Diverse IT pundits agree on one thing – Windows Phone 7 to be announced on Monday is going to be a train wreck. The only question is how big and how fast. First, eWeek establishes why Windows Phone 7 will be way behind the state of the smartphone art with this ten point presentation. Now Microsoft will argue that many of these deficiencies will be resolved in future updates – but cut and paste, true multi-tasking, IE7 as browser, and no-Flash support among other “missing features” would have gotten RIM Torch or HTC EVO laughed out of town by the Gadget Press. Speaking of RIM, its Playbook tablet is setting a very high standard for tablets which in turn impacts the smartphone business because tablets can and will quickly become phone conversation enabled. In short, the heat is on high technically in the mobile marketplace.
And CIO reports that Goldman Sachs, in downgrading Microsoft stock from Buy to Neutral on the eve of the announcement, is warning that such trends as Late to market, Missing features, Competitors with better devices are symptomatic of a clash between Redmonds consumer vs enterprise development cultures. Goldman say fix this or expect continued conflict in the market. And finally Gartner sees only a small uptick for perhaps a year and then Windows Mobile declining even further in the market. In short, Microsoft is going to need a turnaround Mobile announcement on Monday.
How Microsoft can get its Mobile Mojo Back
If there is one consensus among analysts about Microsoft – is that Redmond knows how to package and market. The second fact is MSFT has oodles of cash – about $41B at last quarterly report. Finally Microsoft Research has innovations++ squirreled away in its recesses – just waiting for a Bing-Go like signal. So don’t count Microsoft out at the Mobile Launch. Here are some marketing tricks available to Redmond:
1)Much moolah will allow Microsoft to offer its phones at a 40%-off reduced price – until the first update to Windows Phone 7 users will be able to buy at a 30-50% discount. Microsoft already prices all its desktops and laptops at half or better than the correspondingly equipped Mac Books -so just repeat the ploy for Windows Phone 7 but with a “retire date” for the discount.
2)Windows Phone 7 will be behind Android, iPhone, and RIM in a number of missing features that Redmond says it will have available in the next quarter or two. So keep the purchase price down until then plus offer that first software update to Windows Phone 7 as free including any associated hardware upgrades. Guaranteed future-proofing for a half year or more.
3)Microsoft will be behind all the major vendors in the number of apps available. So give away for the next half year, the users choice of 3-5 free apps. This will help launch the sales of phone units, will attract developers whose downloaded apps will be paid for by Redmond, and will get the gadget community all excited about ranking the 5 Best Apps for Windows Phone 7 buyers. Its free marketing excitement. Behind the scene pay the top 3 apps a bonus.
4)Relax the Microsoft Marketplace exclusive selling place – allow other selected retailers to get into the Windows Phone 7 retail space and help drum up business.
5)Make sure that Windows Phone 7 has direct connect capabilities with Zune, Xbox and Kinect – be these Wifi, apps, or some other combo; allow users to interact and move among the Microsoft consumer stable as easily as possible. Playdown the lack of true multi-tasking with these interconnects.
6)Get Adobe Flash running on Windows Phone 7 ASAP – Flash has 3 big benefits. Hundreds of thousands of games and apps become nearly instantly available; filling in the big app void with Apple. It also has the possibility of discrediting Apple and Android if Windows Phone 7 runs Flash faster than Android and much better than “Mr. Innovations” Steve Jobs ever gave credit for.
7)Up the on-board CPU and memory – Microsoft is famous for winning by using the next-gen hardware upgrades. Follow the old playbook; speaking of which RIM is doing that to iPad and Android tablets with its RIM Playbook using dual core chips.
8)Tethering and Syncing are the near-futures in Mobile – be there with some of that capability from Ford Sync or Microsoft Research and match/beat Android/Apple feature sets.
9)Offer a good deal with broadband providers – again, do this on a short term, get acquainted basis of a half year or so. Just make sure that the sales numbers for 4Q2010 are very competitive.
10)Integrate, integrate, integrate – make the Windows Phone 7 devices the remote or portal to the Cloud, Exchange, Office, Zune, Xbox, Sharepoint, SQLServer etc. And surprise people with connections to 3rd party services like Amazon EC2, Lotus Notes, and others. Become the point of integration for Web, Cloud, personal computing.
In sum, Microsoft has a number of options to avoid what appears to be a potential trainwreck with Windows Phone 7. But its tightrope walking skills may have atrophied because Microsoft has not had to do that in 20 years – not since the Windows 3.0 days. Steve and company may have just forgotten why as much as how.