Few years ago, Microsoft was still under the impression that Windows Mobile can be sufficient for consumers' need to have a powerful smartphone in their pockets. It was a tragic mistake.
Then iPhone was released (followed by Android) and Microsoft realized that Windows Mobile will never be a match. In a very late step, Microsoft re-developed a completely new operating system. One that is all about smartphones: small screen, small devices, minimalistic design (Metro UI) – exactly what a smartphone needs. Nothing more, nothing less.
The rest of the world belongs to Windows.
But guess what? While Microsoft was celebrating its' return to the mobile world, came Apple and once again shook things up, and proved that Microsoft is still 3 years behind…
iPad was released, expanding the term "mobile" beyond smartphones, inventing the next generation of tablets, and guess what: it had nothing to do with Windows, laptops, netbooks and the likes.
Once again, Microsoft found itself far behind: there are over 100 models of Android tablets out there today. iPad is a selling beast, Kindle Fire joins the party, and where is Microsoft?
Still trying to figure out the smartphones market with Windows Phone 7.
Windows 8 should be the answer to the tablets world, and a damn good answer if you ask me.
The problem is timing, which doesn't look good (end of 2012?). Another problem is consistency; If you own an iPhone, you are half way to get an iPad: you already find your way around, you know the apps, you know the platform, you are probably happy with it. And then the opportunity comes and you get yourself an iPad. It's as simple as that.
Microsoft wishes to create that consistency using the Metro UI, but at the moment it seems too little and a bit too risky (not everyone likes Metro, and it's definitely doesn't seem like the reason for people to switch to Windows 8 tablets or Windows Phone 7).
OK, so now what?
What can Microsoft do in order to change the balance of power?
Based on a mixture of official roadmap presentations, some rumors, and internal changes done inside Microsoft, it seems like there is going to be some changes involving Windows 8:
Microsoft understands the right strategy should be to combine platforms, join forces.
They call it Unified Ecosystem.
Recent changes inside the Windows Phone division in the company seems to confirm that this is indeed a possible direction. Here's a terrifying scenario (for WP7 owner, that is):
"One possibility is that the “new” Windows 8-based phone operating system cuts loose the current platform and is a second reboot of Microsoft’s smartphone strategy. Such a move would burn some consumers and, more significantly, the many developers who have taken the plunge with Microsoft’s smartphone platform.
Redmond has already made one major smartphone transition—Windows Phone is wholly incompatible with Windows Mobile, leaving developers for that platform with no migration route—and making a second such move would squander the good will that the company has built up. It would be extraordinarily dangerous, especially if the current platform does start to pick up steam as the Nokia partnership starts to yield fruit." (Read the rest of this article)
According to Mary-Jo Foley:
"Microsoft is believed to be swapping out the Windows Embedded Compact core in Windows Phone for a Windows-based (MinWin) one in order to more closely align the two platforms, and to give developers a single, unified platform to which they can code. That change could happen as early as mid- to fall-2012 when Microsoft is expected to launch Windows Phone 8, which will run an operating system codenamed “Apollo.”
Windows 8 based smartphones? Tablets based on Windows Phone 7? I guess the first option more likely to happen, eventually.
That is, unless something extremely unexpected happens with the Microsoft / Nokia partnership. Something that will boost things up for Windows Phone and convince Microsoft to continue investing in it.
So far it doesn't look that promising for Nokia and Microsoft, and although there are some funny reports by some Windows Phone 7 fan-blogs talking about so called impressive quarterly sales, looking closely at those numbers shows that the quarterly numbers can almost match with Android's sales per… day…
Talk about perspective…
- Impressive numbers of selling 500,000 WP7 units in Europe in Q4 2011,
- IDC thinks Nokia may sell 380,000 Lumia handsets, says carriers are “pleased by the numbers”
- Nokia says “the Lumia 800 is getting good traction in all six European markets” but GfK disagrees
On a personal note – I'm a huge fan of Windows Phone. I loved it from the first day I laid my hands on it, (well, actually maybe from the second week… took me a while to get used to it).
Still, talking about my "loyalty" to WP7, I do find it a bit disturbing that I say so many good things about Windows Phone while still using an iPhone…