If a phone is launched in the forest, does anyone hear it?

This is a bit of a rant (I do that a lot, don’t I?) Partly it is a rant about Microsoft and its Windows Phone 7 launch. It is also partly a rant about our local Bell Mobility retailer, and their complete lack of customer service or sales skills.

I am in the market for a new smart phone. My current phone is a 3 year old HTC touch, which I like, but it beginning to show its age. Over the past few weeks, I have been looking at both the iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S. I like the iPhone, but am pretty much anti-Apple because I do not really approve of either the undeserved hype around their products, or their obsessively controlling attitude towards developers and users alike. The Galaxy S looks like an interesting option, however.

For the sake of completeness, however, I wanted to wait and have a look at a Windows Phone 7 device. I am tied to Bell, so unfortunately my only choice would be the LG Optimus Quantum. I am not a fan of slide out keyboards, but I thought I would give it a chance.

I have been faithfully watching the Bell Mobility site for news of the launch. That was a waste of time. Even now, on launch day, there is no information, just a form to fill out to “get more information when it is available”. Last night (November 7) I did get an email from Bell saying the device would be available in their stores today.

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So today I go to my local Bell partner retailer (Sounds Fantastic in Moncton). Actually, I tried calling Sounds first to save myself a wasted trip, but three calls over the course of a couple hours all went unanswered. I figured they must be really busy. So, I decided to visit the store on my lunch break. Not busy at all – in fact, no one there. So I was able to very quickly get the attention of a helpful sales parson. After a brief sequence of questions and one-word, grunting responses, I learned the following.

They do not have any Windows Phone 7 devices.

He does not know when/if they are getting any.

No, he does not know if anyone else in the area is getting any.

No, the guy who might know if they are getting any is not in today.

Not very helpful. He could have maybe taken my name, or tried to find out the information I needed. But he was too busy (even with no other customers in the store).

So that is my rant about Sounds Fantastic. I was very disappointed by the service, but not surprised. It sort of matches all my other experiences there (on the mobility side, anyway – they seem to be completely different business).

Now to talk about Microsoft, and the Windows Phone 7 launch in general.

How can a major tech corporation manage to launch a major new product, and yet generate no hype whatsoever. I have commented on this before. It seems to me that Microsoft’s biggest weakness right now (and for most of the last decade) is its marketing department. Microsoft makes some very cool technology. In my opinion, they are at least as innovative as Apple, and probably more so (at least they are innovative across a much broader spectrum of technologies and solutions).

But lets looks at Microsoft’s marketing track record (especially marketing to the consumer market – their marketing to the enterprise seems pretty good).

  • Tablet PC: Microsoft launched the Tablet PC back in 2002. Since about 2005 it has been a viable platform. I have been using productively that entire time. And yet, even up to about a year ago, I would have people see me in airports, on airplanes, and many other places, ask me what they device was I was using, and be surprised that anything like that existed. Microsoft completely and utterly failed to communicate the existence of this technology outside of the hard-core techie community. And even within that community, they failed to communicate the power of the platform, or to entice developers to develop for it.
  • Windows Vista: Where to begin on Windows Vista? To be clear here, Windows Vista was far more of a marketing failure than a technology failure.  Yes, Vista had its problems. The vast majority of them (in my opinion) were due to third party driver and application updates or lack thereof – this is of course a marketing/product management issue as well. Vista’s biggest problem was public opinion, and failed marketing. For how long did Microsoft sit back and watch while a certain competitor raked them over the coals with very popular and effective TV commercials? When Microsoft marketing did respond, what was the best they could do? Seinfeld and Gates in obscure, bizarre skits? Please.
  • Microsoft Surface: Ok, this is not a consumer-oriented device (yet), but it is an example of Microsoft coming up with really cool technology and then actively hiding it from the world. Until a year ago, it was very difficult to get any information about it at all. Buying one was damn near impossible. Even now, people look at it and say “hey, that’s copying the iPad” – not knowing it has been around for 3 years.
  • Windows Phone 7: Major new launch, and no hype or energy at all, outside of hard core Microsoft circles. A few articles here and there. Even mobile service providers carrying the devices have almost nothing on their web sites about the devices, and then it is buried. And then I go to a store to look at one, and there are none.  Not “we had some but they are sold out”, just “we have none”. I realize I live in a backwater of the world, but it is amazing to me to see how little attention Microsoft has generated for this launch.

This to me is indicative of what truly ails Microsoft right now. In the enterprise market, they are very healthy. But in the consumer market, they cannot generate any hype. As everyone in this business (or any business) knows, you can have the best products and technology on the planet, but if you cannot get the word out, get people excited, and manage consumer perceptions of your products, you will fail!

