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Former MS VP Speculates on Windows Phone's Slow Adoption

From January 2009 to August 2011, Charlie Kindel served as General Manager of Microsoft's Windows Phone developer experience. According to his LinkedIn profile, he built and ran the engineering team that shipped the application platform. He also drove the developer marketing and evangelism programs, leading to "thousands of great applications and games." Now he's the founder of an unnamed startup company while serving on the board of advisers at Buddy Platform, Inc.

In a recent blog, Kindel claims that Windows Phone is superior to Android. However the problem with Windows Phone's lackluster sales -- in addition to the fact that the smartphone market is simply saturated with Google's mobile OS -- is that Microsoft's OS has an "impedance mismatch with the carriers and device manufacturers while Google's approach reduces friction with carriers and device manufacturers at the expense of end users."

Google's approach, according to Kindel, is to develop Android and then throw it at the device manufacturers. They in turn modify the OS to their liking and specific needs for the hardware at hand. Once those devices are completed, Google steps back completely and allows the carriers to throw in their bloatware and market the devices as they see fit. As Kindel puts it, Google built Android to reduce friction between all sides of the market.

With Windows Phone, Microsoft has taken a different approach. "WP raises it’s [sic] middle finger at both the device manufacturers and mobile carriers," he writes. "WP says 'here’s the hardware spec you shalt use' (to the device manufacturers). And it says 'Here’s how it will be updated' (to the carriers). Thus both of those sides of the market are reluctant. Especially the carriers, but also the device manufacturers."

"Carriers own the marketing money and spend billions a year," he adds. "The money is provided by the other sides of the market: OS providers & device manufactures, but the carriers get to spend it; they are the aggregation point where the money actually gets spent. The carriers choose what devices get featured on those TV ads.  They also choose what devices to train their RSP (retail sales professionals) to push. They choose to incent the RSPs to push one device over another."

He claims that Windows Phone has not sold well because it's easy to spend marketing dollars on advertising Android devices -- devices that essentially allow for carrier customization to distinguish them from devices offered by other carriers, thus are more worthy of advertising dollars than those with imposed limitations. It's also easy to get RSP's to push those Android devices as well.

That said, spending marketing dollars to advertise Windows Phone requires a direct push from Microsoft itself on the carriers who are somewhat reluctant to push devices they can't customize. Getting RSPs to push those devices means Microsoft must push hard on the carriers to "incent their RSPs correctly." In other words, if Microsoft simply handed over Windows Phone to manufacturers like Google, carriers may be less reluctant to push the devices.

"The question in my mind is whether Microsoft’s continued investment in WP and close partnership with device manufactures such as Nokia will eventually enable a breakthrough here," he said. "I know that MS can be very persistent & patient; it’s been so in the past. We will see. In the meantime Android devices will continue to sell like hotcakes and fragmentation will continue to get worse and worse."

To Microsoft's defense, Apple uses an even stricter closed system, creating just one iPhone model at a time (it doesn't even license out iOS). So far the company seems to be doing just fine. Maybe Windows Phone just needs time to mature?