Windows Phone 7 battles indifference in London

Today is launch day for Windows Phone 7 in the UK – but the hoped-for crowds of people waiting to buy the new phone failed to appear.

They are billed as the handsets that could topple the iPhone. Yet as Microsoft’s Windows 7 phones went on sale this morning there was not a queue in sight.

reported the London Evening Standard.

The device also suffered faint praise from the influential Wall Street Journal reviewer Walt Mossberg. Although he called the user interface “novel and attractive”, he complained about missing features:

Microsoft has inexplicably omitted from Windows Phone 7 key features now common, or becoming so, on competitive phones. These missing features include copy and paste, visual voicemail, multitasking of third-party apps, and the ability to do video calling and to use the phone to connect other devices to the Internet. The Android phones and the iPhone handle all these things today.

adding that

I couldn’t find a killer innovation that would be likely to make iPhone or Android users envious, except possibly for dedicated Xbox users.

Is he right? In some ways it does not matter; perception is reality. That said, none of his missing features strike me as deal-breakers for a majority of users. You can also argue that Microsoft has learnt from Apple not to put every possible feature into the first release, but rather to make the features it does implement work as well as possible and to build on that in the future.

The problem is that there is so much momentum around Google Android and Apple iPhone that the average consumer looking for a smartphone will need a lot of persuading before paying out for Windows Phone 7, or even really noticing it. Microsoft needed rave reviews, not so-so ones. There is a danger that the new phone may suffer the same fate as Palm’s webOS devices, well liked by those who take the trouble to explore them, but absent from the mainstream of consumer consciousness.

I’ve had a device for a few days, and it has been favourably received by people I’ve shown it to. Some of the games look great – The Harvest, for example, a Microsoft exclusive. The Facebook integration is also appealing to fans of that site, and feels deeper than Facebook apps on other devices. Windows Phone 7 does have distinctive features.

I’ll be reviewing the device properly in due course. What is more interesting than my opinions though is how the phone is received in the market. I had expected more interest from the curious on day one of retail release.

Update: Microsoft found a queue or two for its press release today. Big in Australia?

11 thoughts on “Windows Phone 7 battles indifference in London”

  1. To nitpick about lack of queues seems pretty lame. Have there ever been queues for a phone other than the iPhone which is a single hardware device, not a choice of several?

    Personally I’m not at all surprised at the lack of interest. Microsoft have screwed up the launch at every possible turn, alienating developers, potential purchasers and “we’re consumer not business” companies alike. A commitment of 2 years with a provider is too long to make in something that’s clearly not yet finished. About the only thing they did get right was the huge (and expensive) marketing wrapped around all the editions of the free Metro newspaper this morning.

    Talking of which, isn’t Metro in competition with The Evening Standard? Is it possible the overly negative reporting on the Windows Phone launch in that paper is the result of losing out lucrative advertising revenue to a rival? Whatever, even bad publicity is good publicity and even The Evening Standard’s criticism will raise awareness of a phone which, in my experience, very few outside the industry know or care about.

  2. Ian

    There were queues for Xbox 360 when it came out, but so few available that they soon disappeared.

    Would love to know more about how it went as the day progressed.

    I doubt the Metro was an influence. See also Pocket-lint’s report.

    Tim

  3. But that’s my point. XBox is a single hardware device with no alternatives. Windows Phone 7 is a whole bunch of products with different options.

    I disagree about the Metro influence. It’s expensive to effectively get the front and back covers of this daily newspaper and it has a LOT of readers. It effectively moved announcement of Windows Phone 7 over to the mainstream where it’s otherwise hidden (heck, even the BBC news site hasn’t mentioned the release – you’d have thought the fact we got the phone before the USA was a news story in itself).

  4. Walt Mossberg is a notorious Apple shill. Steve Jobs schmoozes with Walt backstage at press events. It’s not because of Walt’s witty personality either.

  5. I went for a wander at lunchtime and couldn’t find any windows 7 phones in Richmond (I looked in 4 or 5 shops), so I wonder if it’s lack of excitement on behalf of the carriers.

  6. Tim, I think expecting lines of people to be waiting for these first WP7 models is unrealistic. I see this just as a necessary v1 place-holder release. It’s a bit like the v1 release of Silverlight. It was only the v2+ releases of Silverlight which included .NET that turned me into a committed SL dev.

    Personally I don’t think I’ll buy a WP7 device until the GPS/Navigation support is working and 3rd-party-vetted. That’s the feature I’d like to do some app development with.

  7. I actually think Microsoft are thinking long-term about this. If they went for a huge release with excitement, all they would get is lots of articles about how iPhone queues were bigger and people expecting more than they’re getting. If there’s no long queues in 2 versions time, they could start to worry but it’s about the long-term. They’re not aiming to topple iPhone in months, it’s about years.

  8. I went to a recent FITC mobile developers conference and attended the advanced SL session. It was well done and the API seemed to make a lot of sense. But there were only a dozen people in the room and it was obvious that the first WP7 release isn’t really competitive with existing iOS and Android releases. I imagine the gap will close to some degree in the next release.

    Earlier this year I bought an Android phone, partly just to challenge our Blackberry focused IT staff to support it. It works fine and so did our support staff. I’m in no hurry to replace it. But an interesting thing happened the other day when someone who has seen the thing and heard me refer to it as an Android phone referred to it as my ‘iPhone.’ If you are concerned about brand awareness “iPhone” is becoming like Kleenex was for facial tissue or Xerox was for photocopying. As the market matures I don’t know if that’s good or bad for Apple. Right now WP7 phones just look like another smart phone that the carriers will pick up. Unless you are already a committed SL dev there doesn’t seem to be anything really special or compelling about it. So far there’s nothing about WP7 that has sparked my personal interest – unlike the recently announced 7″ tablets.

  9. There certainly is some interest from the smartphone-weenie crowd (and I count myself among them). While you can usually buy HTC phones sim-free and unlocked over the counter, this time around – whether only temporarily or not – you can’t. So the alternative method is to buy PAYG from a network, unlock it, and use on the network of your choice. The only carrier offering WP7 on PAYG at launch is O2, and only the HTC HD7 (which, admittedly, is probably one of the best of the launch bunch). I tried to buy one on Friday evening, then Saturday, across London in at least six O2 stores – all had sold out of the PAYG model. Now perhaps they only got 20 or 30 to begin with, but it’s still indicative of demand, at least from the sim-free crowd. Contract handsets all the stores had in abundance.

    Thankfully (for me) most of the stores got another delivery yesterday, and I managed to pick one up at one of the branches on Oxford Street at the third attempt. And I have to say I really rather like it so far. Despite obviously being a bit of a Microsoft shill 🙂

    My main personal SIM will be staying in the HD7 for a while, at least. That’ll be the first time I’ve been off the iPhone as a main phone for well over a year now.

    NH

  10. No-one (not even Apple) will ever replicate the queues for the first iPhone as there was nothing else like it at the time, plus it had the hype of the Apple fanboys. People are used to such smartphones now.

    A *lot* of stuff was missing from the first iphone software (at the time I missed many features from my old Palm PDA). Today’s more savvy smartphone buyer will wait on reviews and comparisons and possibly even the next version of software before dsahing out and buying a WP7.

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