Windows Phone 7 Has a “Connection” Problem
First off, let me say I don’t necessarily buy into the opinions I’ve been seeing around the net about the Windows name or the Microsoft brand being the big issue with Windows Phone 7’s less-than-dramatic adoption rate. I don’t discount them entirely, but as a software developer, I have a slightly different take.
I think Microsoft’s problem is that it’s marketing isn’t focusing on Windows Phone 7’s obvious strength: it’s ability to create an emotional connection between the user and their phone. I touched on this in a blog post I wrote right after I got my Samsung Focus last year.
The concept is simple: My Windows Phone is Me. Hell, I’d even be willing to toss the “branding” critics a bone and go with “My Phone is Me” if it makes them happy. But the point is the same. When I look at my phone, I see my pictures, my friends, my photos, my music, my life.
That is a dramatic point of differentiation between the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7. When you look at an iPhone or Android screen, or worse yet, a Blackberry screen, do you see anything that is truly representative of your life? Sure, you downloaded the apps. You put them in groups. Maybe you changed the “theme”, wallpaper, or geeked out on all the different ways Android lets you customize your settings. But at the end of the day, do you see the brand or do you see yourself?
I recently had a job interview where the discussion turned to mobile devices in the enterprise, specifically around Microsoft and Windows Mobile and where rugged enterprise devices might be headed now with the introduction of Windows Phone 7. When I mentioned I had a Samsung Focus WP7 device and that I switched from the iPhone, the interviewer asked to see it. When I showed it to her, her eyes instantly lit up. And when I explained why I ditched my iPhone for WP7, because of the emotional connection it invoked when seeing my life represented on the start screen, she instantly recognized the same thing and said, “WOW! You’re right! Now you have me thinking of getting one.” That was all it look to get her interested.
I’m no marketing expert. But in designing user interfaces, I think it is a universal truth that you have exactly 5 seconds to create an emotional reaction to the software you created the first time the user starts the program (or opens the web page, etc.).
In that first 5 seconds, the user is going to form an opinion about your software based solely on how it looks and the initial emotional reaction that look creates. If the user’s reaction is “damn, this looks hot!” they are going to be WAY more forgiving of the software’s shortcomings (See: Apple). If the reaction is “meh” or, even worse, “this looks like sh@$!” (See: Blackberry), it doesn’t matter if your software cures cancer, your user isn’t going to trust it, much less be forgiving of its shortcomings.
Let’s face it, Microsoft hasn’t historically created sexy software or sexy products in general. But Windows Phone 7 IS different. Everyone says it. Even the critics usually start out their articles with how different the OS is than anything Microsoft has ever done before.
Windows Phone 7 has a connection problem: It has the ability to create that emotional connection between the user and the phone, Microsoft just hasn’t exploited that. Hopefully someone at Microsoft (I’m looking at YOU @windowsphone) will take the suggestion to heart and do some creative marketing around this concept for the Mango release.