Windows Phone's many problems: Should Microsoft give up?

Windows Phone's many problems: Should Microsoft give up?

Summary: Microsoft's Windows Phone is in trouble. While HTC and Samsung have fallback plans, so does Nokia. Can Microsoft continue its lead as the third leg in the mobile two-horse race?

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Microsoft was resting much of its efforts in Windows Phone on the Nokia Lumia 900, and Nokia's stake in the project was vital to its future smartphone building success.

Described by one colleague as the "only good phone" to come out of the Microsoft--Nokia joint venture, its flagship phone was hit with a critical bug, the Windows Phone marketshare is slipping, and the Windows brand itself is waning in the wake of Apple's success.

Fortune described the Lumia 900 as a "sexy, award-winning smartphone is going on sale Sunday at half the price of the iPhone, and it's launching on a blazing fast 4G network."

"What's the catch?" they asked. "Two things: The phone, called the Lumia 900, is made by Nokia -- and it's running Microsoft's Windows Phone software."

But since its launch, it has already suffered a data cut-off bug which will put off a vast percent of the consumer market, and business customers especially, where data is the lifeblood of mission-critical operations. It's struggling with poor market share and hampered by an image problem in the wake of attention towards iOS and Android rivals.

To apologise for the data bug, Nokia was quick to hand owners $100 in AT&T credit, effectively negating the price of the handset itself.

Despite it being only a software fix, to know that the thought to be tens of thousands who have already bought the device being without data is about as useful as a smartphone with no battery. It's a critical mechanism for any smartphone, and without it, one is left with mostly an expensive paperweight.

But let's say the Lumia 900 is the saving grace to Windows Phone. It could succeed, and it should. But the Microsoft--Nokia team left many wondering if the two had rushed into the smartphone market they were late to in the first place.

Because it's previous attempts to bring out the other Lumia devices, thought of generally to be 'less exciting' than the Lumia 900, a device many were holding out for, Microsoft--Nokia have put all of their eggs in one basket. If the Lumia 900 fails, the joint venture may lose what little market share it has and be forced to start again from scratch.

comScore's figures over the rolling averages for the past three months show that Windows Phone has dropped in market share. Considering how little it had in the first place, it rings bells of bad news:

  • Sep.--Dec. 2011: From 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent --- a drop of --0.9 percent.
  • Oct.--Jan. 2012: From 5.4 percent to 4.4 percent --- a drop of --1.0 percent.
  • Nov.--Feb. 2012: From 5.2 percent to 3.9 percent --- a drop of --1.3 percent.

The figures keep dropping, and currently only sits behind Symbian which holds its ground at 1.5 percent. With so few users, the revenue streams available for application developers is what is turning those developers away from Windows Phone towards iOS or Android.

Apps and games are what make smartphones 'smart'. Microsoft's Windows Marketplace is doing well, but is heavily trailing behind the major players in the two-horse race of iOS and Android.

One is not quick to disparage the growth trajectory of apps in the Windows Marketplace, however. As sister site ZDNet Asia reports:

"...the 50,000 app mark was reached on Dec. 27 last year, the 60,000 mark on Jan. 22, and the 70,000 mark on Feb. 23."

It's a valiant effort, and should the growth continue, it could reach the 100,000 milestone mark by the second quarter.

But compared with half a million apps and games in the Apple App Store and growing by thousands per day, and Google Play --- the new name for the Android Market --- has an approximate 480,000 apps and games from its near half-million mark as of February.

ZDNet Asia adds:

"According to the blog, 67 percent of the apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace are free, 10 percent are paid with a free trial, and 22 percent are paid."

There is no doubt that the Windows Marketplace has at least a foot in the door, but developers will not write apps or games for a platform deemed unsafe or unlikely to generate revenue from a lack of users.

While the Microsoft--Nokia venture does not limit the growth of Windows Phone, as HTC and Samsung both have devices running the Microsoft mobile operating system, but both HTC and Samsung also have their hands in other platform pies, notably Android.

While Nokia holds onto Symbian as its fallback option, Android generates the most revenue while treating Windows Phone as an incubator for potential growth. If it doesn't succeed, the two still have a strong ecosystem they can fall back to.

Nokia has two choices. It can either carry on with Microsoft with the hope that Windows Phone generates an unlikely buzz, or it can focus on its own strategy of reaching out to the wider European and U.S. smartphone market, while at the same time maintaining its growth in the developing regions of the world. Or, it can ditch Windows Phone and jump to Android as the only likely candidate for mobile phone software, or it can carry on with Symbian, which was given a new lease of business life this week, reports ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft doesn't have much choice. It's either holding a gun to Nokia's head by keeping it technologically hostage, or the two are hoping that their two respective ailing smartphone businesses can somehow join forces and make one ordinary, healthy business.

