What About Windows Phone 7?

The most often question I get these days is “Should I invest in Windows Phone 7?” It’s a difficult question. The people asking me are making large bets on their future investment in technology. I don’t want out customers to leap into an area with no future, nor do I want them to miss what could be a major growth opportunity.

In the mobile market, success is not a simple yes or no question. The continued growth of the mobile market and the apps market are critical to the Windows Phone 7 success story.

For Windows Phone 7 to succeed, iPhone and Android do not have to fail. This is a point that often needs to be restated to businesspeople. The mobile phone market grew 17.9% in Q4 2010 according to research firm IDC (http://www.mobiletor.com/2011/02/03/idc-traces-17-9-growth-in-global-mobile-phone-market-for-q410/).With that kind of growth, Windows Phone 7 can achieve success without taking sales from other platforms.

Unlike a mature and stable market (like autos), one company’s gains do not necessarily imply another company’s losses. From that perspective, I don’t expect Windows Phone 7 to take conquest sales from iPhone or Android, at least not until users of those devices reach the natural upgrade cycle for their devices (roughly 2 years out). For some, especially those experienced in mature markets, that means Windows Phone 7 won’t succeed.

But that isn’t necessarily the correct perspective. Microsoft surely has sales goals for the platform. That’s their metric for success, which probably involves taking some market share from iPhone and Android. For the rest of us business owners, the question is whether or not to invest in applications for the Windows Phone 7 platform.

The apps story is critical because it drives device usage and customer loyalty. The “killer apps”—like Mobiata’s FlightTracker—drive mobile phone purchasing decisions Microsoft needs to have compelling reasons for developers to create applications for WP7, and more importantly, businesses need to have a market for those applications.

The presence of applications will feed market share, and vice versa. Windows Phone 7 will be a success if it attains enough market share by 2012 that mobile developers believe that it is a necessary target platform, along with iPhone and Android. Windows Phone 7 succeeds and gains momentum if it becomes one of the platforms that are mandatory for successful applications. However, if developers believe they can ignore the platform through the end of this year, it won’t succeed.

It’s that perspective that businesspeople need to understand. It won’t matter which platform has the most market share in your business (or personal) buying decisions. What will matter is which platforms are on the ‘must support’ list. That’s the metric of success that will drive your business. You can’t afford to ignore any of the top platforms.

So, where’s the recommendation?

Right now, Windows Phone 7 has a very small market share (relatively speaking). That share will go up, and the real numbers of devices will go up. I don’t know how much, and neither do you. What I recommend is for our customers to architect mobile applications carefully, so that the largest amount of code runs in the cloud and can be accessed from any device. Then, the incremental cost of supporting new devices is smallest. That enables our customers to watch, and still respond quickly to the actual market data, rather than making a decision prematurely.

Created: 2/8/2011 4:14:55 PM

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