The IDC predicts an 11.4 percent market share for Microsoft in 2016 (up from only 2.6 percent in 2012), but it was basing its optimistic prognostications on smartphone makers’ adoption of the OS. The IDC said contributions by Samsung, Huawei and ZTE plus, Nokia, and HTC will be instrumental for turning Microsoft’s game around. Easier said than done. Here’s what Microsoft has to do to get back in the game:
Play up the “adopt me” card. Microsoft has to convince smartphone makers to actually adopt the OS. The Samsung ATIV S Windows Phone has notably lagged behind the Nokia Lumia, which is surprising given that the Korean tech giant usually gets top placement in the leading retail European websites. This is particularly telling of Samsung’s focus on its popular Android-powered Galaxy line rather than aggressively pursuing a not-so-popular Windows Phone. It doesn’t help either that HTC is scrapping plans to create a large screen Windows Phone, since the Windows Phone wasn’t seen to be as competitive as Android devices. Perhaps the biggest blow was Google’s blatant dismissal of the Windows Phone. Computerworld quotes Google Apps manager bluntly stating, “We are very careful about where we invest and will go where the users are but they are not on Windows Phone or Windows 8.”
Undoubtedly, Microsoft has to step up its game. The Windows Phone faces tough opposition from rivals who are all clamoring for a piece of the pie. Take Research in Motion’s announcement of new BlackBerry 10 devices, the much-anticipated and rumored launch of the Motorola X Android Phone in July, and the high-end Sony Xperia Z Android phone unveiled at CES 2013; and you can conclude that Windows Phones and smartphone manufacturers who choose to adopt the OS are dealing with very stiff competition – which takes us to the second point.
Play up the “build our own device” card. Wait or take the bull by its horns? Microsoft did both with the Microsoft Surface. It seems as if it will replicate the same strategy and compete with its own partners by building its own smartphone. Last year, rumors of Microsoft building its own phone surfaced (pun intended) as a contingency plan in case its partners failed. If Microsoft wants to aggressively push its own Mobile OS, then it’s high time to release powerful Microsoft-built Windows Phones.
However, it should also work on branding before it does. This brings us to the next points.
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Play up the usability and reliability card. CNET Asia hit the nail on the head when it said that the brandname “Windows” does not conjure up good memories when it comes to user experience.
Microsoft was on the right track when it introduced the then-called Metro UI. It was sleek and fluid, it was built for the touchscreen/digital native generation, and it was eye candy compared to the boring Windows interface. But it would take quite some time for people to shed off its impression of Windows, which is “predominantly the OS you use for business and school”, which in turn means it’s associated with boring stuff and not-so-pleasant memories. Compare this to Android and iOS, which weren’t boggled down by these impressions and were directly associated with the fun and useful stuff you could do with your sleek new smartphones and tablets.
Play up the “what sets Windows Phone apart” card. What sets Windows Phone apart from other OS is integration across its devices. There’s the Xbox, your Windows PC, and your high-end/mid-range/low-end Windows Phone all integrated into one entertainment and communications suite. This year, Microsoft should not be contented with Windows being the default OS of choice just because people need it for making Excel sheets and Word documents on-the-go. In the post-PC era, it should be the OS if you want seamless integration across all your devices – regardless of whether they’re used for leisure or business. Imagine having your business phone system integrated with your mobile phone, PC, and gaming console. This is an aspect that Android can’t compete with so far. Buying iOS devices, meanwhile, can get quite expensive for many consumers.
This is a battle that Microsoft can successfully compete in if it plays its cards right. Is Windows Phone 8 a worthy rival to Android, iOS, and even BlackBerry? Some users of Nokia Lumia 920 would say that they were glad to have made the switch. But how many people actually want a Lumia? What other Windows Phone choices do consumers have? Let’s hope that Microsoft can repackage itself as a sleek brand for the smart mobile user and get its mobile OS out on more devices. Until then, I don’t think we can expect the Windows Phone to fully take off.