Charlie Kindel, a 21-year Microsoft veteran who left the company in September 2011 to start his own company, described on Monday his views on why the smartphone operating system had failed to take the world by storm, in spite of being “superior” to Android.
Windows Phone’s tight hardware specification prevents device builders from creating the same range of weird and wacky devices that Android enjoys; its tight software specification prevents both builders and phone companies alike from stripping out key features or bundling crapware with their devices.
Both decisions give end-users an advantage — timely, consistent updates, a uniform, high quality user experience, and a high degree of software compatibility—but remove control and the ability to differentiate from these two parties.
Android, in contrast, bends over backwards to allow manufacturers and networks to do whatever they want to the platform — even if it means removing flagship features or denying users the ability to upgrade. Companies like HTC use this flexibility to produce dozens of different Android handsets, all to fit some market niche (either real or perceived) and price level.
The focus on marketing avoids addressing what is seen by many as a bigger problem with the platform — it launched so damn late.
Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t have to please hardware companies at all, since it doesn’t license the operating system to anyone else. And while Apple does depend on mobile networks to some extent, it also has a strong direct sales channel, so it can ensure that its devices are well promoted and positioned no matter what.
As a result, Kindel says, it’s easy for the operators and handset companies to justify marketing and promotion of Android devices. They can both make the devices “their own.” This is particularly true in the U.S. market; a handset like the Samsung Galaxy S II had three “exclusive” releases in the US, as each of Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile had their own minor variation on the same base model (in fact, AT&T has released the handset in no fewer than three different variants).
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