Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Haters: Why Some Want Windows Phone To Fail
Posted by Jon Westfall in "Windows Phone Talk" @ 10:00 AM
Over the past few days numerous sites have published their thoughts on the Windows Phone Technical Preview, and while some have been pretty negative, on the whole, most have been pretty positive (e.g., Paul Thurrott calls it "Rock Solid", Matthew Miller calls it "Extremely stable and fluid", Daniel Dumas believes it has made "Major, major improvements" and even Joshua Topolsky in a review that at best is lukewarm, refers to it as "an example of what a next-gen phone platform could be"). Everybody agrees that it's a radical departure from Windows Mobile as we know it now, and it seems most find that to be a good thing. That being said, it appears to me that there is a deep desire amongst some out there to see Microsoft fail, to see Windows Phone falter, and to ultimately have Microsoft leave the mobile space entirely. Personally, I think the "haters" motives behind this can be summed up in two words: Bitterness and Fear.
Who is a hater? Well it's someone who, no matter what, will argue against something. Don't get me wrong - haters aren't those making legitimate arguments against a space (so the people I cited above I wouldn't classify as haters). This piece is aimed at the haters and what motivates them. So let's take a look at these two words, and why I believe they sum up most of the Anti-Windows-Phone-7 sentiment.Before I jump into "Bitterness", I first need to give you a bit of my perspective on Windows Phone and the mobile space in general. In my role here at Windows Phone Thoughts as the News Editor, I'm responsible for assigning news items to the other editors, and as thus I see quite a bit of news flow into my inbox and RSS reader on a daily basis. It's not an easy job picking and choosing what should be assigned, but it does give a somewhat unfiltered view of what people are saying. Therefore, I believe I'm being as unbiased as possible in what I write below. Trust me - many of the people I know who work for Microsoft wouldn't be happy to acknowledge some of the things I'll talk about, but they'd all agree that what I'm saying is true. Some may point to my MVP status and argue that I must be somewhat biased toward Windows Phone 7, and to that I'll say the following: I am excited at what Microsoft has put together for this version. However honestly, I'm excited overall at the mobile space these days. In my gadget closet I have Windows Mobile devices, android devices, and an iPhone 3GS, all of which I've used extensively. Google and Apple are doing cool things with their OSes, that's undeniable, and not something I'm going to say. In general I see a lot of potential winners in the space, and no need for "losers". Do we really want one OS to dominate?
So let's get into Bitterness, the first thing that I think pushes the "haters" of Windows Mobile/Phone:
Microsoft So Seriously Messed Up The Past 3 Years!
OK, how's that for the truth? Windows Mobile was moving along quite well until about version 6.0. At that point, as Microsoft was debating how to evolve their OS into the next logical progression, Apple jumped into the game and got everyone excited about touch screens again. Microsoft appeared confident that consumers would eventually abandon touch and yearn for D-Pads and buttons, something I doubt many internally believed. But they had to advocate for it - their OS was nearly useless for touch, a stylus was always required.
This sent Microsoft into a three year "funk" that caused many who championed the device and operating system to abandon in droves. If you don't believe hard core users were shaken substantially, I'll relate this small observation. At my first MVP summit, in 2008, I was surprised to see how many Windows Mobile MVPs (I won't name names...) were using an iPhone as their primary device, or even a RIM device! These people were perhaps the most passionate fans of Windows Mobile on the planet, yet they couldn't ignore the competitors. Most of the Windows Mobile MVPs using other devices worked in the mobile space - they knew they couldn't just turn a blind eye and champion Win Mo over everyone else - it would be career suicide. Unfortunately, that's what Microsoft did for quite awhile.
This ignorance of the way the market was moving, coupled with numerous shifts in management and leadership within the Windows Mobile group, stalled Microsoft and ultimately created the stereotype of Microsoft as the "old man at a young man's party", a staunch stalwart who refused to change. After three years, many of it's most hard core supporters began to become bitter about the whole situation, so it's no surprise that most of the talking heads on the internet turned Anti-Microsoft, Pro-Anything-Else (Or blatantly Pro-Apple!).
So people were mad at Microsoft, and now that a product is being released soon that is truly revolutionary, they want to see it fail. Perhaps it's so they won't be lured back into a mildly abusive relationship with a company they don't know if they can trust to keep evolving the platform. Or maybe it's just because they don't want to leave their new loves who have treated them well thus far. Or maybe the bitter emotion isn't the real cause, maybe they're afraid of what Windows Phone 7 might mean for their platform of choice.
OMG - If Windows Phone 7 Does Well, My Phone OS Will Do Poorly!
Remember what I said about "It doesn't have to be a game of winners and losers?", well let's revisit that. While it is true that there is only so much market share, one undeniable fact remains: people are different (trust me, I study "individual differences" for a living!). Not everyone wants the same thing in a phone. Apple users and iTunes devotees will probably gravitate toward the iPhone. Google users, when they come out of their clouds, will most likely want to use an Android phone. Those who use Windows and are still kicking around the old Hotmail account, or are on the corporate Exchange server, will hopefully find a Microsoft product to be home. All of these people are still consumers, and thus all of the major phone operating systems will want to appeal to the consumer side as well, which is fine. But in the end, what would be so bad about having a consumer phone with excellent Apple/iTunes support, a consumer phone with excellent Bing/Live support, and a consumer phone with excellent Google Cloud support co-existing?
Now I'll admit that if I were Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, or Eric Schmidt, my idea of a great world may well be having everyone under the sun using my phone (Mike Lazaridis might just pray for a world to go back to using email as it's only electronic communication form, I suspect). But for consumers, competition is good. Repeat that a few times if it hasn't sunk in; competition, which means companies have to compete for your business by offering new and innovative features, is GOOD. Got it? It's not bad for consumers that Android offers built-in Wi-Fi hotspot/tethering and thus makes the iPhone look antiquated. It may be bad for Apple, but certainly not for us. Likewise it isn't bad that Google and Apple have kicked Microsoft around for a few years now - it has caused Microsoft to stop and realize that what they were doing wouldn't work, and that only a radical departure would ever hope to save it's phone product. It isn't even bad for consumers that the Kin failed so spectacularly - it paints a clear picture for everyone else on what pitfalls to avoid in both implementation and planning of a phone product. Any time a company needs to change in response to competitor's good ideas, it's good for consumers.
And if you're just one of those people who gets all upset whenever your platform looks bad, even when it's deserved? even when it's good for the mobile space as a whole? Then do us all a favor and at least admit that's what drives you. Proudly say "I am an iPhone user and Apple can do no wrong", people will respect you more for admitting it.
So There You Have It...
Windows Phone 7 is far from perfect, but one shouldn't deny that it is a major step, and if implemented properly it could bring Microsoft back from the edge of Mobile death. But to rip on it claiming to be objective, when in fact you're either bitter, fearful, or an unabashed fan-boy, is just annoying. Take it from a guy who wants both Microsoft, Apple, and Google to succeed - competition is good for us, bashing something just to hear yourself speak is not.
Jon Westfall is a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School, and overall technological enthusiast. When not writing for Thoughts, he's generally writing academic articles or fiction, or just hanging out with his awesome wife at home.
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