Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

Summary: On the eve of the VIP Preview for Windows Phone, I'm wondering what Microsoft can do to stoke the market for Mango without completely killing off demand for existing WP7 devices.

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is beating the Windows Phone "Mango" drum a day ahead of tomorrow's VIP Preview event, promising the next Windows Phones will sport more than 500 new features.

While it's true generating phone demand is tied to a combination of lots of new features plus lots of new apps, my readers seem to have a somewhat different set of priorities. I've been getting lots of questions over the past couple of weeks about 1) what kinds of enterprise-focused features Microsoft plans to bring to Mango phones and 2) what Microsoft is going to do to stoke the market for new phones running the next version of its mobile OS, without completely killing off demand for existing WP7 phones.

Both of these are good questions, and I'm wondering if the May 24 Windows Phone event will provide answers on either front (given the rumors that the VIP Preview event is going to be 99 percent about the consumer features coming to Windows Phone OS 7.5, a k a Mango).

Just today, I received this note from a reader in my inbox (with company/product names eliminated to preserve the reader's privacy):

"I'm sure other businesses are in the same situation as I'm in today. (My company) has a mobile ordering application developed in VB.net in Visual Studio 2005. It is currently running in WM (Windows Mobile) 6.5. Is there any possibility of running this in WP7?"

The answer, as we learned last year from Microsoft, is that there's no backwards compatibility between WM 6.5 and WP7. Some customers with custom line-of-business applications are redoing their apps for WP7. But without encryption, VPN support and private-application loading, a number of business users are not willing and able to move to WP7 and are stuck on the dead-end WM 6.x if they want a Microsoft-provided phone platform. (As Gartner Group noted last week, WM 6.x phones were still outselling WP7 phones worldwide in the first quarter of 2011 -- an estimate Microsoft is neither confirming nor denying.)

Microsoft officials did unveil last week at the TechEd 2011 conference a handful of business-focused features that are slated to be part of the Mango phone update, which is expected to be available on new and existing phones later this year. Among those features are alphanumeric password protection, support for hidden WiFi networks, and better SkyDrive support for Office Web Apps. Microsoft is expected to add private and beta marketplace support for Mango phones, but some of my readers said the few details the Softies have shared about the private marketplace are leaving them wondering whether their organizations will be satisfied with it.

Meanwhile, more than a few of my colleagues have wondered aloud what will happen to the already not-so-strong demand for Windows Phones if Microsoft and its partners don't have some kind of upgrade plans/assurances in place once the full set of Mango features is made public. I know I'm not the only Verizon customer who has been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for Verizon to unveil its first Windows Phone -- something that Verizon last week said would be happening on May 26 -- but who know is rethinking whether I should wait to see what's coming preloaded with Mango later this year.

Why buy an adequate but unexciting WP7 handset when I might be able to pick up a more-up-to-date one running Mango in five or six months? Phones aren't like PCs, which are on a longer development cycle. There's no smartphone "Upgrade Guarantee" program like the one that Microsoft and its partners offer with Windows and Office -- allowing users who buy older versions of Windows PCs or Office preloaded on their PCs to get upgrade coupons good for a new version of the software if they do so a few months before new versions of the operating system and apps are released. Yes, you will be able to download Mango for your existing Windows Phone. But your existing Windows Phone won't include a front-facing camera or a gyroscope or a built-in NFC chip....

While it's true that other smartphone vendors are in the same boat as Microsoft, when it comes to the risk of pre-announcing new features too early, Apple and the Android phone makers have more of a headstart and more momentum than Microsoft does in this space. Apple's user base defies the laws of gravity (and justifiable demand patterns) and will buy new versions of products just because they're out. And there are so many different Android phones on the market from different vendors (compared with Microsoft's handful of Windows Phone partners) that the announcement/delivery cycle seems to be a constantly rolling one that is unlikely to be stymied by the unveiling of a new Android

What do you think Microsoft can and should do at this point to generate excitement about Mango phones without causing demand for WP7 devices to completely fall off a cliff? And guesses as to what the Softies will do tomorrow at the VIP Preview (besides show off some of the promised 500 features that we haven't seen leaked yet)?

