the fringes. How much more a closed platform. Things just get tough for multiple manufacturers.
For now, regardless of whether it is a Samsung, Nokia, or LG, all Windows Phone smartphones are essentially the same in UI and OS, bar minor skin-deep differences. That will not work. Windows Phone needs just one single manufacturer with lots of cash and strong brand loyalty.
But then, perhaps Microsoft did NOT make a mistake (or perhaps they soon realised their mistake), and are actually already implementing a plan to acquire one manufacturer – you know the conspiracy theory about the plan to weaken Nokia and then buy it; don’t you?
No; I didn’t just say that. If you quote me, I will deny it. Walahi!