While two negatives added don't always make a negative, unfortunately two poops just land you with one giant poop.

Image credit: Roger Cheng/CNET.

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

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249 comments
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  • What a disaster

    It was pretty bad of them to let such a serious bug get through.

    A phone without data is a useless device.

    I think Microsoft should get out of phones, and eventually will. Microsoft will retreat to making products for corporations, and stop trying to make consumer products or copy Apple.
    Vbitrate
    • I think its refreshing that they came forward!

      Unlike some other companies that hold back every detail they have so they seem to look flawless to the masses, while many suffer from bugs that never get fixed or admitted to. And to give a $100 credit is also showing how they support their product and make up for the hassle their bug caused. Eventually the truth comes out and consumers get fed up so might as well be forthcoming in this day of instant information that spreads very fast on the net. The new iPad has data connectivity issues as well, but you won't see Apple coming out with any info or refunds for anyone. They wait until you hassle around enough and get fed up and then bring it in so they can swap it out for you. Not really the ideal way to help your customers out in an efficient way. But hey its Apple so they do no wrong, so I am just an idiot and you are right!
      OhTheHumanity
      • Wait just a minute here.... Are not the situations different?

        In Nokia's case they admit to a software issue which by my way of thinking means it is across the board for all devices. While in Apple's case this could be a manufacturing issue so only a small percentage of the devices have any such issues. Apple has to figure out the where and why of this. So when they do locate a specific problem they do a swap out seems pretty good to me on the customer service basis. Still I do like your rather emotional spin on this one. The customer has to put up with problems and then has to lug the heavy device to an Apple store to get a new one! Whew! The PAIN!!!!

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • emotional spin?

        @James Quinn
        So sorry about that bad example. How about we go ahead and plug in the antenna issue the iPhone 4 had. Yeah the one that Apple had to pay up in a class action lawsuit? Probably would have avoided that suit if they had come forth right away and admitted it had shortcomings. There is also the battery drain issue that hit alot of people. My point is no one is perfect so its pointless to act perfect and try to hide the faults! But hey it was a good try trying to spin what I had to say about the matter! Maybe next time!
        OhTheHumanity
      • Re: Wait just a minute

        @James Quinn: Apple's hardware issue was a design mistake that occurred any time someone would hold the phone a certain way. Nokia's software issue is only affecting some users ... for instance, I don't have the problem.

        If you can't 'lug' a smartphone to a store, maybe you should save yourself the trouble and get a flip phone. Not that this should be the route you have to take, but give me a break. BTW, Nokia wins on that one, too, with a software update ready next Monday.
        WebSiteManager
      • @JamesQuinn

        Whether it is a software fault (which is only affecting a limited number of people, by the sounds of it) or a problem with a batch, the basic premise is the same, the manufacturer has a problem and needs to deal with it.

        Nokia's way of dealing is to say mea culpa, calm the user base down and work out a way of correcting the problem.

        Apple's way is to delete threads about it on their forums, stick their head in the sand and hope it will go away, until the problem explodes into something that seems much bigger than it really is... By which time it is too late to deal with it in a "good" way.

        Luckily for Apple their fanbase seems to have the attention of a goldfish, so that they have forgotten about the previous problems by the time the next device is released.
        wright_is
      • Way to many to rely too:)

        The response I gave was to an accusation about the current iPad not the iPhone. As for the iPhone 4 history shows that was judged by the buying public to be a none story. First Apple extended the time owners could return their iPhone for a full refund yet the return rates were lower that the previous model. Sales contined to shoot through the roof and as one person who replied to me said to the effect he has no problem with his Nokia device I have an iPhone and have not had the issue you brought up and yes it is an iPhone 4. Don't recall the specifics about the battery drain but was that not fixed. I actually don't think the Nokia issue is big and below I stated such my point was they are different. As for the lawsuit Apple is a huge profitable company and the only people who made anything off this suit were they the ambulance chasers they got what the price of numbers for some who did not get them when Apple was giving the away for the .01% who were actually affected?

        Anyone who believed any company is perfect is a fool. I've just found for me at least Apple provides me with the better results.

        Pagan jum
        James Quinn
      • Yeah

        How long does it take Apple kicking and screaming to finally offer up a free case for a antenna issue and don't even offer an option to a replacement phone. Nokia went way beyond Apple!
        rmark@...
      • Wait until Windows 8 comes out. This is merely ecosystem set-up time.

        Once Windows 8 is available on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones and they all work together, look the same and use the same then perfected ecosystem and marketplace apps, the platform will gain popularity. These hit-piece articles are written so every android and iphone fanboy will post a link on their website. I have all three platforms. They are all good. WP7 is the most enjoyable to use despite a few limitations. Those will be gone later this year with win8.
        paulkinslow
      • I don't want a free phone..

        from a company that's losing money and won't be able to afford to support it or innovate new products in the long run because they have to give their products away to get people to use them.
        AnalogJoystick
      • You make a valid point

        Also, Android is not helping HTC or a couple of others at the moment, so it was a smart move for Nokia to partner with Microsoft.

