What the Windows Phone Must Overcome to Gain Traction:

There is no doubt that Microsoft is a tech super power in this game of smart phone wars, but Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS have challenged them to date.  As per Fig. 1. Microsoft’s phone OS (operating system) market share has stayed about steady at about 2.9%.  Blackberry on the other hand has so little market share they are hardly worth mentioning since their mobile phone OS market share has dropped to .09% at the end of 2015 (Fig 1.).  Although different phone OS market research reports have slight up or down variations, the point is that Microsoft and Blackberry are hugely losing the Smart Phone Wars.

Fig. 1.
Smart Phone Stats dec 2015Last time Cassem and I commentated on this situation was August of last year when Microsoft was high on the release of Windows 10, arguably their best operating system in a decade but not without risk.  In our last piece we valued many aspects of Microsoft’s products including the Cloud, SharePoint, and Windows 10 for business users, but we only began to address the full story.  Yet our prior conclusion that Microsoft as a company is undervalued is unchanged because they have so many successful products including Server, Exchange, Visual Studio, System Center, Dynamics, and SharePoint, in spite of their phones weaknesses.

In this post we will specifically explore why Microsoft is losing the smart phone war and what can be done about it so they can win.  First of all, Microsoft was late to the game in October 2010 with the release of the Windows Phone 7.  Google was early with the T-Mobile G released in October 2008. (Fig. 2.).  Apple was the first with the iPhone 1 released in June 2007.  Microsoft’s late entrance in conjunction with their delay to take phone apps seriously has proven to push app makers to the dominate platforms, Android and iOS.

Mobile applications are increasingly addictive for phone users and since the Windows platform has so few that means most mobile gamers, media streamers, and multitaskers will avoid the Windows Phone in the immediate future.  Most corporate mobile phone contracts favor the iPhone and those contracts will take years to be undone to the detriment of Microsoft.

Fig. 2.
First Android Smart PhoneWith 53.3% (Fig. 1.) of the phone OS market share there are a few things that Android got right.  The integration of Google Calendar is easy, useful, and free.  Conversely, on a Windows phone, the integration of Microsoft Outlook is awkward, overly optimized for a traditional PC, and it’s not free for the full version.  As an owner of many Android phones I can see how the many OS updates have proved to make the platform much better with more efficiency and less bugs, especially on the Lollipop release of Android.

Apple comes in second with 42.9% of the mobile OS market share (Fig. 1) because they have gotten a lot of things right.  Apple’s OS works well together and is recognized as artful by the majority of the creative community — their early integration of iTunes and the iPod into the iPhone made it a big hit.  Also, you can use the iPhone with Apple TV, an iMac, iCloud, the Apple Watch, and Airport Time Capsule, to name a few.  ITunes has been a force to deal with but has started to lose market share in recent years as streaming services and other digital music services have come on board, specifically Pandora and Google Play.  Android users will say iPhones are overly simplistic, but to those users, that is a benefit.  There are a lot more settings options in Android, but Apple fans feel they don’t need all those features.  This is one ongoing battle between iOS and Android.

Security varies greatly in each of the platforms.  Apple has a very secure and closed off OS and network and they rarely share info with other tech companies.  Apple’s app network is also massive and thus they have experience with a lot of different architectural frameworks and they are good at approving and declining apps based on security.  Unlike Apple, Android has had some issues with fake apps designed to compromise security that were available for download in the app store.  Additionally, in recent weeks Apple has taken a respected but partially controversial stance to protect its user’s privacy in the wake of what many argue is an overreaching government. (In Debate Over Apple-FBI Dispute, Gates And Zuckerberg Don’t Agree).  This is a public debate that needs to continue and unfortunately as of now, Microsoft has given a more a-political and lukewarm response to this debate – though Microsoft founder Bill Gates disagrees with full privacy coverage arguments.

Windows 10 appears to be a pretty solid platform that builds off of some security benefits of Microsoft’s enterprise systems.  Windows 10’s Credential Guard protects corporate identities by isolating them in a hardware-based virtual environment.  Device Guard depends on Windows 10’s virtualization-based security to allow only trusted applications to run on devices — letting the service use signatures defined by your enterprise-controlled policy (Tech Net Device Guard Overview).  In our mind, Microsoft needed to do this to help leverage its legacy network of enterprises that could upgrade to the new Windows 10 OS in the most secure way including Server, Exchange, Visual Studio, System Center, Dynamics, and SharePoint.

Moving on, iPad and Android based tablet customers have been frustrated with the slow speed and low power and functionality of these devices for a long time.  In response to this Microsoft has been an innovator and leader with the design and release of the Microsoft Surface.  The Surface redefines what a tablet can be.  It brings full computer power, something that had not been done on a tablet in the past.  As the Surface improved up to its latest iteration, the Pro 4, it proved to validate the clever Windows 10 OS.  As of January 28th 2016 Surface sales are up 29% from last year (2015) (Microsoft Q2 2016 Earnings Report) which suggests that with the right improvements they could also get considerable gains in the phone market.

