Editorial: Banking on consumer stupidity is a losing proposition

imageI expect to see Windows Phone 7 sales to fall of a cliff over the next few weeks and months.

On this site we posted numerous articles on the suicide of not upgrading Windows Phone 7 handsets to Windows Phone 8, and in the wake of the excitement of the Windows Phone 8 announcement that message was somewhat lost, but even now after it has been revealed that there will be no real upgrade, all the reasons still hold true.

There are few reasons to buy a Windows Phone 7 handset now.  It will not be forward compatible with the great games that will be released in less than 6 months, besides the Windows Phone 8 launcher skin, it will not get any of the other Windows Phone 8 upgrades, such as IE10, the DataSmart, SkyDrive music player etc. Given the reliance on the Wallet app for in-app purchases, it is not even clear that this developer feature will be supported by Windows Phone 7 handsets either.

Let me repeat – at this stage those in the know are insisting only the start screen will come to Windows Phone 7 handsets. This issue is not open to argument.

This effectively makes Windows Phone 7.8 abandonware, much like Symbian or Windows Mobile, and if there is one lesson that can be learned from the experience of those operating systems is that consumers are not stupid. The have the same average IQ as anyone else, and when they go into a shop to buy a smartphone and they are told the operating system has been discontinued, they will not buy the phone.  This is as valid in the west as in so-called Emerging Markets.  Just because buyers are from poorer countries does not mean they will spend their money on unsupported cast offs from the west. In fact, because resources are less people do more research before spending money on what is often an unsubsidized phone.

While I expect Microsoft believes Windows Phone 8 will bring the volume Windows Phone 7 has only been slowly building, I suspect strongly that sales will have to start off at 0 again, much like Windows Phone 7 did after Windows Mobile was discontinued, and with the reinforced reputation of repeatedly abandoning their user base.

So while Microsoft may expect to sell 10 million Windows Phone 8 handsets in Q4 2012, I predict 2.

What can Microsoft do to change this? Commit to bring the non-hardware dependent features of Windows Phone 8 to Windows Phone 7, and do it quickly, before the good buzz of last week fades.

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