Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

Summary: Microsoft shows up late to the smartphone party and wonders "Hey, where did everyone go?"


Dueling Analogs by Steve Napierski

How many times has this happened: Someone shows up at a wedding reception, but they get there so late that the buffet has already been worked over like a zebra carcass eaten by slavering hyenas. The shrimp platter is decimated. The caviar station is empty. Nothing but gristle, fat and bone at the turkey and roast beef carving stations. The sterno is burned out, and the only rolls left are rock-hard pumpernickel. Even the crudite plate only has a few lonely pieces of wilted celery left.

Microsoft usually shows up 15 minutes later than that.

Microsoft never innovates. They sometimes improve upon others' work, or buy innovative companies outright. When they first got into the mobile computing sector, their Windows CE devices were slow, clunky, and difficult to use. They were approaching a PDA market sector that Palm Pilot had already captured and defined. The problem was that Microsoft could never wrap its corporate brain around the fact that people did not want an entire desktop OS crammed into a handheld device. Palm succeeded because its product was ridiculously easy to use.

This tone-deafness went on for years. Following iterations of Windows Mobile/Pocket PC were not easier to use. Clicking through several menus to look up a phone number was not endearing them to the people that wanted something that just worked. When Handspring brought out the Treo, it was a game changer. They married the simple Palm OS with a cellphone, showing people that the days of the old Symbian-based phones were over.

Microsoft followed suit, of course. Completely ignoring the fact that their mobile operating system was trailing far behind in sales, they married it to a number of cellular handsets from third-party manufacturers. Like a monkey flinging its feces everywhere, Microsoft made sure that their Windows mobile smartphones were available on every carrier and from every major manufacturer--except Nokia, of course, which is firmly entrenched with Symbian.

Just because it's ubuquitous in availability doesn't make it good, and sales reflected that. A recent Gartner report on smartphone usage shows that Microsoft is way down at the bottom of global smartphone market share. Microsoft simply has not been able to capture people's imaginations and wallets in the mobile market.

The same thing happened to Microsoft with the Zune. It's actually a really good mobile media device. In fact, the Zune HD is an elegant, mature device. Unfortunately, even though sales of the device have increased, it has rarely managed to capture more than 10% of the mobile media player market.

The new Windows Phone 7 operating system seems to be a complete re-working of their mobile operating system. In fact, the interface more closely resembles that of the current generation Zune devices rather than the old Pocket PC interface. They did something they claimed would never happen: they built a Zune phone OS. Customers had been telling Microsoft for 15 years that their interface was too clunky and difficult to use, and when they came up with the right kind of interface on their media player device they kept refusing to put it on a smartphone.

Now they've finally listened to their customers, and it's too damned late. The cycle begins anew at Redmond. They make a big noise about their new, revolutionary product, and then ignore it or even cancel it when they discover no one cares.

And why is it too late? It's not because their lunch was eaten by competitors. It's because THERE WAS NO LUNCH LEFT. Apple regularly sets the bar with their products. The iPhone set a new standard for smartphones. Sharp, fast, smart, elegant and easy to use. It ushered in a new generation of convergence devices and every competitor scrambled to keep up.

Google's Android operating system has become the fastest growing smartphone platform in the world, sales quickly surpassing that of Apple's iPhone. It lives up to the standard set by Apple by being functional, elegant, and easy to use, while aslo adding capabilities that Apple has not. It also isn't tied to one mobile carrier, and customers have a wide choice of handsets.

RIM's BlackBerry line still has a very large market share due to its business integration capabilities and ease of use. However, I believe that they are following the path of hubris that ultimately destroyed Palm and forced them to sell out to HP. BlackBerry's OS, even version 6, is showing its age. They are preparing to migrate to the QNX platform, but by the time they get there it might be too late. Palm took forever to move to the WebOS platform, and by the time they did it the market had already passed them by.

Symbian is still the number one handset OS in the world due to global adoption. It's been around the longest, and has adapted and updated over the years to keep up with the latest technologies. It's unlikely that Symbian will be unseated from its throne any time soon.

So now Microsoft finally has a mature, attractive product that consumers would love. It integrates social networking and media into a functional, easy to use interface. And it's too late, because the Bar Mitzvah boy already opened his presents, ate his cake and everyone is heading out to their cars to go home. The DJ and photographers have already packed up and left.

And this guy promoting it? Looks like he's already been to the buffet too many times anyway:

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Ok, I was rolling on the floor laughing, just managed to get back up of the

    floor and use my keyboard. Yes, Balmer is sooooo ugly, and I have been to so many weddings like you describe. I can just see Balmer coming in late picking over turkey carcasses for a little meat, and eating some of those rock hard rolls. And, that is exactly where Microsoft is with mobile operating systems. There is not much meat left on those bones, and Microsoft is way to slow and fat. They came in on some tired old Win32 / Office ponies, and even two of them together will not hold Balmer's weight much longer. The fat ugly bald guy is just looking really gross and those ponies are going to collapse under his weight.
    • The world doesn't need Windows Phone 7, or Microsoft

      @DonnieBoy <br><br>It must be real tough for someone like Ballmer to accept that his company is increasingly irrelevant to the world.<br><br>The fact that it all happened during his watch must be really weighting on him.<br><br>And I really pity the guy. It's a rare event to pity someone as filthy rich as Ballmer is but I do, I really pity Steve Ballmer.
      OS Reload
      • OR you

        OS Reload. I think the biggest thing with people like you and DB is that while they're raking in billions, the best you can do is come here an insult anyone who doesn't share your ideas of what people should be using.

