Is Windows Missing a Window?

I visited various Toronto area retail outlets last weekend- Telus, Rogers, Bell. These carriers could display merchandising material for Android or iOS or BB ecosystems and their salespeople could recommend any device-Motorola, LG, Samsung, apple, Blackberry, Nokia, Sony.

And which products did they pitch, to a user of an old Blackberry looking for a new mobile productivity device?

Google Android devices -one and all. Samsung’s Galaxy III; Motorola’s kevlar-coated 16 hr battery life Razr. A reco for HTC Android devices.

None for Apple (often out of stock & even out of display models).

None for Blackberry; not surprising, given seasonal sales quotas! No one suggested I await BB10 items due out next Feb/ March.

EVERY recommendation was for Android smartphones. To a Blackberry user?

What about Microsoft devices? Windows 8 has new capabilities & favourable reviews for the platform on mobile devices. So surely sales staff must have lauded the Windows interface, the connectivity between phone & tablet, the productivity benefits that a boring business user lugging an old BB might find appealing????

Nope, not a word, not a sign. A window of opportunity missed by Windows. This should be Windows’ time to shine! Work-focused users shuffling in with old Blackberries are easy targets for the next 3 months (until BB10 is out). BB users are exactly the ‘dry’ user Microsoft should be able to pick off.  Windows phones have won fine reviews for their productivity benefits, yet MS phones continue to be insignificant market players, at under HALF Blackberry’s market share (in Q3 2012- Gartner).

Is Microsoft asleep? If merchandising materials aren’t in store now, they’re already missing a Pre Holiday sales blip. Perhaps they’re better off in US retail stores? (happy for any updates from stateside colleagues, but please don’t brave Black Friday on my behalf!). Perhaps all their focus is on B2B calls? (again, happy for any colleague’s input or updates!)

Perhaps Microsoft was originally hedging- after all, Windows 8 is a touch-based platform. It’s rumoured that Sinofsky was unconvinced of the need to go so wholeheartedly to touch-based interfaces in Windows 8.

Microsoft has scaled the wall & sits atop it (shades of Humpty Dumpty?). MS awkwardly no longer truly supporting non-touch, yet is new to touch devices, and without a full viable portfolio of touch devices (experts say skip the Surface tab; wait for Surface Pro). MS has made the leap to touch- now they need customers to quickly ‘believe’ & join them in leaping to touch, or MS sales will plunge.

Ballmer is now even bashing Windows 7, trying to prompt slowfooted business users to shift ASAP to Windows 8.

Online, more of the same- no support for MS devices at Canuck retailers & etailers. Again, Android is getting a big push, especially Samsung and LG devices. A little push on Apple too (one might argue ‘the Apple faithful’ ask for the brand by name & need no signage or counsel from store staff, save the Genius staff at Apple stores). After much searching, I finally found a (low prominence) feature for a Windows HTC phone on Bell’s website.

Perhaps the challenges at Microsoft, go deeper than the Surface. Are these ‘gaps’ the added ripples of the apparent conflict between Steve Ballmer & now-dismissed product guru Steven Sinofsky, said to be brilliant but challenging to deal with? Is MS a disorganized behemoth, failing to capitalize on a singularly promising Window? Pity- as MS should know, technology windows don’t stay open long.

Now an added wrinkle- new reports say Windows 8 Mobile devices freeze up and reboot – not due to hardware, but software issues. If you thought RIM was the only technology company in a high-risk transition, just open a window and you’ll find another.

Steven Litt