Can Microsoft kill the iPhone? Let me answer that with another question. Why did we stop asking if Google can kill the iPhone? Because it found a niche of its own. For all the lawsuits and talk of thermonuclear war, Apple and Google know that this town is big enough for the both of us.
But while Google’s Android platform sits (fairly) neatly alongside the iPhone, fans of both are left wondering aloud: what exactly is the point of Windows Phone 8?
Room for one more?
Right now Android, iOS and BlackBerry (remember them?) have the market sewn up, top to bottom, with BlackBerry feeling the pain. Apple is the premium player, Android handsets shift in great volume, and BlackBerry’s future – if it has one – is rooted in business use. Even with Microsoft’s huge cash reserves and billion or so Windows users, it seems unlikely that Windows Phone 8 can squeeze its way in. Not to any significant level.
Many who use WP8 feel a lot of love for it. But few could argue that Microsoft’s platform is so much better than Android or iOS that it would make people want to swap. It’s quite restrictive, and the lack of apps is a problem. The only genuine advantage to Windows Phone 8 is Kid’s Corner. (So expect to see similar features in other mobile OSes.)
Android has volume because it is open software that any hardware manufacturer can use. This means the quality of hardware and software varies wildly. But in its mature state Android allows manufacturers such as Samsung and LG to make phones that are genuine competitors to the iPhone. Android also offers phone makers the potential to make cheap handsets that offer an entry level to the smartphone market for people who would never pony up for an iPhone.
At the other end of the spectrum Apple is both hardware and software maker. This means limited choice for the purchaser, but a guaranteed great, premium experience.
To an extent, then, Android and iOS complement each other. They offer a modicum of choice, and a range of price points. App makers know that Android has more users and is an easier platform to access, but iPhone users spend a lot more cash. So it makes sense for most to go iPhone first, and then port to Android. Either way, virtually all significant app makers are on both platforms. Persuading them, and users, to move to Windows Phone seems like a choice too far.
Windows Phone 8 has the worst of all worlds. It’s locked into Microsoft’s system, with very strict hardware specs that mean little choice for users and handset makers. It’s very difficult for hardware makers to differentiate their products. Trust me: a Windows Phone 8 phone is a Windows Phone 8 phone. It’s the negatives of iPhone, without all the positives.
And with hardware neither made nor supported by Microsoft, and a distinct lack of users, Windows Phone 8 is less of a premium option for consumers, which in turn saddles it with a rubbish app store. The down sides of Android, in other words.
I hate to be negative about Windows Phone 8. And I suspect that the rump of hardcore Windows Phone users will expand a little. But I don’t see it ever becoming a truly major player because, well, three’s a crowd.