        A safe bet would be that you guys live a mighty lonely life :)
        John Zern
      • @Zern: Ballmer is not the only one raking in billions

        Just a little South of the Texas border there are a few other guys raking in billions too.

        Raking in billions is not a good criteria to value one's worth. That would make Ballmer one of the best human beings alive but we both know he is not.
        OS Reload
      • John Zern: We know this whole smart phone / tablet thing is extremely

        painful for you. They are selling billions of devices that do not do Win32 or MS Office. That has to infuriate you.
    • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet


      Why Uncle Festor is still CEO, is beyond logic. Why their Board of Directors have yet to demand his ouster defies common sense. CEO's from other companies have been handed walking papers for a lot less. Until Ballmer is replaced by a true visionary with strong management skills, Microsoft is doomed to become a once great company. This guy is running them into the ground. Can anyone explain to me why is this clown still in charge?
    • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

      and I guess steve jobs is the poster boy for great looks, he looks like the chicken everyone plucked clean.
      • You Have A Heart Of Gold

        @dptcreations@... " and I guess steve jobs is the poster boy for great looks, he looks like the chicken everyone plucked clean."
        Maybe you should get a serious illness like cancer and see how good you look.
    • Here is what the analogy ignores....

      @DonnieBoy ...the realities of the mobile phone market. The buffet is replenished every two years when your contract expires. Just because the first time around you went for the roast beef, doesn't mean that you won't go for the chicken this time. Add to that the lack of brand loyalty and the lack of general public awareness. I know lots of people who know who their carrier is but have no idea what OS their phone runs on...and for that matter don't care.

      Example: "Google?s Android operating system has become the fastest growing smartphone platform in the world, sales quickly surpassing that of Apple?s iPhone. "

      Everyone forgets that Android only really took off less than one year ago with the release of the Droid.
  • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

    What a load of horse crap this article is! The WP7 is a very innovative phone. The new UI is absolutely wonderful. Its going to have a strong developer following because those who can already develop on the Microsoft Windows platform will be able to develop for WP7 as well.

    Instead of talking about the phone's actual features you went on some rant about how bad Microsoft is. Your analogies are pretty dumb and don't really apply here. WP7 is a brand new OS, the phones haven't been released yet and you are spewing out FUD to try to stop the WP7 steamroller from coming in. I know CBS Interactive told you guys to bash this phone. I know you can't stand competition, but you are just going to have to get used to it because WP7 is bringing competition back.

    You should stick to writing things that you know. Here's a hint: it doesn't include mobile phones.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

      @Loverock Davidson

      You sure do spend a lot of time reading and commenting on things you hate. But that's okay, I love you anyway. Like a sister.
      Scott Raymond
      • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

        @Scott Raymond
        You spend a lot of time writing about things you don't know about. What's your point?
        Loverock Davidson
      • I love you too lovey

        @Loverock Davidson<br><br>You may not be smart or good lookin' but that's OK. Even the ugly and stupid such as yourself has a right to be loved.<br><br>I love you like a sister lovey.
        OS Reload
      • Wow Scott, are we detecting some spent up hostilities

        in you? Android/Linux/Google "innovative"? Seriouslly? isn't Android just a cheap, fragmented clone of the iPhone? I can't seem to find too many peopl here at work that actually like their Android phones, but that's another story.

        But I'm sorry, so much of your blogg comes off as a quick "page hit" piece. Why not tell [b]why and how[/b] you came to the conclusions you did, might help shed some light on the real intent of your article.
        John Zern
      • John Zern: You are depressed. Apple makes a cheap clone of Windows tablets

        and the sell millions overnight. Worst of all, they do not do Win32 or MS Office and nobody cares, don't even seem to notice, and just KEEP RIGHT ON BUYING THEM LIKE NOTHING WAS WRONG. If you can't take it, you might look into an abandoned cave in Afghanistan.
      • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

        @John Zern,
        I'm a Microsoft guy with an Android phone. I haven't had the opportunity to check out the new WM7 phones, but I can say my Droid X rocks. It does anything an iPhone, and some things iPhone can't (like run flash). It's the fast growing segment for a reason, it's pretty sweet.
      • Dude, you're something else!

        @Scott Raymond Once-upon-a-time there were intelligent men whom wrote objectively. They'd cover both sides of the story. They took pride in what they did and they did it well. Unfortunately, Scott Raymond, you're not one of those men. You're neither intelligent nor objective and your name will not be remembered.

        I urge you to sit back and think of the legacy you'd like to leave behind. Ask yourself, "Do I want to get the most hits by controversy?" or "Do I want to write something that leaves an imprint upon the reader, providing him/her with food for thought, and enticing them to come back for more?" You talk about elegance and sophistication. You talk about creativity and innovation. How about you take those words and put them into your articles.
        General C#
    • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

      @Loverock Davidson
      It doesnt make any sense to say Microsoft doesnt innovates all time. Just coz someone dont like Microsoft , dont keep it doesnt innovates al the time. Windows Phone 7 is awesome and it wil rock for sure. Android is also something which was brought from someother's work and not built by their own.
    • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

      @Loverock Davidson Haha Loverock is upset. Truth hurts doesn't it?
      • RE: Windows Phone 7: Arriving Late to the Smartphone Buffet

        @cyberslammer More humorous than anything else. ZDNet needs a blogger competency test before they turn some of these people loose. :-)