Charlie Kindel is wrong about Why Windows Phone has not taken off

Charlie Kindel, previously a General Manager for the Windows Phone team,  has written a short article on why Android  is successful and Windows Phone 7 so far has not been.

In the article he blames Microsoft’s insistence on a specific consistent spec, and for insisting on control, both with the aim of preventing fragmentation.

He basically goes on to claim Android whores itself out to carriers and OEMs, “reducing friction” for both, and thereby earns promotion by carriers, which drive sheep-like consumers to buy the devices.

Google has been wildly successful with Android (at least in terms of units) because Android was built to reduce friction between all sides of the market. It ‘bows down’ to the device manufactures AND the carriers. It enabled device manufactures to do what they do best (build lots of devices). It enabled carriers to do what they do best (market lots of devices). It enabled users tons of choice. My hypothesis is that it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts.

I think the article provides a bit of insight into why the Windows Phone 7 team (which Charlie has left some time ago), can not understand why Windows Phone 7 is struggling.

The central secret for the success of Android is that it provided a cheap iPhone copy.  It is as simple as that, and it is no wonder the most successful Android OEM is Samsung’, who’s TouchWiz UI most closely copies the iPhone.  When TouchWiz was on Windows Mobile it also helped sell a huge number of Samsung Omnia 1s and 2s.

Of course things have moved on slightly since then, and there is some truth to the virtuous circle of evil which Charlie describes – Android OEMs now have very good relationships with carriers, Google gives Android OEMs the freedom to copy Apple as freely as they want to, and has not attempted to prevent this practice, and delaying OS updates has always been a good way for OEMs and carriers to force consumers to buy a new generation of devices, a practice we saw numerous times in the Windows Mobile days.

But the truth is it is the consumers who are driving the success of Android, and it remains because they are cheap iPhone clones.

Microsoft went out of their way to create a UI which is the complete antithesis of that on the iPhone. The UI is slick, well researched and a joy to use.  It is however not what consumers are after, which is why Microsoft is losing the battle at the carrier store shelves, not because carriers are not pushing the handsets.

The legacy of Windows Mobile bugginess and high support costs also throws a long shadow over Windows Phone carrier relationships, and poor sales so far continues to make things very difficult. I am pretty convinced Microsoft had to buy back a large inventory of HTC Surrounds which they are now giving away free to developers for example.

But in the end it comes down to Microsoft not giving consumers what they want, which is the iPhone for cheap.  How Microsoft can get out of this bind is a bit of a mystery – with Windows Phone Microsoft created high art, when the consumers wanted a soap opera – it is a real pickle.

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