Why would someone change to a Windows Phone?  First off, there are a lot of users out there that are familiar with Windows in general.  “For example, Skype has been downloaded more than 900 million times on iOS and Android devices, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a recent earnings call” (Microsoft Q2 2016 Earnings Report).  The only problem in most people’s minds is that they use their phone differently than they use their PC.  Microsoft has to convince these people that there are similarities, cross-usage benefits, and that the user experience is better or good.  From a user experience standpoint, Windows Hello is a great feature that provides for facial recognition log in and Cortana is the virtual assistant that is controlled by voice recognition (Fig. 3.).  Positively, Office Mobile comes with all Windows 10 phones and that includes a great iteration of PowerPoint with a fun and easy to use interface (see video below).  Moreover, all Windows 10 phones can connect to Blue Tooth keyboards, mice, and dual monitors.  Granted, the mobile version doesn’t have a desktop built in like the PC version does but it has something better for the mobile environment, Continuum.  Continuum turns your phone into a big-screen projector and a big-time productivity tool when you have the Microsoft Display Dock as described in the video below.

Fig. 3.

The new Windows 10 is a much more connected OS than previous OSs.  It seems that part of Microsoft’s strategy is connecting the new OS with their cloud business over time.  The Windows 10 Phone gives a lot of connected apps that show new emails, current weather, and news just by glancing at the home screen.  In the iPhone, the icons will rarely show updates.  The only iPhone app that comes with the phone that shows updates is the calendar app.  This is an idea that is built into Windows 10 giving people the convenience of not actually having to open the app to get the information they are quickly looking for.  If they want more information, they can open the app and go from there.  Lastly, the criticism of Nokia as a phone company is exaggerated.  It is a good thing for a hardware and software company like Microsoft to own a phone maker and although not all Lumia models have been hits they have a positive trajectory.  This trajectory is due to enhancements including a great camera, crystal clear screen, a removable battery, Windows Hello, Office Mobile, and most of all its ability to transform into a desktop computer via Continuum.

Jeremy Swenson and Mike Cassem are two seasoned, Intel certified, retail technology marketing and training representatives on assignment at Best Buy for clients including Intel, Trend Micro, Adobe, and others.  Swenson doubles as a Sr. business analyst and project management consultant while Cassem doubles as a Marketer and Sales Consultant.  Tweet to them @jer_Swenson and @micassem.
Jeremy Swenson About Photo for BlogMike Cassem

Windows 10 Review: Mobile $ Centric, Cloud Informed, Touch Winner!

Ever since Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS have dominated the mobile operating system (OS) market, Microsoft has been running scared and has realized they cannot rest on their non-mobile products and established business application strongholds. The present and future OS market is heavily about mobile cloud-connected devices and that is why Android holds 78% of the mobile OS market (Fig. 1, 2015). Google’s release of the Chromebook in June 2011 was a quiet nuclear bomb against Windows, thus threatening their personal computer OS leadership.

Microsoft’s counterattack was supposed to be Windows 8.1 in 2012 to 2013 which was designed to run effectively on mobile and traditional devices but as per Fig. 1. their phone market share fell from 3.2% in 2013 to 2.5% in 2014 and then rose only to 2.7% in 2015. These results are horrible for a global software company that dominates the non-mobile OS and business application markets with more than 1.5 billion daily users according to Corporate Vice President of Education Marketing at Microsoft, Tony Prophet (2014). Windows 8.1 did not go over well because the Microsoft Store has few apps, people did not like the new tile start menu, it is clumsy to navigate, Internet Explorer is slow, and next to no one was inspired to get a Windows Phone because of Windows 8.1.

Fig. 1. Smart Phone OS Market Share
Mobile Phone MarketShare 2015
(IDC, May 2015, http://www.idc.com/prodserv/smartphone-os-market-share.jsp)

Windows 10 is supposed to be Microsoft’s comeback album and it’s going to be just as big as Carlos Santana’s 1999 Supernatural album with the hit song “Smooth”. Windows 10 was released on July 29th and so far the reviews are great all bugs aside. To share the love they are giving away free upgrades from Windows 8.1, 8.1 Phone, and 7 for one year. Microsoft never could quite sell the idea to everyone that you didn’t need a start menu. The Windows 8.1 start menu became the start screen, much the same way your tablet or cell phone works with tiles laid out like a board game. Thus Microsoft is bringing back the start menu on the bottom left yet they are leaving a partial live tile display for mobile enthusiasts that can be collapsed or expanded as per Fig. 2.

