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« Microsoft Officially announces Windows Mobile 6.1 | Main | The brand promise of Apple »

April 03, 2008


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Chris Carlin

"It just goes to show how important name recognition given that RIM is still behind Windows Mobile on features."

It's not just about features, but also about usability.

Frankly, this confusion is a running theme of your blog, and it's something I see a lot of in the world of Windows developers: checklists of items are given entirely too much consideration, and programmers seem to be completely disconnected from the users they're writing for.

In this case, the RIM is doing well despite having a shorter feature list largely because, I suspect, it gives a better user experience. So what if it doesn't do ActiveSync; there's more to collaboration than that.

A whole lot of people have a terrible time with Windows Mobile regardless of how many features it has.

It's similar to the iPhone... so what if it doesn't do 3G; it has shown itself to be extremely competitive without it.

Features and buzzwords aren't the entirety of the world; usability is the key.

Stephen Skarlatos

I can tell you that every user I have converted to Windows Mobile has stayed with Windows Mobile. They have found it as easy to use and have a richer experience.

I just think people go with what they are familiar with (name recognition) or what they are told by IT to get without looking at overall functionality.

Chris Carlin

And I can tell you that every user I know who has used a Window Mobile device has griped about it and either dumped it if they could or told stories of continual suffering if they were bound to it by their employer.

In my own personal experience with Windows Mobile echoes what these people say: avoid it like the plague if at all possible.

So we have contradictory anecdotal information.

Thing is, in your blog you find it incredible that these other phones with fewer features can find success. I can see why it would be strange based on your anecdotes, but it makes perfect sense based on mine... which suggests that my experiences are more representative of the world at large.

Stephen Skarlatos

Nice try, but any Marketing 101 course teaches that brand recognition is more important than functionality. The numbers show this. In Europe where the Nokia brand is king, they have the majority of the market, Windows Mobile comes in second, then Blackberry. In the US where Blackberry has huge name recognition they are at the top. Microsoft has done a very poor job marketing the Windows Mobile brand in the US and leaves it up to the carriers or device manufacturers. You see many more Windows Mobile ads in Europe.

Chris Beard

I wonder if there isn't another part to this equation that we are not thinking about: Nokia (Symbian) has the policy of not locking their phones. They may be branded for providers, but they are not locked. Having recently come back from Europe I did some informal searching myself: a large number of people have contracts (or just prepaid agreements) with multiple carriers, and consequently are more apt to switching phones based on their needs or mood. And you can't underestimate the power or subsidies for phones.
I just purchased a Nokia E65 in Europe with a 24 month Vodafone contract. I am using this now on my T-Mobile USA network without a problem. After 1 week of evaluation I can't say if it's better than my T-Mobile Wing, which I still own, or not. I know what bothered me on the Wing (size, no physical numeric keypad for the phone, boot time, memory issues, slowness) and those are better with the Nokia. But then the sync with Exchange is not perfect with the Nokia. And I'm still learning the Symbian UI. But I paid $50 for the phone, plus $240 for the contact ($10/month for 24 months). Currently these phones are selling for nearly $400 on eBay, so I figure if I don't like the phone, I can sell it and still come out ahead.
All the Windows Mobile devices I tried in Europe were SIM locked, and I would have had to pay $150+ to unlock. Just a thought, but it seems that Europeans are more reluctant to pigeonhole their phone to just one carrier.

Stephen Skarlatos

There is no doubt that the purchasing patterns are different between the US and Europe. Europe clearly has more choice of devices, however with Nokia, Motorola and HTC starting to offer unlocked phones directly to consumers things may start to change. We will have to see how it all plays out.

Stephen Skarlatos

Chris B., it will also be interesting to see how you like Symbian...

Chris Carlin

Stephen, the numbers don't necessarily show what you think they show.

As Chris Beard pointed out, there's a vast difference in the cellphone environment between Europe and the US. To do the blind comparison you've done is to ignore this very important aspect.

To compare apples to apples consider regional trends; it's very difficult to account for differences across regions.

So from that perspective, consider actual polling that shows the iPhone and RIM with greatest user satisfaction against RIM and iPhone with best growth. Coincidence? Surely user satisfaction isn't driven by brand recognition, as you say.

To add support for this line of thought, the numbers show that lots of Apple customers have bought other Apple products in the past. Sure you could claim they were hypnotized once again, but a more reasonable explanation sees this as the customers putting their money with their mouths are: they don't just CLAIM satisfaction; they seek out more of the same.

We can add more if you want: from the internet access observed to other polling of what people do with their phones the message is hammered in over and over: people find the iPhone extremely usable, moreso than other smartphones.

This isn't blind speculation or anecdotal information as found in your next posting about Mac users suffering; this legitimate polling replicated over and over.

So no: it's unlikely that brand recognition is the main driver here. RIM and the iPhone succeed because they provide a better user experience, and the lack of certain features doesn't really matter to most people.


I have been working with mobile technology for over 5 years and to date, have yet to personally a positive experience, or interact with anyone who has had a positive experience, using Windows Mobile. I have however, seen many Pocket PC's fall victim to drowning, being run over by cars and thrown against walls. I've also not met anyone who switched FROM BlackBerry to anything else, especially Windows.

And yeah, I don't believe branding or name recognition has driven the success of iPhone or RIM. Ease of use I believe to be the driver. I mean, who in the world doesn't know Microsoft? And who in the world doesn't know how user un-friendly and fault-ridden their products can be? Starting with MS software on your home PC.....

How many times has a user ever HAD to update or patch the software on their BlackBerry?

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