Editorial: The dumb phone wars and Microsft

Why is it that everytime I read something from a different tech page, there is something about the smart phone wars? I don’t see any muskets or bayonettes, and I surely don’t see any dead lives. All I see is a lot of pundits discussing which smart phone will come out on top in an almost Highlander-esque fashion. The results are usually similar: people disagreeing with the article and calling for the author to go back in a basement and die somewhere (that could possibly be the only human “death” in this war). So, why am I writing another post that has to do with the “smart phone” wars? Because most articles miss the huge and critical point. Read on to find out and see how Windows Phone can mount a comeback.

Every single article, every single user, every single pundit has defined that the smart phone war focuses on the big hitter: Apple, Google, RIM, Windows Phone, Palm, Symbian, and of course Meego. Lots of competition when it’s really written down, but the main thing is currently Apple and Google are vying for the “top” dog with Google gaining momentum almost daily. But the current climate is something that many readers are aware of. Let’s take you back to a time where things weren’t so crowded; the year 2006 where the smartphone client was a different game. Smartphones were considered “business-like” with only a few major competitors worldwide: Windows, Palm, RIM, and Symbian. Yes, it looks quite like the current landscape with Apple and Google, but fundamentally, there is a huge difference. That difference is demographic.

I remember when I wanted my second smartphone being about 19 years old. The looks I received from several people were hilarious, not because of my interest in a smart phone, but because of the demographic of users that had smartphones in 2006. They were older businessmen and anyone that deviated from the model got strange looks. Usually, the user was referred to a java dumb phone that actually played MP3s and received internet and text. While frivolous of an anecdote that is, a closer look reveals something quite interesting – smart phones were not for average consumers.

The type of phone that dominated the average consumer was the dumb phone because the battery life was good, it was simple to use and many didn’t really care about the T9 method to text. It worked and it worked well. Not a lot of questions were asked by users and if they were, it was usually a drop in the water or a bad fall. Heck, let’s be honest, those dumb phones were darn durable and easy to use! Best of all, they were relatively cheap.

In June 2007, the iphone came and of course, the smartphone industry changed. Whether many like to admit it or not, the iphone did a lot of revolutionary things. Specifically, the price point of smartphones drove down to affordable on a two year contract, removed the stylus in favor of a capacitive touch screen and made the smartphone app centric. The app centric paradigm, for all the limitations it served, provided users with options with very little searching, very little maneuvering. It was simple, it was efficient,
it was dumb.

In many ways, the iphone slowly began to take a market to average consumers that were dominated by dumb phones leading to increases in Apple marketshare. Fast forward to the current and the smartphone wars are different as now Android has seemingly taken the marketshare for dumb phones because of its fragmentation amongst different hardware requirements. Of course, that further drives down smartphone pricing making it even more affordable and the preferred OS of choice (removing arguments of google brand loyalty and open source arguments leading to its momentum).

If you’re still reading this far, the message is clear; the smart phone war isn’t between different smart phones with varying degrees of hardware, the battle is with who is getting the dumb phone users. A market Windows could not get even with the Verizon Touch Pro 2 and the HD2 dominating sales for Fall 2009 and Spring 2010. And as we all know, Windows has changed itself to a simpler OS full of features, not apps. So users won’t have to look far for apps such as productivity, facebook, MSN integration and a slew of others. Furthermore, the OS is backed up by a cohesive user experience and user interface so the user is accustomed to metro ui and consistency is shown throughout the OS and through its applications.

However, it is the simplicity that makes Windows Phone almost a really good target for the next big thing. Unfortunately, the hardware specifications and OEM vendors leave a lot to be desired. Or does it?. Yes, we all know that the majority of OEM vendors hot dogg’d many of the devices that we are currently using, but taking a look at pricing, windows phones are being practically given away; much like some lower budget android devices running between 528 mhz and 800 mhz with similar screen resolution. The OS is also fast and snappy for the similar pricing (at least in America and a few other areas of the world).

The major reason why Microsoft isn’t poised to be in the lead lies in two reasons: customer service agents and memories. Several other sites have reported that there is a bias against Microsoft phones for sales that is undercutting Microsoft. That is a fact. No matter how many polls are taken, the results will be the same amongst customer service agents: Microsoft bad. The bad, is due to memories of slow machines, resistive touch screens, and in general a sluggish OS by the majority of users. But Windows Phone is a different breed.

Time and time again, one thing I will always say is that Microsoft is poised to win the smart phone wars, because it is stupidly simple. As history has shown, stupidity (or for lack of better words, ease of function and program management) and a tiny bit of popularity can go a long way. It’s worked for Apple and it’s currently working for Google. With Nokia becoming a partner in Windows Phone, the future is pretty darn bright for a variety of reasons. Specifically, Windows Phones can permeate the market at different hardware specs (chassis 1 or 2) and because first gen snapdragon use is aging, the “large” hardware aspect of it drives the price down. In essence, fragmentation is being created for mid range – low range Windows Phones running first gen snapdragon processors that wouldn’t be priced so high versus higher range future generation snapdragon processors. That’s genius! Simply put, the phones becomes more affordable driving down price point of Microsoft phones giving further availability

The only thing left is popularity. And as much as we dislike to admit it, Nokia is popular, so are many of the OEMs that are signed up with Windows Phone. The proverbial seeds are there and Microsoft has planted the seeds quite well. It may not be this year, but I expect Microsoft to be a major OS in the dumb phone wars in two years. And by 2015, Microsoft could very well win the it big; if not sooner.