Throw the Phones out the Windows

Brandy is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

I’ve previously taken Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) to task for breaking what was just fixed in the PC realm. Now it’s on to the Windows Phone 8 project…which is also going to fail, but in its own special ways.

There will be a wide range of Windows Phone 8 devices coming out from manufacturers including Samsung and Nokia (NYSE: NOK). Many of these devices will be extremely attractive as far as specs are concerned. That might not matter. Despite the fact that the Windows Phone system doesn’t have any glaring flaws, it is still struggling to find a devoted user base.

According to a recent IDC report, there were 5.4 million Windows Phone devices sold in the second quarter. That gave Windows Phone a market share of 3.5%, which is up 2.3% year-over-year but still places the operating system below Blackberry (4.8% market share) and Symbian (4.4%). Windows Phone is holding less market share than one operating system that is just holding on by its enterprise teeth and another system that is being phased out by its original manufacturer (Nokia) in favor of…Windows Phone. It’s an odd little predicament, particularly for Nokia.

That’s not to say that Windows Phone won’t grow in users with this new launch. But debuting months behind the blockbuster release of Samsung Galaxy S III, which runs Android, and right on the heels of the new iPhone 5 won’t help to sway smart phone owners to the Windows Phone 8.

Alienating Developers

I mentioned in my PC piece that the Windows Store, which will supply apps for desktop and mobile devices, is woefully lacking in stock during the final weeks leading up to release. Part of the reason many high-profile developers have delayed, or outright shunned, joining the Store is Microsoft’s strange new insistence on closing its borders. The creator of Minecraft, a massively successful computer game, declined putting his game through the new certification process required for apps to make it into the Store, tweeting (sic): “Got an email from Microsoft, wanting to help ‘certify’ minecraft for win 8. I told them to stop trying to ruin the pc as an open platform.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong per se with Microsoft making apps go through an approval process since the apps can still be made available outside the Store. But developers fear that it could eventually turn into an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) situation where apps must be approved and only apps in the Store will be available.

This already tense situation has worsened with Microsoft’s refusal to widely release Windows Phone 8 software development kits (SDK) until after the Phones launch. The company had claimed early in the year that developers would have access to the SDK by summer. Instead, a small subsection of vetted and approved developers got the SDK. Microsoft claims this lockdown is to prevent leaked details about the inner workings of Phone, but a few spilled beans would be better than a launched app store that looks like a ghost town.

Final Thoughts

I have a friend, Leo, who is a Windows Phone fanatic. Yes, those exist. While Android/iOS users mentioning a preferred device can start a verbal battle with fans of its rival, when Leo mentions to someone that he loves Windows Phones, the response is usually a bewildered, “huh.” That’s not because the majority of people perceive Windows Phones as inferior devices. They just don’t perceive them at all. That’s the problem.

Microsoft is making the terrible mistake of assuming it can behave like Apple and not face a backlash. In the mobile arena, MSFT is off its home turf. Positioning itself like developers should be honored to have a chance to be featured in a mobile OS that is performing worse than Research in Motion(NASDAQ: BBRY) is rather embarrassing.

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