For the last two years, the big boys in the smartphone industry have undoubtedly been Apple and Google with their iOS and Android platforms. Microsoft quietly re-entered the marketplace with Windows Phone 7 in late 2010. Their previous mobile OS, Windows Mobile, just couldn’t compete with iOS in any way, shape, or form: it was clunky, slow, and had an extremely outdated design language. Instead of just tweaking Windows Mobile to look better and be easier to use, Microsoft just scrapped it completely and went back to the drawing board.
Windows Phone has been on the market since November of 2010 and has only managed to acquire a minuscule sliver of the marketplace. Compared to Android and iOS, most would promptly declare that Windows Phone is a failure and will never be able to compete. Never. And by never, I’m assuming people mean until the end of time. That’s a pretty long time to be stuck with just Android and iOS.
If you don’t think Windows Phone will eventually catch on, you’re kidding yourself. Microsoft is definitely in it for the long run; they know the mobile market place is young and nothing is set in stone. They might have gotten off to a slow start but that was inevitable. When the platform first launched, Microsoft didn’t have that ‘halo’ device that would become a worldwide recognized brand. They had a few devices here and there, the majority being on AT&T if you look at the U.S. market, but the overall selection was quite dry. Oh, but what about that Lumia 900 getting ready to launch soon? AT&T, Microsoft, and Nokia are putting a ton of cash into marketing this thing. Hell, they’re making it mandatory that all AT&T employees use the device while they’re working in-store! If you walk into an AT&T store you’re going to see Lumia 900 posters everywhere and sales people practically throwing the device at you. AT&T claims they’re putting more money and effort into marketing the Lumia 900 than they ever have with any other product, including the iPhone! Since AT&T literally lived off of the iPhone’s success for a few years, I’d imagine that’s quite a bit of money. And at just $99.99 on a two year contract, you better believe this thing is going to sell.
Windows Phone is a truly unique mobile OS. Instead of using homescreens and icons like iOS and Android, Microsoft is using what they call Live Tiles. And thank god for that! If Windows Phone was just another mobile OS with icons and homescreens, of course it’d fail; there’s nothing unique there. But it’s not. It’s a huge change from what people expect their smartphones to look like, but as with anything, give yourself time to get adjusted and you may find yourself in love with the damn thing. Just because you aren’t immediately used to how it looks or operates doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. If you looked at everything in life with such a narrow-minded view, you’d never be introduced to new things. The future of smartphone and tablet UIs isn’t with home screens and icons; it’s with an approach similar to Microsoft’s. Also, Windows Phone has amazing hardware consistency which also leads to amazing software consistency. You could be rocking the first gen Samsung Focus or the new HTC Titan II, either way you’re getting a device that performs superbly and gets prompt updates. People often complain that Android is complicated to use while they praise iOS for its simplicity and attribute this simplicity to why iOS resonates better with consumers. I’ll argue, however, that you can’t get much simpler than giant colorful square tiles, at least on the UI front.
Keep in mind that Windows Phone hasn’t gotten it’s first huge 1.0 update yet; it began on 7.0 and is currently on 7.5. iOS is now on version 5.1 and Android on 4.0, so obviously features wise it may not have the complete checklist quite yet. But again, you’d be kidding yourself to think Microsoft doesn’t have a huge 8.0 update planned for this year.
Nokia’s been quiet these past few years in the mobile game, mainly because they couldn’t develop an OS to rival Android and iOS. However, by becoming the flagship provider of Windows Phones, Nokia is now in a unique position where they can focus solely on the hardware side of things (which they excel at) and let Microsoft work on the software. Regardless of your loyalty towards Mac or PC, you have to admit Microsoft makes damn good software. Windows 8 is one of the most innovative changes I’ve ever seen done to desktop software and the fact it works seamlessly across tablets, laptops, and PCs is amazing. If you look at the overall ecosystem with Xbox Live, Windows Phone, SkyDrive, and now Windows 8, Microsoft is finally in a position where they can compete toe-to-toe with Apple in terms of the sheer ecosystem. Google can’t.
Microsoft is more like Apple than Google when it comes to big products or services. Apple will put a ton of money into marketing something for its entire lifespan and they will give it consistent prompt updates to continually give users a good experience. Also, Apple only releases products they feel have a real chance to compete or change the marketplace; rarely ever do they release a new product or service then scrap it a year or two later. On the contrary, Google is largely an experimental company. Almost everything they do is an experiment just to see if it catches on and if it doesn’t, they won’t hesitate to scrap it. Similar to Apple, Microsoft doesn’t do this. Microsoft is in the battle for the long run (I’m thinking at least 2+ years in the future here) and they are going to keep pumping tons of money into R&D, advertising, and marketing until Windows Phone catches on. And since Windows Phone is actually a good product with a top-notch hardware company in Nokia behind it, you’d better believe it’s going to catch on.