Update: After my experience trying to look at a Windows Phone 7 device at Sounds Fantastic, I decided to reply to the above Bell email, asking why there were none at my local Bell dealer. Yes, I know it would bounce because that message was obviously form an auto-mailer. I did get an automated response, though:

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Good enough. I happily click through the l;ink to voice my concerns – only to see the following page:

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Just not my day for talking to Bell Sad smile

Interesting stats

It is kind of funny to me that the most popular post I have written (based on the number of hits, anyway) is one on Vista from well over a year ago. It is even more interesting that the hit rate on this post has gone up over time.

Of course, it is fairly easy to draw hits – just use any combination of Microsoft, Vista, sucks, etc. in your tags!

Does Vista Suck if it is Not Vista?

Interesting post over on Ars Technica – Microsoft does a blind test with Windows XP users, telling them that they are testing a new OS. It is really just Vista. And the overwhelming majority are impressed.

As I have said frequently before – Vista’s problems are (for the most part) not technical – they are marketing and perception. It reminds me of a term from (I think) Tom Peters in Thriving on Chaos – “relative percieved product quality”. It is not the true qualty that drives consumers, it is all about perception.

Interesting article on the "OS Wars"

This article from PC Magazine is interesting. It does a fairly good job of looking at the pros and cons of various OS’, without the silliness of most such discussions. The only aspects of it I think are a little unfair are the “Price” and “Installation” scores, both of which rate Mac OS better than either Windows XP or Vista.

On the price side, while it is true that you can buy Mac OS for less than Windows, you cannot (at least if you are a typical user) install it on your existing, non-Mac hardware. So the true cost of a typical user switching to Mac OS includes the cost of buying a completely new computer, at a premium price.

On the installation side, again the comparison is not quite fair. Both Windows and Linux are general-purpose OS’ which have to be able to install on a wide-range of hardware and almost unlimited permutations of hardware configurations. Again, Apple does not have this problem with Mac OS, since Apple tightly constrains (though not as tightly as it used to) the hardware configurations with which Mac OS must contend.

Overall, though, not a bad article.

Vista is a failure? Mac is a success?

This post was prompted by a post I saw on the WordPress “TagSurfer” about the current market share between various operating systems and OS versions. I cannot find that post again, so I looked up the stats at http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=10, and the numbers looked much the same as I recall from the post.

What jumps out at me from the stats is this: Vista is at 9.19% (after about a year in the wild), and Mac is at 6.81%. And yet, Vista is widely perceived as a failure, and Mac is perceived to be on a roll. How much of a roll can Mac be on if they still do not have the market penetration of a new OS that everyone supposedly hates?

What these numbers say to me is that marketers, fan boys, and other obsessives can spin the numbers to say whatever they want you to buy!

Leopard will open the Mac OS X floodgates (and embarass Microsoft)?

Leopard will open the Mac OS X floodgates (and embarass Microsoft) – nice thought, but not very realistic. The fact is, Apple will continue to eat away a Microsoft’s dominance, especially in certain segments of the market (primarily those who would not be running Windows anyway), but will not become the dominant desktop OS (and hence, will not destroy Microsoft) unless Apple stops being a radically proprietary, closed environment, and lets users buy the OS and run it on whatever hardware they want. Same battle Apple lost in the 80s – seems they never learn.This assumes, of course, that Apple wants to be an OS vendor – maybe they are not stupid, they just do not want to compete in that market.

New laptop & Another try at Ubuntu

Well, as I dicussed in a previous post, I have been in the market for a new laptop. I have finally bought one. I decided to go for a Dell XPS rather than Apple (mostly due to cost). Such is life – maybe I will try a Mac next year. It is my intent on my new laptop to either dual boot Vista and Ubuntu, or (if I have a good enough experience with Ubuntu), just run Ubuntu and do all of my Windows stuff in hosted virtual machines.

So, last night I take my brand new laptop, and my newly burned Ubuntu CD, and set out. Ubuntu boots up from the CD just fine, but the screen resolution sucks because Ubuntu is philosophically opposed to loading the drivers for my video card. No big deal, I can live with 800×600 until I get a proper install done. So, I click on the install icon, and away I go. Or, actually, I don’t. It seems the Installer UI is not expecting 800×600 resolution, and the buttons to let me proceed through the installation are lost off the bottom of the screen. I also do not seem to be allow to resize this window. It being midnight and all, I gave up. I am sure there is some way around this, but I did not feel like screwing with it.

I will probably have another shot at trying to set up Ubuntu or some other Linux distro this weekend. Maybe I will have better luck and not just give up on Linux (sorry folks – this is stuff that should just work!)

PS – Vista is working fine on my new laptop. Transfered my files and settings from my old machine using “Windows Easy Transfer” – not a problem.