Last week Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 and Surface tablet news did something pretty rare, taking some of the limelight from Samsung's latest smartphone and the rarely-interrupted Apple rumor mill. Things get back to normal this week, and it is hard to be enthusiastic about Microsoft's phone or tablet prospects.
Samsung Aiming Big
We don't really know how many WP7 phones Microsoft's partners have sold, the numbers are fair at best, even according to the likes of Nokia, who said sales were “slower than we would like.” I'll bet that the total number is a heck of a lot less than Samsung's figure of 10 million Galaxy S3 phones that it reckons it will sell in July.
That's just one phone in one month, never mind the hundreds of thousands of Android devices that sell on a daily basis. It is into this sort of market that Microsoft is marching with the Windows 8 family of PCs, tablets and new smartphones, all unveiled last week. That's while resetting its phone sales figures back to zero, since you can't upgrade WP7 phones to the new version. At least iOS 6 retains some backward compatibility for older iPhone users.
As PC use continues to fall with tablet use on the rise, how much longer will Windows remain relevant outside the office and enterprise environment? No one these days is rushing to be Microsoft compatible, with platform-agnostic cloud services rapidly replacing what used to be Windows' and MS Office's core reasons for being.
WP8 Is Feature Rich, But Too Similar
Although Windows Phone 8 showed off a lot of smart features, they are all broadly comparable to what iPhone 5 and incoming Android apps will offer. Apple's next iOS version has the wallet and smart mapping apps too. The latest iPhone 5 prototypes allegedly have NFC built-in while Android is rapidly beefing up its, already available, wallet and maps. It will take something more compelling to make those Android or iOS users jump ship to Microsoft.
Microsoft's stylish Surface tablets were unveiled and generated more of a buzz, but even those could be too pricey and fighting against deeply entrenched competitors. That buzz became more of a "hmmm" overnight as tech heads pondered over the darker corners of Microsoft's presentations. And any new ideas Microsoft might have had, it won't take others too long to clone.
While the idea of an all-Microsoft happy family must be a marketer's delight, the reality of multi-OS computers, tablets and phones in most homes is a massive reality check. The sheer numbers that iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3 will sell would put off anyone else, expect Microsoft with their very deep pockets.
Even then, if things don't go spectacularly well, Microsoft may have to face reality where it is pretty much an also run in the tablet and smartphone stakes. Leaving app developers and business software houses to focus their time and energy on the winning horses, which will leave the Windows firm lagging further and further behind.