Die, Windows! Die!

Published on Author Eli Fennell

It’s official… Microsoft is closing down the “Where’s My Windows Phone Update” website, whose purpose was to put pressure on the carriers to deliver Windows Phone updates in a timely manner.  It was their own equivalent, in a manner of speaking, of Android’s Open Handset Alliance.

It worked, they felt the pressure, and they cracked under it, and decided they didn’t want it, didn’t need it, weren’t gonna do it, and if Microsoft kept pushing them, they would never let Windows Phone gain market share, not through their efforts, at least.  Oh, they’d all deny it of course, but it’s true… the carriers hate Windows Phone!

They hate it so much, that they are determined to relegate it to a minor status at best, an also-ran, against the new favorites, Apple and Google.  They know some things that Microsoft didn’t: there’s no room in the market for another iPhone, there is no room for another Android, and there is even less room for the Island of Doctor Moreau hybrid approach that Microsoft adopted.

It’s not just that they wanted Microsoft to keep its hands off and let them start having some skin in the game they own.  At this point nothing short of an open source Windows Phone would appeal to the carriers as much as Android, and that ain’t happening.  They have decided Microsoft is to be shut out of the game they were more than just a day late and a dollar short to playing.

I already see the inevitable outcome of this process: Windows Phones become pieces of garbage.  Do you know why the carriers can’t get those updates out in a timely fashion?  Because they’d wreck their own phones!  You can’t just take Windows Phone and slap it onto any old smartphone and guarantee it works smoothly.  Even if they gave you pure Windows Phone updates, they run on too many devices to risk the well being of their customers’ devices with wild experimentation.

Do you remember when Windows Vista outraged many customers because the hardware vendors didn’t maintain their standards and threw it on substandard devices that ran as efficiently as snails?  How about when a Windows Phone update bricked 10% of Windows Phones last year?  This is what happens when you rush software updates!  And why do they even need so many updates in the first place?  The answer is rushed software, by a company that waited too long and had to jump in before they were ready.

The reason the carriers don’t want to do this anymore, more than anything else, is that they and the manufacturers are already making Android devices that sell by the hundreds of millions, and they want to focus on the updates for Android.  The Open Handset Alliance is strangling them out, to get those Android updates out as quickly as possible.  Okay, this is just a theory on my part, but it makes sense.

It’s not perfect yet, but hopefully going forward from Ice Cream Sandwich it will be much smoother in terms of Android update cycles from the major carriers, but of course, there will always be issues, because again they have to make sure those updates don’t crash your devices, even under unusual circumstances.  If they’re not selling many Windows Phones, why would they want to be burdened dealing with Windows Phone updates, which are based on software code they don’t have free access to?

And their strategy makes no sense.  People like iPhone!  Really, seriously, Steve Ballmer, I promise you, this is true, people like the iPhone!  Oh, not everyone likes it enough to buy one, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not sold on the idea of the iPhone and looking elsewhere for an equivalent alternative.

Having to train staff and customers on how to use your stuff because it is utterly unfamiliar is not a good way to sell stuff.  Users see the iPhone everywhere, with its familiar almost-desktop layout of homescreens and apps, and then they go into a carrier store or wherever, and they see Android, and they see it’s similar, but has something else that attracts them, like a feature, a price, etc…

Even if they had adopted a more traditional layout, borrowing more from the design aesthetic trend for smartphones that Apple created, the update problem would still have ruined them one way or the other.  If the manufacturers and carriers had no viable alternative to Apple, maybe Microsoft could have leveraged it to force them to play more by their own rules, which itself could create serious problems if Microsoft pushed out an update for a device without having extensively tested and vetted it at their end.

That didn’t happen, though.  Windows Phone was late, Microsoft was late, and Android was the right thing at the right time for every carrier, including the iPhone carriers, to adopt them as their backup, their leverage so that Apple doesn’t come to gain a stranglehold over them, and because it makes more electronic revenue for them than Apple devices, whose electronic content is controlled entirely by Apple.  That is part of why they can give us these devices affordably… they get skin in the game.

The manufacturers and carriers have moved on, and Windows Phone is dragging them down.  They need any existing or possible future customers to upgrade to new phones when their devices get to be old, and they need more freedom to experiment with Windows Phone, even if they screw it up, and they will.  Windows Phone users, I’ve got a rude awakening for you: your carriers don’t care about you anymore.  You’re part of the reason Android users can’t get our updates faster, and they want it stopped!

