If Microsoft launches Windows Phone 7 and doesn’t promote it, will it sell?

Let me start with a disclaimer that Microsoft and their carrier partners are indeed running ads for the new OS and top websites are now littered with ads featuring Windows phone 7. That being said ,they are still doing a horrible job selling the product where it matters most, at brick and mortar stores as  evidenced by reports of wide shortages across the country. They have had months to prepare for this which makes it totally inexcusable.

Today I went to the local at&t store to check out the devices and luckily, they had the Samsung Focus and HTC  Surround to play with. Entering the store, a huge banner hung from the ceiling advertising the new OS but it was easy to miss. Then I walked over to where the two phones were displayed and encountered my first disappointment. First of all, these phones were in section generically labeled “smartphones” such that it would never pique any casual observers interest to try out the phones.

Secondly, these phones shared the same section with a Palm Pre which made it even more confusing because it diminished the uniqueness of the brand. Contrast this to the iPhone stand which sets itself apart from the other phones.

Thirdly, my greatest fear was realized the moment I turned the phones on. Although they were working models, they contained no preloaded content whatsoever. Windows Phone 7 lives and dies by its deep integration with various social and online services without which it is just a bunch pretty looking tiles on a screen. If you have ever demoed an iPad, they come preloaded with content so that the prospective user can imagine themselves owning the devices. It is called staging in real estate and it is the most important aspect when attempting to convince someone to purchase a product. They have to envision how it fits in their daily lives.

Here is what I think Microsoft should do. They should start by getting on the same page with their OEM Partners and get these devices in stock. Next, they need to work with the carrier stores and set up dedicated shelves with a distinct design and logo for Windows Phone 7. These shelves should have an LCD screen continuously running a demo of the OS with a sign pointing to “try out” the phones. Third and most importantly, Microsoft needs to set up a demo account for all the display phones that come preloaded with content Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live e.t.c to fully populate the People hub. There should be a bunch of music and videos together with a working Zune pass, email in the inbox and some text messages. The games section should be loaded with premier games like The Harvest and Need for Speed and of course Xbox extras. As for third party software, Netflix, Foursquare, YouTube, Messenger, Last FM, Yelp and all the top apps in other platforms should be present to give new users to the OS the full experience of the platform.

I can’t help but compare this to the perfect execution that the Xbox team did with Kinect. They had tours around the country, they had the product on major TV shows, gave away devices and finally on the big day, they launched it on the biggest stage in the World, Times Square in New York City. Because of their efforts, the product is selling out due to brisk demand and not an artificial shortage caused by supply problems. Check out the video below of the the launch in New York and witness marketing done right. I hope they can send some of that mojo WP7’s way