When it comes to Windows Phone, former Microsoft general manager Charlie Kindel knows what he's talking about. Heck, I'd listen to Charlie no matter he was talking about: This is a guy I've know for years and years, respect fully, and consider a friend. And this week, he offered some perspective on Windows Phone, which is technically superior to the competition but fairing poorly in the marketplace.
As a bit of background, Kindel is a 21-year Microsoft vet, and his last gig at the software giant was leading its partner program for Windows Phone. He left Microsoft on September 1, 2011, triggering a bit of soul searching here and elsewhere. And in recent days, he's provided some interesting perspectives on Windows Phone, first in the comments section of a blog, and then later in a post to his own blog, Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t it Taken Off?
"People ask me all the time why, if I think Windows Phone is such an excellent product, sales appear so lackluster," he wrote in his original comments. "Apple circumvented [fragmentation] by cutting the device manufacturer out and used that fact to force the carriers into being even more of a fat dumb pipe ... Android has been wildly successful because it was built to reduce friction between all sides of the market ... it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts."
"Windows Phone has taken a different approach," he adds. "It raises it's middle finger at both the device manufactures and carriers. It says 'here's they hardware spec you shalt use'. And it says 'Here's how it will be updated' (to the carriers). Thus both of those sides of the market are reluctant. Especially the carriers. This is why, despite being a superior PRODUCT to Android, Windows Phone has not sold as well."
Expanding on this concept on his own blog, Kindel further added that Microsoft will need to dramatically up its advertising dollars and provide the proper incentives to the retail sales staff at wireless carriers who are currently ignoring Microsoft's platforms.
"End users just do what they are told (by advertising and retail sales professionals [RSPs])," he writes. "Carriers own the marketing money and spend billions a year. The money is provided by the other sides of the market: OS providers & device manufactures, but the carriers get to spend it; they are the aggregation point where the money actually gets spent. The carriers choose what devices get featured on those TV ads. They also choose what devices to train their RSPs to push. They choose to incent the RSPs to push one device over another."
Put simply, by doing the right thing--taking control of both the hardware spec and the updating process away from its hardware maker and wireless carrier partners--Microsoft has incensed those partners just enough to cause them to not push Windows Phone in the marketplace. And by pushing more heavily on the "frictionless" platform--Android, which comes with no such restraints but is also thus ultimately "worse" for consumers--Microsoft has implicitly helped create the current conditions in which Android can flourish and Windows Phone can whither.
"Spending marketing dollars on advertising Android devices is and an easy decision for the carriers," Kindel adds. "Pushing RSPs to push Android is easy."
"I would like to believe that at the end of the day the superior end to end experience for the end user matters more than anything."
So would I, so would I. But if I've learned anything in 18 years of covering technology, it's that the best products don't always win. In fact, if anything, they rarely win at all.