The world is flooded in smartphones. There’s Apple’s growing list of iPhone models on one side, and the growing list of Android-based smartphones on the other side. What’s missing? Anything from Microsoft.
No Windows Phone. No Surface Phone. No nothing. Microsoft is absent in the mobile device arena in the post-PC era. Can Microsoft return? Last week I read a missive from the ever contrarian John C. Dvorak on what Microsoft needs to succeed against iPhone and Android. Microsoft will fail.
Better Or Less
Product marketing is made up of many moving parts but one that is key to success is differentiation. To compete against an industry leader, a newcomer must have similar features for a lower price. Otherwise, what’s the incentive for competitor’s customers to switch? At the other end, for a newcomer to compete against an industry leader or the status quo, they must build a better widget or mousetrap but price it competitively with what is on the market already.
Dvorak’s list of what Microsoft needs to compete against iPhone and Android smartphones is typical but incomplete and misses the most important aspect of product marketing. Differentiation.
Big Screen – this is table stakes as smartphone screens are bigger than ever.
Stylus – I see these on Samsung Galaxy Note models and nowhere else. It’s different, though.
Camera – Microsoft once had the best smartphone cameras.
Android – What this really means is applications; developers won’t write apps for a new platform, so whatever Microsoft does it must run Android apps.
Cloud Services – This is table stakes; a must-have, and fortunately Microsoft has a good cloud service.
PC Compatibility – I like this in theory. Make the Microsoft phone simply a smaller notebook that can be attached to a screen and become a full-fledged PC that you can carry. This is differentiation.
Dvorak is an experienced technologist and should know that his list is just table stakes and does not bring anything new and different to the marketplace other than a Windows logo and an option to touch and feel in a Microsoft Store.
If differentiation is key, then Microsoft needs to follow the rules of marketing.
Make a better phone that does more for the user than iPhone or Android phones. Or, do what both iPhone and Android phones do, but cut the price tag, embed it into Windows in a way that is attractive to businesses and PC users, and is drop dead easy to move customers from one platform to a new one. Cutting the price kills profitability. Adding more features and capability to make it stand out and above the competition is difficult and expensive.
That’s what is required, though. There is no other route to success here. Make a better widget that is priced competitively with competition, or, make the same widget that is just as good but at a much lower price point. That’s how Microsoft can beat the iPhone.
Will it? Does Microsoft have the courage to make and sell an Android-based smartphone and call it Windows Surface?