BlackBerry 10's flop won't help Windows Phone

Microsoft nurses hope that the tepid reception to the reborn BlackBerry gives it a shot against the iPhone and Android

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Beyond security needs are business process needs. That means apps, for which iOS has the best business apps, from office productivity to sales support. Android is weaker here, as it generally is when it comes to apps. But Windows Phone has no credible office productivity apps (Office on Windows Phone is a bad joke), much less specialty business apps. BlackBerry also has an apps shortage, which I suspect is why it didn't have the pent-up demand that BlackBerry expected -- apps matter more than security or UI freshness.

Many people argue that a smartphone is the wrong device for editing Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files, so the primitive Office on Windows Phone shouldn't be an issue. As your regular editing platform, a smartphone is not appropriate. But I've experienced firsthand how important it is to have those tools on a smartphone in case of a work emergency. In any event, if you put aside the Office issue, sales forces and field employees have plenty of smartphone app needs that Windows Phone doesn't really address.

Ironically, in the consumer market, the lack of apps is not a big deal. Users mainly want their music, video, and social apps, plus games. You see that reality in the statistics around apps downloads, app purchases, and Web usage. iOS users do much more of all three per capita than Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone users.

Android owners use and buy apps, as well as access the Web, though much less on average than iOS users. For them, their smartphones are more phone than minicomputer. That's why Android's outselling iOS by a factor of three to 1 doesn't lead to a similar ratio in apps and Web usage.

Shouldn't that fact give Windows Phone a strong shot with consumers? Theoretically, yes. BlackBerry's brand is unfortunately tarnished as "yesteryear," so it can't as easily gain consumer traction, which should give Microsoft an opening. But the Windows brand isn't in great shape, either. Windows PC sales continue their decline, and Windows 8 (which looks superficially like Windows Phone) is much disliked. Windows is feeling "yesterday," if not yet "yesteryear."

For people who want a cellphone that can also do music, video, games, and social networking, the Android brand is more appealing than Windows Phone -- and safer, given the huge existing sales. In other words, besides the look and feel, there's no meaningful difference between Android and Windows Phone, so users go to the popular choice: Android.

That's the Windows Phone dilemma: It's not a serious business smartphone, and it's an undistinguished consumer smartphone. One or both of those has to change for buyers to want and choose a third platform beyond iOS and Android. Microsoft shows no signs it understands that truth.

This article, "BlackBerry 10's flop won't help Windows Phone," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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