Windows Phone 7 devices first launched on Oct. 21, 2010, and I think as fans of the platform, we have been wasting our breath for the better part of the two years that followed.
You see, we’ve aimed our vitriol, our ire, our disbelief at the wrong competitor. And I, for one, want to rally us all to a new cause.
It’s no secret (despite the market share numbers) that Apple’s iPhone is the king of the mobile world. Sure, there may be more Android devices out there, but the iPhone is the Lion of this Jungle. Because of this, the iPhone is the measuring stick in the mobile world.
Samsung’s Android division clearly has an iPhone hang up, and a lot of Windows Phone fans do as well. I’ll admit to being guilty of it myself. It’s understandable. If you want to be the best, then beat the best. The thing is, Windows Phone is NEVER going to topple the iPhone. We need to accept that and move on, because until we do, I don’t think we can focus on what we need to focus on: toppling Android.
You see, Android and Windows Phone are a lot more alike than people like to think. Many will see “Microsoft” and “Apple” and think those are the two competing devices. But there’s one fact that a lot of people overlook. Windows Phone has more than a dozen models. Google’s Android, the leader in market share, has well beyond that. Apple, which in July had 33% of the mobile OS market, does it with one phone – the iPhone.
Let’s look at it a different way. Samsung, which sells one out of every four phones sold in the US, has 62 different Android devices listed on its web site. Apple, meanwhile, had a 16% device market share, from ONE PHONE.
Regardless of what you think about the iPhone, the sheep, er, people who buy them, or the plaudits it gets for absolutely no reason (such as the amount of people applauding Apple after the iPhone 5 launch for solving the LTE battery issue when a slew of Android devices and the Nokia Lumia 920 all have talk times listed longer than the iPhone 5’s eight hours), the iPhone isn’t going anywhere.
Microsoft and Google have a lot more in common when it comes to the mobile world. When you hear consumers talk about phone shopping, they don’t buy an iOS phone, they buy an iPhone. However, they do buy a Windows Phone or an Android phone. I’d argue that many people couldn’t tell you the model of their Android phone, judging by the amount of people I hear calling their phones a “Droid” when it’s an LG or a Samsung.
Microsoft and Google both license their OS to multiple vendors. Microsoft and Google both struggle with carriers and updates, which is why Android is as fragmented as it is and Windows Phone is teetering on it. Microsoft and Google both have limited control over hardware shipping schedules and production timelines, which is why Nokia, Samsung and Motorola all had launch parties with limited details on pricing and availability.
These similarities are why Microsoft, and by extension those invested in the platform’s success, must turn their eyes toward Android.
Say what you want about Jelly Bean’s improvements, Windows Phone is the better, cleaner, and simpler platform when compared to Android. It’s here where Microsoft must strike. Samsung and HTC both sell a lot of Android phones, but they both sell Windows Phones, too. And devices makers simply want to make devices, so where the winds of consumer preference blow, there the handset makers will follow.
Denting the iPhone’s market share will be nice, and fun, and satisfying. But it won’t do anything for the long-term platform health of Windows Phone. However, cracking through Android and stealing those customers would be a boon for Microsoft. The more consumers that head to Windows Phone, the more likely it would be that Samsung, HTC, and other mobile handset makers would devote their top-of-the-line products to Windows Phone.
How many commercials have you seen for Samsung’s Focus line of Windows phones? Exactly. How many have you seen for the Galaxy SIII or the Note? Imagine that flipping, and a device maker other than Nokia devoting marketing dollars to Windows Phone.
This is why opportunity exists battling Android. There are OEMs out there to influence. Stealing market from Apple won’t change the OEM landscape. Topping Android on a regular basis could, however, shift the mobile OEM landscape significantly. And let’s not forget the looming tablet wars, but that’s a different article.
Further, iPhone users are crazy. They’re crazy about their phones, they’re crazy about iOS, they’re crazy about being the first to get a new phone, and they’re crazy to update their phones every year, blindly, regardless of whether the new device is really even a marked improvement. You can’t beat crazy, you can’t reason with crazy, and you can’t influence crazy.
Android users, however, appear open to change. How many people have you heard outwardly curse their Android phones? How many neighbors and family members have you seen come home with an Android device, knowing nothing about it, but simply because it was cheap and they didn’t want to spend the money it takes to get an iPhone?
These are not crazy people. These are people that take the path of least resistance. These are people who, if given the choice of a Windows phone that was properly sold and competitively priced with an Android device, could be sold into the Microsoft ecosystem.
There’s one other thing this group of people have in common. They likely all have Windows PCs at home. Many iPhone users are also Mac users. You will not persuade them to leave the comfort of the Apple family.
But most Android users go home or to work and fire up a Windows PC. That’s a battle Windows wins over Android, and one that needs to be better exposed.
Despite overly optimistic projections for Windows Phone’s success, the platform has an uphill battle. Microsoft isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but you can only fight a losing battle for so long.
It’s time for the Windows Phone army to gang up on Android. Stop trying to sell your iPhone-toting friends on the ways the Nokia Lumia 920 tops their now taller phone. Hunt down your buddies that have a two-year old Galaxy, or a battered Motorola Droid, and put the hard sell on them.
This is where the battle will be won. If Microsoft is to become a serious third competitor, it will do so by weakening Android, not by trying to pass Apple.