Jan 072015
This morning my twitter feed was greeted by yet another tired, loaded question asking if Windows Phone is dead, this time from Venture Beat’s Chris O’Brien .  I like Chris, and odds are his headline is borne more of frustration than click-baitiness, so I’ll spare him my usual snarky reply and take a cold, sober look at the situation.

As I wrote recently, I encounter a great deal of maddening FUD surrounding Windows Phone and I have to believe that the vast amount of user-spread misinformation and dare I say deliberate subterfuge from competitors has had a negative impact on the platform’s prospects.  The same can definitely be said for Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset business; anyone who thought market share would definitely hold steady (much less grow) during the transition was kidding themselves.

But there’s much more to the sales decline that Chris cites in his article.  While I’m willing to give Microsoft some slack for uncontrollable consequences of a major buyout, they still could have done much better than they have.  Set aside customer clamor for a new flagship; Microsoft’s promotional efforts for Windows Phone have been, in my opinion, abysmal.  They have to be aware of the rank misinformation out there, and have just flat failed to counter it.

Look at what they did for the Surface line.  The first two iterations struggled, to put it mildly.  Microsoft learned from the experience, significantly improved the product line with Surface Pro 3, and coupled its launch with entertaining advertisements that at least got people talking positively about the newer releases.  Over 8 million views for a product video on Youtube isn’t bad at all.  People may argue with the “tablet that can replace your laptop” claim, but it’s intriguing enough to make them look.

Then there was Microsoft Band, which actually garnered many positive reviews upon launch and showed that stodgy old Microsoft can handily succeed at entering a new device market.

Yet I’ve never seen a compelling equivalent for Windows Phone… just the usual lackluster ads from carriers letting us know what few Lumia models they carry.  I take that back: Cricket Wireless put out a positively punchy radio ad for its Lumia 635 launch, so I’ve heard at least one decent effort.

Microsoft doesn’t seem to understand its onus here.  They don’t have to make another flagship device themselves; an OEM partner could do that.  But they do need to produce much more than a phoned-in promotional effort.  As the third place provider, they need to work harder than players like Apple and Samsung to convince potential customers why they should ignore the market leaders.  As a Windows Phone user and developer I can honestly tell you that there are very good reasons for doing so, despite the braying of naysayers, but it’s going to take a whole lot more than my word.

The hardware is good enough.  The operating system is good enough.  There are still some app gaps but that’s easy to solve by convincing the necessary parties that your platform is viable.

At this point it’s all about marketing and support.

Open note to Satya Nadella: I don’t know what you folks have cooking behind the scenes these days so there’s every possibility that you’re going to wow us at, say, Mobile World Congress 2015.  At this point I believe it’s an absolute must.  Either that, or maybe it is time to really drive home that you’re bringing your expertise to other platforms by letting Windows Phone go.  It’s make or break time, sir.  You’re losing the faithful and cannot afford to maintain the current status quo.

So let’s see some promotion!

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