I’ve been a loyal iPhone customer since its launch in 2007, with just one brief foray into Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 platform when it first came out. They redefined the cellphone industry and their focus on profits rather than handset sales has paid off.
RIM is all but dead and for my money at least, there is not – yet – an Android device that competes in quality and battery life for what Apple are offering. Whether you like Android or not is a separate point, and it does have a lot of things going for it and a loyal following, particularly amongst the technical community. Plus, of course the iPhone is expensive.
The thing is though, the cellphone market has a habit of reinventing itself every few years. Nokia, RIM and now Apple have at different times dominated the industry – for 5-10 years at a time. Apple has reached a dominant position and this means that everyone is gunning for their slot.
And enter Microsoft with a completely rewritten Windows Phone 7 platform. As I’ve written before, Microsoft have created an Phone which works like we think. It’s truly social and integrated with Facebook, Twitter and you move effortlessly from pane to pane – unlike the silos within which Apple’s iOS operates. What’s more its integration for email far surpasses what Apple, RIM and Google are doing.
There are essentially two problems with Windows Phone 7. The first is that it’s immature. Microsoft haven’t been agile in releasing new features and the over-the-air updates have been fraught with problems – which is all very reminiscent of early iPhone releases.
The second problem has been more endemic, which is the lack of a decent handset with decent battery life. Sorry HTC and Samsung, but your handsets suck. They’re too big and clunky and they don’t feel like a device that I’d like to hold. And at the price of some of the high-end handsets, you may as well have an iPhone.
Enter Nokia. Purveyor of quality handsets with great build quality and a reputation for excellent battery life. What then if Microsoft and Nokia co-innovate. What if Windows Phone 7 – with bugs fixed and better power consumption was available on a phone as nice as the new Nokia N8? I’ve held a N8 in my hand and it is a quality device – one I’d be happy to own. Shame the platform it is built on is obsolete at launch.
This combined with a decent number of apps (and the developers will come) and Microsoft’s reputation for integration and security may well woo the Enterprise IT community, if not the consumer alike. And from a technical perspective all is well.
The problem unfortunately is that Microsoft and Nokia have become political and social internal disasters – with many levels of management that throttle innovation and agility.
To Microsoft & Nokia: Create a skunk labs for this. Cut the crap out of your organisations and focus only on delivery. Prevent the management levels from stifling innovation or you won’t deliver. If you don’t deliver, remember what will happen. Nokia will become a dinosaur producing cheap mass-produced handsets. And Microsoft, your Windows Phone 7 platform will become another expensive product failure.
To Apple: Be worried. The iOS platform isn’t social and it’s already technologically behind what Microsoft is doing. Despite the fact that you have the advantage of creating beautiful products and a mature platform that works, you will lose this advantage when someone else innovates. And you’re not innovating fast enough with iOS. Use some of the $75bn and rewrite it from the ground up if you need to – it’s OK if it takes 5 years in the making. iOS will last that long, but it is on a meteoric rise, which will inevitably have a fall.