Fig. 2.
windows_10_start_screen_desktop_full_screen_0Windows 10 also introduces a function that allows you to utilize multiple desktops not just screen extensions, and this is a lot like Mission Control from Apple OS X. This will be a big benefit for business users, creative users, students, and people who do a lot of multitasking. The hot key shortcut to open a virtual desktop is: Windows key + Ctrl +D. Windows 10 also adds something new for gamers and graphics focused users, direct X12, which is a Microsoft proprietary graphics card decoder that communicates with and optimizes the many different graphics chips on thousands of computer models. It is the industry standard and that is why it’s used on the hugely popular X-Box. Windows 7 and 8.1 will not get access to direct X12 so graphics will be better on Windows 10. A creative person could even game in one desktop while they work in another assuming they have the RAM and CPU power needed for those specific applications – this is pretty cool. Another interesting visual add is the Windows Snap feature which allows you to split your screen into two, three or four separate areas and the hotkey shortcuts for this are:

  • Windows Key + Left – Snap current window to the left side of the screen.
  • Windows Key + Right – Snap current window to the right side of the screen.
  • Windows Key + Up – Snap current window to the top of the screen.
  • Windows Key + Down – Snap current window to the bottom of the screen.

For years customers have been unimpressed with the slow speed and incompatibility of ad-ons with Internet Explorer. Microsoft made a good move to create an all new browser similar to Google Chrome and it’s included for free with Windows 10. Code named Project Spartan and unveiled as Edge the new browser is up to 112% faster than Chrome according to Business Insider (07/15/15, http://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-edge-windows-10-faster-than-google-chrome-2015-7). Edge allows you to circle, highlight and write your thoughts directly on web-pages. It also has a very cool reading view that strips out all the ads, sidebars, pop-ups and links, so you can scroll through a single column of text and pictures. However this does not work on all web-sites because some websites have not made the updates for 10. We really like this feature as we have been annoyed by these distractions when reading on-line and we like a lot of people do a lot of on-line reading.

Yet probably the second biggest addition to 10 will be Cortana. This is Microsoft’s digital assistant and promises to be much bigger than other voice assisted programs out there. Cortana is much like Dragon or Siri but much more advanced and integrated into the operating system. It will tell you your schedule and schedule things for you and is also an advanced web encyclopedia. It will learn more about you based off of Microsoft’s cloud databases which you can opt to share information with, including your e-mails, phone numbers, and web search data.

Fig. 3.
CortanaAfter upgrading to Window’s 10, we weren’t sure if we would use Cortana, but the more we use it the more we like it. In playing around with Cortana, you can provide feedback with screenshots that go right back to the teams at Microsoft. To prepare for the 10 release Microsoft was using an estimated five million external testers known as “insiders” to get this type of bug feedback.  This impressive number is a considerable increase from prior releases. Cortana is easy to locate in the bottom left of the screen next to the start menu. We find that if the user types a question in the search bar it will add tips and give you interesting facts each and every day, if you let it. Cortana starts out giving you information on the weather, finance, and sports but you can customize this under notebook settings (Fig. 3). Cortana is very intuitive and can track things for you. If you’re receiving a package, it will tell you the progress or details of that package. Say you’re picking someone up at the airport, Cortana will tell you if the flight is on time.

We really see Microsoft using Cortana to compete with Google Search and Google Analytics. Much the same way Google uses search on Android, Microsoft can use Cortana to provide different results for what you are looking for on phones, tablets, or computers. This really gives Microsoft a link to future ad and analytics revenue which could seriously challenge Google’s revenue streams.

In summary, Windows 10 is a much better product than prior operating systems and is a real threat to Apple and Google’s OS growth. It is designed for mobile and non-mobile devices and has the ability to exponentially learn about you from your use habits and Microsoft’s big data in the cloud. It is also a threat to Apple because they do not have a touch based OS on their computers but only on their iPads and iPhones. A lot of companies up to this point are still using Windows 7 but we see some of them moving to Windows 10 thus bypassing Windows 8.1. Imagine an HVAC worker, health care worker, or tax assessor having the power of Windows 10 to query their corporate database with Cortana while working in the field customized from their GPS trail.

With Cortana, the cool mobile aesthetics, the useful features of touch, the speed of the Edge browser, the ability to use multiple virtual desktops, the quad split screen, this is a growing hit among consumers. Based off these new upgrades it is much easier to use and much closer to what people are familiar with from previous versions of Windows yet it is still creatively different. We think app makers who have focused much of their energy in the past on the Android and iOS platforms will be forced to make more apps for Windows 10 and this will force more phone makers to sign on with Windows 10. We predict Windows 10 in conjunction with Microsoft’s own proprietary devices like the Surface will help them gain a lot more of the mobile OS market in the next 18 months thus driving Microsoft’s stock price above $55-$60 per share.

Jeremy Swenson and Mike Cassem are two seasoned, Intel certified, retail technology marketing and training representatives on assignment at Best Buy for clients including Intel, Trend Micro, Adobe, and others. Tweet to them @jer_Swenson and @micassem.

Jeremy Swenson About Photo for BlogMike Cassem