That is the question that was posted over on OS News today. They refer to a post written by the former Windows Phone 7 General Manger, Charlie Kindel. Kindel believes that it is because Microsoft exerts too much power over the platform. Google allows anyone anywhere to install Android on anything, for free. The only limitations they impose relate to whether or not the device has access to the Android Market. Apple allows nobody to install anything anywhere on any device unless it is an Apple product. For Windows Phone 7, Microsoft takes a stab at being somewhere in between total chaos and total control. They don’t manufacture the hardware and allow any company to do that as long as they follow Microsoft’s guidelines about what the hardware must included and how it is upgraded. Since its introduction a little over a year ago, Windows Phone 7 has gained little traction as a platform. Kindel believes that Microsoft’s platform control creates friction between it, the carriers, and the hardware manufacturers and thus nobody wants to market it. I think its more basic: there just isn’t room in the marketplace.
The OS News article mentions this as well, but I want to delve a little bit deeper. The mobile market, while new, is actually quite mature from a platform standpoint. Apple created it in 2007 with the release of the iPhone. The iPhone was new, innovative, and game changing. It was also limited. It was available for one carrier in one model with one set of applications. Even after Apple introduced the App Store in 2008, the iPhone was only available for one carrier. Each new application had to be approved by Apple – if they didn’t like it, there was no other way for users to get it. Google took advantage of those needs in the market and addressed them – multiple form factors, multiple devices, loosely controlled ecosystem. At the moment Android sells more units, Apple makes more money, and everybody else is fighting to stay alive. Why? Because between the two platforms, the majority of needs have already been met.
Windows Phone 7 is an interesting platform. People say that the Metro UI is clean, non-distracting, and efficient. I don’t find it that sexy but agree that it is fast and has some innovative features. But I wouldn’t get one because I’m already satisfied with my iPhone. If I wanted more “choice” I might go get one, but then again, why wouldn’t I just get an Android phone? There are more options and more apps. One of the issues for Windows Phone 7 and any other mobile platform (Blackberry for instance) is that you need a compelling platform to get apps, but you need apps to have a compelling platform. It was easy for iOS because Apple invented the app store model as we know it today. It was less easy, but still attainable for Android because they were the only modern platform available as an alternative to the iOS. Windows Phone 7 came to the game too late. By then Android was already huge. It wouldn’t make sense for people to switch to a new platform unless it offered a lot of improvements over what was already available. This is what the iOS and Android do for people who have flip phones and BlackBerries. They open a world of new possibilities. Windows Phone 7 could do the same, but it just doesn’t have the app ecosystem – why wouldn’t someone just use the platforms with more available apps?
I like Windows Phone 7, but I think it was too little, too late. It doesn’t offer a compelling-enough argument for current smartphone users to switch nor does it offer a compelling reason for non-smartphone users to not choose iOS or Android. And Microsoft still doesn’t have a tablet – something that they might be able to make some inroads on (Android tablets are doing terrible in comparison to the iPad). Nokia made a horrible decision to choose to use Windows Phone 7 as their platform of the future, for many reasons, one being that the platform barely had a pulse at that point (although their other options weren’t good either – Symbain was crap and everyone already sells Android phones). I don’t think Nokia (or RIM) will be around in the mobile landscape five years from now. I just don’t see how. The same goes for Windows Phone 7 (or 8 or 9). I think it will end up in tech heaven with Windows Mobile, Symbian, and WebOS.
So in summary, Windows Phone 7 hasn’t taken off because the runway is clogged with a big green Android jet and a big white iOS jet. There is just no room for it to get enough momentum to get off the ground.