        With the majority of Android devices being activated confined to inexpensive and free phones, how could a high end manufacturer of smartphones compete in that arena. also, Motorola Mobility's market share is declining, and this is owned by Android's creator, Google.
        Maybe Google should just give up, as even their flagship brand, Nexus, has fallen on hard times.

        I sometime do believe that maybe Mr. Whittaker should just give up, as he appears to have differing views and standards for the same items from other manufacturers, and he is being questioned himself on that of late.
        Tim Cook
      • Mister Spock should just give up.

        Sorry but only iFans believe Android sales are confined to low end cheap or free phones. Any Android dev will look at their app download statistics and tell you different. Samsung will tell you different as well.

        Some of the other OEMs are shooting their own feet. HTC made too many phones. They are fixing that now. Moto makes ugly phones and their custom Android skin is crippling and overbearing. Hopefully they'll fix that. Google never wanted the Nexus to be a huge seller. Its for devs and people that want pure Android. If anything the others are finding that people want pure Android more than their skins because of the Nexus line and are pushing towards a more pure experience.

        Nokia could have done well to go with Android. Samsung has proven that good hardware will sell with Android on board every time. Nokia could have knocked one out of the park with their quality builds and good cameras. But they choose to go with MS on a platform that was already dead in the water. WP really had nothing going for it but its fans trying to swear by glance and go. That same glance and go philosophy is why devs don't want to develop for a phone that promotes NOT using it. Nevermind the restrictive dev environment that causes you to have to develop on Windows. With the two leading platforms you can develop on Mac and with IntelliJ you can develop for them side by side in the same IDE. You have to go out of your way to develop for WP. Kin should have taught them a lesson but it didn't.
        storm14k
      • The software is not made by Nokia

        This is supposed to be Windows Phone. All software made and controlled by Microsoft, no?

        So, if it has software flaw, then that came from Microsoft! It is Microsoft who are fixing the software and very likely, again Microsoft who are paying Nokia and AT&T cover this bad news.

        It is real pity, seeing Nokia bend this way.. perhaps there is more than one gun pointed at them :)
        danbi
    • They're all at it, not just Microsoft/Nokia

      Look at Apple, iPhone 4 Antenagate, iPhone 4S Batterygate and both of those phones with Carrier IQ enabled on them too. So, don't just look at Microsoft
      Zarniw00p
      • Yes... They are all at it... Still doesn't address the question...

        Should Microsoft give up?

        No... They should not.

        That may suprise many of you knowing that I hate MS with a passion, but here is why (It's actually Ballmer that I hate)... Roid is a total rip off and Roid is going down (not an IF, that is a when). Rim is already in the grave and there is no saving them, nor would anyone want to (other than crackberry whores, but no one cares what they have to say). But Microsoft actually has a chance if they hang in there long enough to survive and watch Roid get Prep H'd by Apple. Once Roid is gone, what mobile OS are the rest of the handset makers going to go with?

        And for you Apple haters who claim to love Roid and have convinced yourself that Roid will always be around... Get a clue and buy a friggin vowel... Apple is gunning for Roid and at the same time Roid is shooting themselves in the foot... The Roid ecosystem is a cesspool of malware (always has been) that is only getting exponentially worse. Roidville is only fun for tweakers and regular people will stage a mass exodus once the malware gets bad enough for the mass media to start covering it. My best guess is that Roid has another year or two.
        i8thecat4
      • Kudo's to i8thecat4

        I agree with everything you said except MS not giving-up. They have had an exceptionally long time to get things right (eons in the tech world) and these complaints came quickly even by MS failure standards.

        They have influence with the hardware, have dissected the Apple/Samsung/HTC success models, jammed the blogs with WP propaganda, learned what not to do al la 'Roid and they still FAILED.

        That Ballmer is like a monkey f*@king a a football . . . he'll try forever but never get it. Give-up already!
        Gr8Music
      • @Gr8Music

        But the sad part is the football you are mentioning is you ! :P
        leninlukose
      • LOL!

        nice, eninlukose!

        :D
        William Farrel
    • I don't see a problem

      If you take the Amazon best seller list I don't see a problem. Yes there might be some clients that may have this issue....but right now it remains the best selling device since launch and also sports the highest rating.
      DreyerSmit
    • They want corporations as customers.

      Microsoft only cares about corporations, because corporations pay the most for licenses which is MSFT's business.
      They are focused on getting RIM's (Blackberry's) market which currently owns the corporate market even though most believe it is the good looking, but useless iphone. MSFT is also interested in the federal government market which is completely owned by RIM because Blackberrys have a highly secured network.
      Santos Jaimes