I'll be at the Windows Phone VIP preview in New York City tomorrow covering the festivities and reporting on what is and isn't unveiled. Stay tuned....

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

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

    Ballmer needs to keep his mouth shut until the official announcement.
    mrlinux
    • Don't worry...

      ...you can't kill something that's not alive.

      Windows Phone 7 sales are mainly enthusiasts who either are Microsoft fanboys or hate Apple and/or Google.

      That's the reason the WP7 has gone haywire. There's no stopping something that isn't moving.

      On the other hand, if Mango delivers it will basically kill the Windows Phone 7 brand, just as Windows 7 killed the Windows Vista. It will show that early adopters were fool and that the product was delivered half-baked.

      Remember, this is not the iPhone 1 vs the iPhone 3G. Apple showed a promising device that was ready to scale, that is, part of a grand plan that slowly unfolded.

      Microsoft, on the other hand, tried it's best to deliver a "grandeur" OS, which people soon discovered that had too many shortcomings without no mayor pathway out.

      That's what has killed the device. With Apple, you knew further upgrades "will get it".

      With Microsoft there's no way of knowing if Mango devices will even look like WP7 or not.
      cosuna
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @cosuna Every Windows Phone 7 is getting upgraded to Mango, so why would early adopters be fools? My best friend just got a Samsung Focus on AT&T and he is no fool. The phone is only a penny at Amazon. He actually told me that random people at his law firm have been complimenting him on his phone. So when he gets the Mango update later this year he is going to be very happy that he got the Focus. <br><br>I really wish they had put the Focus out on other carriers cause I would have a Windows Phone right now if they did.
        cool8man
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @cosuna MS is committed to upgrading their phones unlike that fragmented crap that is Android!! I am grabbing a Trophy on the 26th!! Woohooo!!!!!!
        jatbains
      • Why worry?

        @cosuna

        I don't think anyone is worried. Windows Phone is very good in what it does and sales are fine at this stage. The update strategy ensures Mango on all devices, from all manufacturers, on all carriers, worldwide.
        Forrestall
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @cosuna I'm none of that. Well... I have been becoming more anti google lately. My WP7 lust came when my mobile guy dropped a Focus on my desk to use for a week. I never gave it back. Truly a new thinking in phones and I am VERY excited about Mango. I'm not a microsoft guy at all, but I have started following these Microsoft blogs just to keep up on Windows Phone.
        frankwick
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @cool8man, @jatbains, @Forrestall, et al:<br><br>Guys, don't get me wrong. Am not against WP7 per se. I think they did a very fine job for something that took only 18 months.<br><br>It's just too late to make any dent on the market. I'm used to calling WP7 the Amiga/NeXT/BeOS of the mobile market. Those too were fine OS that lacked DOS compatibility, so were dead-on-arrival.<br><br>As for Microsoft "commitment" to upgrade am not completely sure that is doable. Samsung Omnias are being bricked all the time due to the way MS and Samsung decided to go on the file system. Mango being a serious new release might get into more trouble. (My bet is Mango is Windows Embedded Compact 7.0 with a new Silverlight for Windows Embedded runtime that supports multiple sandboxed SL for WP instances)
        cosuna
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @cosuna <br><br>Fact:<br>every wp7 device today will run mango.<br><br>Fact:<br>your thesis is wrong. Apple didn't prove any device more ready to scale than WP7. IN fact it didn't scale whatsoever. IOS4 can't run at any acceptable speed unless you have a 3GS. By your thesis, the original iphone was crippled from day one. you're just giving a pass to apple because of fanboysm.
        neonspark
      • cosuna: There is no such thing as &quot;late to the game&quot;

        when it comes to smartphones.

        With the smartphones themselves becoming virtual giveaways, what people are really looking for is a plan which will fit their budgets, and an OS which will serve them well. WP7 already does most of that, and with Mango, it may become superior to anything from the competition.

        Then, there's the failure of "lock-in" with smartphones, where people are free to choose again after a 1 or 2 year service plan. Apps may lock some people in to some makes, but, most people don't go berserk purchasing so many apps that they can't make the switch.

