Oh, Windows Phone, why is Android winning? An ex-GM laments
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system is trailing far behind Android in sales, and a former Redmond employee believes he knows why that is.
Charlie Kindel, a former Windows Phone honcho who left Microsoft earlier this year to launch his own startup, wrote in a blog post yesterday that "Windows Phone is superior" to Android. However, the issue for Microsoft is that it has an "impedance mismatch with the carriers and device manufacturers while Google's approach reduces friction with carriers and device manufacturers at the expense of end users."
Rough translation: Microsoft is its own worst enemy.
Google's core strategy in the mobile market, Kindel wrote, is that it gives all of its stakeholders the opportunity to do what they want, when they want. The search giant simply develops Android, and hands it over to device makers to modify the operating system as they see fit and then put it onto their devices. After those products are developed, Google takes a hands-off approach with carriers, as well, enabling them to market the products however they want.
Microsoft, meanwhile, "raises [its] middle finger at both the device manufacturers and mobile carriers," telling vendors what kind of "hardware spec you shalt use" and carriers how the software "will be updated," Kindel wrote. (His post, by the way, makes only passing reference to iPhone maker Apple, whose approach, he says, is "a topic for another day.")
The hands-off approach for Android makes it easy for carriers to go their own way. And in the process, they market Android devices heavily, since there's really nothing but upside in doing so, Kindel said. However, with Windows Phone it's a different story. Carriers don't necessarily want to push Windows Phone 7 and therefore, Microsoft must work much harder than Google to get companies like Verizon, AT&T, and others, to even consider marketing its vendor partners' products, Kindel says.
"Spending marketing dollars on advertising Android devices is an easy decision for the carriers," Kindel claims. "Pushing retail sales professionals to push Android is easy. Spending marketing dollars advertising Windows Phone 7 requires Microsoft to push hard on the carriers. Getting retail sales professionals to push Windows Phone 7 requires Microsoft to push hard on the carriers to incent their retail sales professionals correctly."
Whether that's true is, of course, up for debate. But it is clear that Microsoft is having real trouble in the mobile market. Last month, research firm Gartner revealed that Android secured 52.5 percent of the worldwide mobile operating system market during the third quarter. Windows Phone 7's market share, on the other hand, stood at just 1.5 percent.
Kindel seems bewildered by that. He wrote in his blog that he believes Windows Phone 7 delivers a "superior end-to-end experience for the end user." He also criticized Android for its continued fragmentation problems.
"[Google has] enabled users tons of choice," Kindel acknowledges. "My hypothesis is that it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts."
Fragmentation has been a major issue for Android over the years. Some manufacturers decide against updating their devices to the latest Android flavor, while others take far too long to do so. The result is an Android ecosystem that's filled with far too many versions of the operating system.
For its part, Google says it will work with device partners to address those issues, and many would agree that things have gotten better over the past year. According to the latest Android distribution chart, 50 percent of devices are running Android 2.3"Gingerbread," but 35 percent are still on Android 2.2 "Froyo." Android 2.1 "Eclair" also still has a sizable market share--9.6 percent.
Even so, it doesn't appear consumers care all that much. Over the last few years, Android's market share has only continued to grow, despite its fragmentation.
Looking ahead, Kindel believes the platform's strong sales will continue and Android fragmentation will get worse. Meanwhile, he's taking a wait-and-see approach on Windows Phone 7.
"The question in my mind is whether Microsoft's continued investment in Windows Phone and close partnership with device manufactures such as Nokia will eventually enable a breakthrough here," he wrote. "I know that Microsoft can be very persistent and patient; it's been so in the past."
Kindel spent 21 years at Microsoft before leaving earlier this year. In his last job, he handled Microsoft relations with mobile software developers. Even after announcing his departure, he stayed loyal to Microsoft.
"I may stop using some Microsoft products now that I'm out of here," Kindel wrote at the time. "But not Windows Phone. The BEST product Microsoft has ever built. Do not let up!"
"To my kids: No, just because I don't work at Microsoft anymore you may not use Google. Remember, every time you use Google, a puppy dies," Kindel jokingly added.
Neither Microsoft nor Google immediately responded to CNET's request for comment on Kindel's latest blog post.