Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: Perfection needed to counter ecosystem worries

Summary:The Microsoft Windows Phone 7 update this week had a rough patch and depending on who you believe there are two ways to spin the news: 90 percent of phones were fine or 10 percent failed. How will this Windows Phone 7 update affect consumer perception?

The Microsoft Windows Phone 7 update this week had a rough patch and depending on who you believe there are two ways to spin the news: Either 90 percent of phones were fine or 10 percent failed. The much larger question here is what effect the Windows Phone 7 update will have on consumer perception.

Here's the short version. Microsoft hit send on its first Windows Phone 7 update and 90 percent of folks installed the patch correctly. Ten percent of people had a problem, roughly 5 percent failed due to an Internet connection or storage space. That leaves 5 percent of Windows Phone 7 users with a more serious problem.

For some that more serious problem was turning their Samsung devices into a brick. Microsoft pulled the Samsung update. After 48 hours Microsoft detailed what happened and should get some credit for the transparency.

Mary Jo Foley was documenting the events in real-time, but touched on the big issue about this update right out of the gate.

Windows Phone 7 devices began shipping last October to largely positive reviews. I had a chance to check one out and saw enough to like that I seriously considered making WP7 my first smartphone — and my first Windows phone.

But in the four months since, I’ve begun to waver. And the latest back-and-forth over the first update for WP7 has made me increasingly WP7-shy.

The discussion following her story broke down into predictable camps. People either love Microsoft or they hate it. There are Apple iPhone people. Android people. And a few Windows Phone 7 customers. Frequently, these people yell at each other.

Most of us are in the middle somewhere. This largely silent majority doesn't have religious affiliations with a mobile operating system and could give Windows Phone 7 a chance, but Microsoft has to show it can execute.

BUT.

These fence sitters on Windows Phone 7 (count me in this camp), have the following concerns.

  • Can the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem keep up with Android and iOS?
  • Will Microsoft keep a fast innovation cycle and be able to add new features on the fly?
  • Can we safely bet that we won't look like lepers if we have a Windows Phone 7 device?

The first update for Windows Phone 7 addressed the first and second items. I like Windows Phone 7 and generally think it's a good experience and if it had a few key apps---Sirius for instance---concerns would dissipate. And the Windows Phone 7 commercials, which highlight how you don't have to be a slave to your device and a zillion apps on a 4-inch screen, speak to me.

BUT.

Fence sitters like me need some confidence that Microsoft can deliver a flawless experience. And yes folks, Microsoft has to be flawless. It has to be flawless just to get the Android and iPhone camps to consider a Windows Phone 7 device. How pervasive is this perception? I'd argue it's very pervasive. In the U.S., two-year contracts dominate the wireless market. You have to be confident Microsoft will be in the game. The Nokia deal allays those fears for me, but Microsoft has to give us something more to get consumers to go against the Android/Apple/BlackBerry grain.

Is this fair? Probably not, but it is reality. Microsoft needed a perfect update. And frankly a 90 percent success rate isn't going to cut it. Yes, we know Apple has bricked a few iPhones. Android updates can be messy because carriers control the releases.

Here's the problem: Microsoft needs to counter the perception it is saddled with. Mobile device owners aren't going to tolerate bricks and 5 percent failure rates when there's so much competition in the market. Microsoft may be able to have a 90 percent success rate in PCs because it dominates the market. The company is an underdog in the mobile market.

Some folks will forge ahead with Windows Phone 7, but most of us will wait. Microsoft needs to win us over. Prove to us you know this mobile cycle, which the software giant completely missed last time around. In the game of perception, this week's Windows Phone 7 update didn't help Microsoft's cause no matter how you spin it. Fence sitters will watch the next update. Microsoft has to win over this guy from the talkbacks.

I have to agree that this mess has scared me a bit about WP7. I was just saying yesterday that the pace of updates for WP7 has me worried about purchasing one, and then today I hear about this fiasco for the Omnia.

And while I agree that this appears to not just be a Microsoft issue, since only Omnia's with certain firmware appear to be affected, it still scares me. What phone is next to have a problem, after all? Hey, based on the phone design, the Omnia would have been one of my first choices for a WP7 purchase.

Bottom line: Microsoft needs to stick the landing on its next Windows Phone 7 update.

Related:

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Windows

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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