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What Microsoft and Nokia Must Do Today To Succeed in the Mobile World Tomorrow

What Microsoft and Nokia Must Do Today To Succeed in the Mobile World Tomorrow

By: Hillel Fuld

OK, here we go again... Another crazy person talking about Windows Phone and its chances of success. Well, not exactly. Yes, I have written why I think the Microsoft platform has what it takes to succeed. I have also read the other side of the debate. However, it is important to realize that while Windows Phone is nice, and might have all the elements in place to succeed, Microsoft and Nokia have their work cut out for them.

After years of only reading about iPhone and Android as "owners" of the mobile market, there seems to be a new kid on the block that is making a whole lot of noise. As ironic as it may be, Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, and Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, are now the underdogs of the mobile world.

When Microsoft launched its totally revamped Windows Phone operating system, which was a 180 degree pivot from their previous Windows Mobile offering, the initial challenge was to make some noise and get people talking about it.

When Microsoft announced their new partnership with Nokia, it was expected to increase the global reach and widespread usage of the new Windows Phone operating system. That has yet to happen, if we are talking about mainstream consumers, who have mostly never even heard of Windows Phone, let alone have any desire to use it as their primary mobile phone.

Similar to the days in which the iPod was announced and quickly became the generic term for an MP3 player, the iPhone has replaced the word “smartphone” in mainstream consciousness and only Android is close to changing that.

Having said that, Microsoft and Nokia truly do have all the elements in place to make it in this space and the Windows Phone operating system is in a much better place than iOS or Android were at this stage of their development. Just a reminder that the first iPhone had no 3g connectivity, and it took years to add multitasking and copy/paste, all things that are present and even superior on the Windows Phone platform.

So, how does Microsoft and Nokia reach the masses? Well, no one knows the absolute answer to that question, and both companies have been pretty aggressive in their marketing of the new platform and the Nokia Lumia devices, but what else can they do? Here are some pointers:

- Branding

Microsoft was able to take the old Windows Mobile operating system and turn it into a beautiful and elegant new platform that manages to impress everyone who gets their hands on a device. Couldn’t they do something about the name? Like it or not, a name can go a long way. It is no wonder Google comes up with all the cute names for the different versions of Android. Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich. People hear these names and they smile.

iOS is consistent with the whole branding of Apple devices, so not much to add there. But “Windows Phone”? I mean, it’s not like the word “Windows” is exactly associated with a superior product that makes people smile. So why call it that?

Taking it one step further, the program used to sync a Windows Phone device to a computer is called Zune. As in the player that was completely cannibalized by the iPod.There has to be someone responsible for Microsoft branding that understands why these are some pretty poor names for new products that are supposed to be “cool.”

Microsoft, you want to reach mass market and take attention away from Apple and Google? As long as this is the branding you are going for, you are going to have a problem.

- Close the App Gap

Remember a few years ago when the name of the game in the mobile industry was Who Can Make the Thinnest Phone? Well now, the number of apps on a platform is the new thin. No one cares how thin your phone is, the first question geeks and even mainstream consumers are asking is “How many apps do you have in your app store?“Apple has 500, 000, Google has 400,000. You have 50,000? Sorry, Microsoft, let’s talk in a year.”

Now, in reality, this is a pretty silly metric because no one needs 500,000 apps, in fact, no one even needs 50,000. However, this number is reflective of whether or not the apps I do want to use are present and available for the platform. Of course, Microsoft has a chicken and egg situation here. Developers are not creating apps for Windows Phone before there are users and users are not adopting the platform before there are apps. Microsoft has to get out of this vicious cycle, and it has made some right moves to do just that. But not enough.

OK, I know what you’re thinking, “Easier said than done”. Well, not really. iOS and Android developers share the same challenges and if Microsoft offers a solid solution to these challenges, they have a serious chance of closing the App Gap. What are the challenges? Discovery and Monetization.

Perhaps, and this is just a thought, Microsoft should use the “low” number of apps to its advantage and explain to developers that the Windows Phone Marketplace was the fastest growing store in 2011 with over 400% growth, but now, when there is less competition in the store than the App Store or the App Market, now is the time to develop for Windows Phone. Just a thought. Offering solid monetization tools to Windows Phone developers is also a very promising strategy to incentivize them and get them excited about this up and coming OS.

- Out of the box Marketing

Well, truth be told, both Microsoft and Nokia has impressed on this front, but they need to push harder. Apple’s marketing is well known to all. You have the “Mac VS PC” ads, you have the famous iPhone ads, such as the Siri Santa adthat was named the most effective ad of 2011, and you have the famous product videos with Jony Ive and others talking about the thought and engineering that went into every inch of every Apple product.

Google, Android, and its partners have been doing a fantastic job on this front, including the viral Samsung adpoking fun of Apple fanboys staying up all night for a phone that is “inferior” to its Samsung counterpart.

There are of course the new ads for the Galaxy Nexus with the kid trying to unlock his dad’s phone using the new Face Unlock option. These are all examples of ads that have people smiling when thinking about a brand. Microsoft has had some nice successes on this front such as the “Really” ad and the recent “Keep Shopping” ad, but if Microsoft and Nokia want to reach mass audiences, they are going to have to wow them through their TVs, Youtube, Twitter, and all the other channels available today.

The Microsoft booth at CES, which enabled anyone to conduct a speed test against a Windows Phone, was a great example of the kind of marketing stunts Microsoft and Nokia should be implementing, but we are going to need a whole lot more of it.

Just to summarize, the mobile industry is still young, and there is clearly room for more competition, especially given the shortcomings of the two leaders, iOS and Android. If Microsoft and Nokia want to slide into the top slots of the mobile market, they have their work cut out for them. The good news, however, is that the Windows Phone product and its feature-set are good enough to make it to the top, something you could not have said about the iPhone or Android in their early years.

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