        The only thing lacking for Microsoft, after Mango, is the marketing to match Android and iPhones. But, eventually, Microsoft will get the whole system working correctly, including the phones, the OS, the marketing and sales, and the followups.
        adornoe
    • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

      @mrlinux

      Microsoft needs to have a constant release of new phones every month. Unloading a dozen phones on the market simultaneously is a recipe for disaster. There has to be a staggered release schedule so that each phone has a moment to shine.

      People say that demand is not strong, but relative to where Android was half a year after launch, Microsoft is doing great. They've sold two to three times as many phones as Android did, they have much stronger manufacturer/developer/carrier support than Android had, and the Windows app store is growing almost 3 times faster than Android did in it's first year. The question is whether they can continue to beat what Android did in it's first few years. Nokia is certainly a much bigger get than Motorola (at least outside of the U.S.) so they seem to be keeping ahead of where Android was.

      Of course the big test will be the 2nd year which is where Android really took off. Can 2012 be for Windows Phone what 2010 was for Android?
      cool8man
      • Windows FAIL 7

        @cool8man
        "and the Windows app store is growing almost 3 times faster than Android did in it's first year. "

        Amazing what you can do when you PAY DEVELOPERS TO PORT TO YOUR PLATFORM. I'd port my app too if someone would pay for it.

        Will be interesting to see this one evolve. Android activates more phones in what, a week than MS has sold in 6 months.....
        itguy08
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @cool8man Microsoft is letting the same people that develope the operating system make aps and sell them personally. So if you are a developer and go to someone in Microsoft for help with your proprietary app they may very well be moonlighting a competative app.
        z_saberman
    • MS is returning to what they know

      Historically MS has talked up their next versions; is going really good and fix all the problems. They've used this to quell user migration to other platforms (you'd think they'd learn).

      Clearly their recent "quiet" strategy has been dumped, with both windows 8 and Mango leaks. I wonder what is coming up for all these MS leaks? (hint: WWDC June 6-10)
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @Richard Flude

        dude you must be new to the world. windows leaks have been always around since the XP days. it has nothing to do with apple's conference lol.
        neonspark
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @Richard Flude

        What? You seriously cannot be this clueless. Can You?
        bobiroc
    • You should confirm that with Loverock Davidson before

      suggesting Mr. Ballmer keep his mouth shut, after all he is the king of Redmond isn't he? :-)
      Over and Out
  • this is why apple succeeds... kind of.

    it's beyond unacceptable really, as a maker of a mobile operating system you don't offer any compatibility between releases.

    it really goes a step beyond that. in the 90's microsoft was so overwhelmingly successful because it catered to developers, at the time even small ones it seemed. today it seems like there's such a fundemental lack of cohesive developer support/engagement... not that they aren't trying.

    all you need do is look around at where the developers hang their hats, and there you have a successful platform, hence apples success (and also hence their earlier failures, imo apple had a poor rapport with developers all throughout the 90's)
    sucitivel
    • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

      @sucitivel - ermmm ... don't jump the gun. WinPhone 7.1 runs fine on existing hardware and Microsoft have already stated that Mango (7.5?) will run fine on existing handsets. Hoping that they'll make this statement again tomorrow to allay any remaining FUD that Mango will require new hardware.

      Regarding your comment on developers, WinPhone is enjoying a faster and larger volume of app publication than iOS or Android did in their first few months. There are already in excess of 18,000 apps available for Windows Phone : http://wp7applist.com/en-US/stats/
      bitcrazed
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @bitcrazed yea you are right sort of.

        but they still have a LONG way to go to recapture their glory days. I don't know how much credence I give to the statistic about faster and larger app publication-- you have to be considerate of the fact that the mobile app sphere did not even exist when apple came to the game, so you can't pit those number against each other in a 1:1 way anyhow because there's simply more people making mobile apps today.
        sucitivel
      • RE: Microsoft's biggest 'Mango' challenge: Creating excitement without killing demand

        @bitcrazed I agree I am jumpin on the developer wagon!! The enthusiasm will only grow with Silverlight on Win8 tablets!!
        jatbains