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The Generic Smartphone Is In Trouble

If you talk to someone with an iPhone and ask them about it, they will undoubtedly tell you all sorts of things the phone can do. They know it is by Apple, that there are a bazillion apps for it, that it syncs with iTunes and much more. If you talk to someone with an Android phone or the Palm Pre, you will likely get similar information about those phones. If you ask someone that is running Windows Mobile though, there is a good chance they won't even know what OS it is running, much less featur
If you talk to someone with an iPhone and ask them about it, they will undoubtedly tell you all sorts of things the phone can do. They know it is by Apple, that there are a bazillion apps for it, that it syncs with iTunes and much more. If you talk to someone with an Android phone or the Palm Pre, you will likely get similar information about those phones. If you ask someone that is running Windows Mobile though, there is a good chance they won't even know what OS it is running, much less features about the platform.The Microsoft Blog at SeattlePI.com has a link to a study by the CFI Group that looks at customer satisfaction with smartphones. It is full of information showing that iPhone users are enthusiastic about their devices. I doubt Apple could have done a better job if they had let their marketing department write the survey themselves.

What becomes clear though as you read the survey though is brand awareness is a key factor in customer satisfaction. There seems to be two kinds of smartphone users. There are those that like a particular brand and know a lot about it and those that just have a smartphone. Those that are aware of the brand are generally enthusiastic about it and often quite satisfied with their purchase. The ones that buy a generic smartphone OS though generally aren't as enthusiastic about it. They may not even be aware they have a smartphone. They rarely if ever install apps and don't venture much beyond texting, MMS and basic web browsing, and honestly, a high end feature phone can do those things.

Yes, Windows Mobile is considered a generic smartphone OS in this context. It makes sense. Today, right now, buying apps for it is a pain and often requires you to use your PC to search for and perhaps even buy the app. There is no standard WinMo interface. Samsung and HTC customize the heck out of the UI to the point where it is hard to know what OS is on the phone just by looking at it.

WinMo 6.5 launches in a week. Will it change anything? If nothing else, the high profile launch has brought some brand awareness to WinMo. The Windows Marketplace for Mobile should make application selection and purchasing infinitely easier. Will it get the OS noticed by anyone but the hard-core WinMo user though? That remains to be seen. If Microsoft can't rebuild brand awareness for the platform, can it survive as a generic platform? Even if it could, would Microsoft want to keep it alive? WinMo 6.5 likely won't return the platform to its former glory, but it will have to keep it alive until WinMo 7 is released.