Windows Phone is like that last guy who’s being rescued from a sinking ship by a Coast Guard helicopter but won’t get aboard because he’s afraid of heights, and finally, eventually, all the rescue efforts fail, and all that has been achieved is to delay getting the survivors to care and safety.  All of the major manufacturers and carriers tried their hands on Windows Phone, but weren’t even sure how to sell it… the anti-iPhone?  The quasi-Android?  The not-quite Windows?

They’ve tried dirt cheap, and that hasn’t worked.  They’ve tried free, and it didn’t work.  Nokia has become some tech world equivalent of the merry pranksters running around with five-story Windows Phone posters in New York and spontaneous street displays all over the world in what they call everyday magic.  Even Harry Potter can’t rescue the Windows Phone!

So now, with Microsoft off their backs, the carriers can turn their focus back to their cash cow: Android.  Maybe they’ll even give Blackberry another shot to prove itself, but no matter what they say about any deals to advertising and carrier push for Windows Phone, the numbers just won’t role in fast enough no matter what against their competition, and their software and hardware will linger and decline.

Every year since it’s inauguration, the tech pundits and talking heads predict this will will be it, the Year of the Microsoft Comeback, when they will finally gain traction, gain speed, become that viable third-player the carriers would like to see exist, even though they have clearly decided that Windows Phone ain’t it.

They’ll see if they can milk a few upgrade sales here and there, and they’ll certainly appear to be trying to make it work, but the reason Microsoft gave them so much money is because they weren’t going to do it on their dime.  So unlike Apple and Google, who can work in parallel with hardware vendors and help each other promote, Microsoft will be getting exactly as much as they paid for and not a dime more.

That is certainly one of the reasons why they might purchase the Nokia smartphone division… they’re realizing that they’ll have to go it alone.  Which means they are trying to be Apple… again.  How’d that whole Zune thing work out for them?

Unfortunately Microsoft is caught in a vicious cycle of groupthink that leads them to believe that throwing good money after bad can make the bad money better if you just throw enough at it.  Windows 8 is the next trainwreck in the works, and don’t tell me there is any chance these things can be competitive, they run a skinned Windows desktop operating system that requires 16 GB of space just to install, and there are no really affordable new tablets with even that much memory, and that’s just what you need to run it.

It’s also highly unlikely they’ll charge less than an average of sixty dollars per licensed copy.  There’s just no way forward if they have to compete at the low end when you put it all together, and good luck at the high end, because right now almost nobody is jumping at anything there but an iPad, and people aren’t yet completely replacing their PC’s en masse with tablets.

Instead of focusing on getting Windows Phone on affordable tablets, they are trying to cram Windows Desktop onto tablets, and the mobile UI from Windows Phone (but not the apps) onto desktops.  Seriously, what madness is this that doth overtake the minds in Redmond?

They’re throwing money at developers to make Windows 8 apps for a launch that is no longer highly anticipated, for a product their customers focus grouped them to death saying they wanted, when they really don’t, or not at the price at least, which amounts to the same thing because it won’t come cheap.  They’re squibbling over things like RAID, SATA, corporate enterprising features, etc…  Where is the content force they bring to market for what is surely going to be a device that you don’t need, especially at the cost?

I don’t care how much money they throw at it, or how much the technorati marvel over how different it is and how much better it’s update cycles are were, and how no one really needs 4G LTE or high definition resolution, or front and rear facing cameras, or quad-core processors, Windows is dead, dead dead dead.  I only hope that now that their own version of the Open Handset Alliance has broken down, Android users can begin to enjoy a more streamlined experience as the carriers focus on their updates.

As to the technorati, they will mostly continue the same predictions they made in 2010 and in 2011, which is mostly “Microsoft will rise, Google will fall, and Apple will be king forever in every market they attack”.  Any predictions of increased market share strike me as hollow.  I have met, since 2010, one person with a Windows Phone.  I’m not some recluse who stays in all the time… they’re just not anywhere to be found!  Was anyone talking about Windows Phone this past holiday season?  Nope, in 2011 they lost share.

Because, when you get right down to it, it’s not just the carriers who want it dead, it’s the customers, they just want it to go away, they’re not interested, they’ve spoken, end of story.  They’ve seen it and they don’t want it.  The only ones interested anymore are hardcore Microsofties, and Microsoft never did command an Apple-like following, unfortunately for them.  Windows 8 will be no different.  The mobile race is to the quick and the dead… and Microsoft wasn’t quick enough.