Windows Phone 7 is a great new operating system. With an innovative and fresh user experience, it could help to put Microsoft back into the mobility game… but they are coming from behind – a long way behind established competition from Apple (and more recently Google) so Microsoft needs every little bit of help it can get from it’s channel partners.
Today is Windows Phone 7 launch day in the UK. Except the channel is not ready. And that means they’re selling competitive devices. Not good for a company that’s trying to get its mobile mojo back…
I’m not a journalist, and I haven’t been briefed on Windows Phone 7 launch so I don’t know who the launch partners are but I have seen some of the comments on the web and elsewhere so, this lunchtime, I headed into London’s busiest shopping street to see what the various mobile carriers would sell me. Remember, I’m a consumer – and I’m also right smack bang in the middle of the demographic that Microsoft wants to sell Windows Phone 7 to. What I found was dissappointing. Not so much a big bang launch as a fizzle.
I started out at Vodafone, where the duty manager was happy to give me advice. He asked what I was looking for (bored of my iPhone, currently out of contract, looking for a personal smartphone, with ActiveSync support for connection to work e-mail) and, to be fair, he asked me if I’d be interested in a Windows Phone. That was positive, as the Windows Phone merchandising in that store was almost non-existent (a small poster on the wall, and a small transfer on the window, right next to a bigger one advertising the iPhone). Unfortunately, he didn’t have stock: there had been some mix up with the courier delivering HTC Trophies; and the LG Optimus was, apparently, delayed due to a software fault. So I left the store empty-handed, although he did ask if I’d consider an Android device if I couldn’t get a Windows one. Further along Oxford Street, a larger Vodafone store had stock of the HTC Trophy but, again, no real merchandising to indicate that a new device was in town (just a small A-frame outside), despite the entire store being wrapped in Smartphone advertising.
Next up was Carphone Warehouse, who suggested a Nokia N8, or Blackberry Torch might meet my needs. When I asked about a Windows Phone they said it’s was not available yet, even when I told them that today was launch day and they told me it had been put back by a couple of weeks, before suggesting I try the HTC Desire (on Android).
At Orange, there was at least a big display for their exclusive Windows Phone – the HTC 7 Mozart, so I didn’t talk to any staff in store.
A few doors along at O2 there was nothing at all to indicate there were any smartphones available from Microsoft. Meanwhile they had a big queue (this is lunchtime in London), so I didn’t speak to any staff – but I didn’t buy a phone either.
It’s great to see Windows Phone available in the UK ahead of the US – it’s been a long time since we were first in the queue to get our hands on a device. Except it seems the channel is not ready. I wasn’t expecting an Apple-style queue around the block but, if I was a “normal” consumer instead of a geek, I would be sold something else and, if Microsoft can’t get its channel partners to sell their handsets, Windows Phone 7 will be a monumental fail. I sincerely hope not – as I said at the head of this post, I think Windows Phone 7 is a great new operating system and it has stacks of potential. I just hope that Microsoft can recover from this false start and ship serious volumes of handsets over the coming months.