Great Debate lost: What will it take for Windows Phone to be the 3rd platform?

I argued for the huge growth of Windows Phone in 2012 and lost this week, but I am left wondering how Microsoft and Nokia can realize serious growth of a fantastic platform. Do you have any ideas for how Windows Phone can become the 3rd platform?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

In my first ZDNet Great Debate about the new iPhone the audience voted overwhelmingly against me, yet Jason declared me the winner. Well, this week I debated Larry Dignan on Nokia and Windows Phone 7 and was declared the loser, even with 3/4 of the audience voting with me. Actually, after debating Larry I would have to say I too agree now more with him. Windows Phone will likely grow, but the evidence so far is that it will be a long haul for Microsoft.

Larry brought up some great points during the debate and the moderator, Jason Hiner, took one of the discussions further and stated that rebranding Windows Phone as Xphone would have helped the platform. As stated in our debate, I do think that the Windows brand was something that hurt Windows Phone in 2011. Windows Mobile, the older version of Microsoft's mobile OS, was not popular with consumers and gained a reputation for crashing and spotty performance. I understand Microsoft conducted research and user studies to determine that the Windows brand was well known and recognizable, but I don't think it works when you are talking about smartphones and they really should have done something like they did with the Xbox. Zune had its own brand and failed, but I think that had much more to do with the fact that Microsoft forgot to tell anyone there was a fantastic Zune product out there and available.

Nokia and their adoption of Windows Phone was also a part of the debate and I think they will have a big impact on bringing users to the platform, but more so outside the U.S. Nokia has very little name recognition in the U.S. anymore. I remember back in the late 90s it seemed that everyone who had a mobile phone had a Nokia phone, but then they gave up on the US over the last 10 years or so and lost that name recognition. The low cost Lumia 710 launches with T-Mobile in early January and even though this is the smallest of the four major carriers I think the phone will do well and start getting people to think about Nokia. The Nokia Lumia 800 is a fantastic piece of hardware and that model, or one with even better specs, should launch on U.S. carriers in early 2012 too.

I've stated here numerous times that Windows Phone is a fantastic operating system and one that I personally prefer, but for some reason it still has less than 2% of the market share. People need to try out the platform to see how good it is and I think Nokia will help get devices into people's hands. We will see growth in 2012, but I agree that it is likely not to be "huge" and hopefully Microsoft is in it for the long haul.

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