Microsoft spent hundreds of millions to shift gears, staff up a new Windows Phone team, create new and more locked-down smartphone reference designs and launch/advertise the new Windows Phone 7s.
It seems the one thing that money hasn't been able to buy the Redmondians is sufficient supply.
In Europe, when phones launched at the end of October, there were reports of device shortages. In the U.S. and Canada, it sounds like the situation has been largely the same. In the U.S., device shortage is more surprising, given that many customers here are locked in with Verizon and Sprint -- carriers that didn't offer any Windows Phone 7 devices this week because the WP7 platform doesn't yet support CDMA.
So what happened? Did the carriers and handset providers not believe enough in Windows Phone 7 to make/stock enough phones? Were there component shortages? Last minute glitches in phone makers' software? (The report of alleged problems with the Dell Venue Pros leading to a delay in availability are being investigated by Dell, a spokesperson told me today.)
The Street.com reported earlier this week (based on a single unnamed market researcher) that 40,000 Windows Phone 7s were sold on Monday in the U.S. (Presumably, that means there were at least that many phones in stock.)
Those kinds of numbers, as well as widespread device shortages, were the order of the day when Palm Pre launched in the summer of 2009, with 45,000 to 50,000 phones reportedly sold in the first weekend of availability. Motorola was believed to have sold 100,000 Droids in the initial two days of sales.
I asked the Softies for an update on the reported WP7 shortages. A spokesperson sent the following statement:
“As is sometimes the case with the launch of a new product, initial supplies are tight. We understand some customers are disappointed to learn their local stores are already out of stock. We hear their concerns and are working diligently with our partners to bring more phones to stores in the coming weeks.”
While reports of AT&T and T-Mobile stores with only a handful (or no) Windows Phone 7 models for sale are disconcerting, I found anecdotes regarding the actual "launch" of the new phones to be equally, if not more, so.
I remember a number of tablet PC enthusiasts complaining about Microsoft's failure to put real marketing muscle behind the tablet as one of the main reasons that platform never took off. They had eerily similar complaints: Insufficient stock, lack of working demo units, not enough pre-training of sales people.
Yes, it is early days for WP7. And Microsoft is counting on demand to grow alongside supply. But how are Microsoft and its partners going to get even close to the alleged target of 30 million WP7 phones sold in its first year unless they get more working phones in retail stores so as to attract consumers who haven't been Microsoft mobile believers?