Windows Phone 7's Marketing Problem - InformationWeek
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9/20/2011
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Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Windows Phone 7's Marketing Problem

44% of U.S. smartphone owners who are looking to upgrade are considering Windows Phone 7, study says. But many others have never heard of it.

The latest numbers coming from Connected Intelligence suggest there may be another mobile market shift in the quarters ahead--one that favors Microsoft over Google. Nearly half of current U.S. smartphone owners are weighing a switch from Android to Windows Phone 7, says Connected Intelligence. But the news for Microsoft isn't all good.

"The Android juggernaut continues, and that's not great news for some of their OS competitors," said Linda Barrabee, research director for Connected Intelligence in a statement. "For example, one-third of BlackBerry smartphone owners are most interested in Android for their next smartphone purchase. That said, Android is also experiencing continued competition from Apple's popular iPhone, as well as some nascent competition from Windows Phone 7."

Right now, most people are still interested in Android, and they still will be throughout the next six months. Connected Intelligence finds that Android commands more interest than any other mobile platform, at 63%, and also rates as the "most wanted" by 36%.

But there are no guarantees in life. Connected Intelligence's most recent report shows that 44% of smartphones owners who are looking to upgrade are considering purchasing a Windows Phone 7 smartphone. If even a small percentage of that number actually makes the switch, it could be a major win for Microsoft's smartphone platform, which has yet to really catch on with the general public.

[What's Google's master plan? See 9 Markets Google Wants To Rule.]

It won't be an easy battle for Microsoft to win, however. Connected Intelligence points out that 45% of consumers aren't even aware that Windows Phone 7 exists. That's a stunning statistic, if true.

Of those who at least know that WP7 exists, most indicated that they didn't know enough about the platform for it to garner any real attention. Others said they were afraid of lock-in with the WP7 ecosystem, with 21% saying they had already invested too much time and/or money in competing platforms. This is about the most plausible argument I've heard.

"Windows Phone 7 has a way to go before consumers really understand what it is," Barrabee said. "But with the right marketing mojo, apps portfolio, and feature-rich hardware, Microsoft could certainly improve its standing and chip away at Android's dominant market position."

That's a lot of "if"s. WP7 has been in the market for a year, and nearly half of the consumers polled by Connected Intelligence didn't even know that it existed.

That speaks of failures at every point of the WP7 smartphone ecosystem. For so few to have any idea what WP7 exists, that means the carriers aren't marketing it well, the handset makers aren't marketing it well, Microsoft isn't marketing it well, and the thousands of app developers who have coded WP7 apps aren't getting the word out there, either.

It is also worth pointing out that if WP7 does in fact see a surge of interest, it likely won't steal market share only from Android. It would also have an impact on Apple's iOS and RIM's BlackBerry OS.

If Microsoft wants to make WP7.5 Mango a successful platform, it has to make sure that people at all levels of the ecosystem are talking about it. The best place to start is with the on-site and in-store retail staff where mobile phones are sold, and then up the chain from there. WP7 needs champions in the worst way.

Can Microsoft build enough buzz ahead of Mango's launch to get this turn-around off the ground? With the launch so close, it is hard to believe it can.

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