Will Microsoft's slow-and-steady strategy with Windows Phone actually work out?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| July 30, 2011

Instead of waiting for the end of this paragraph to ask the question, I’m going to ask it right now. Just get it right out of the way: what is Microsoft waiting for? I haven’t really beaten around the bush about me liking Windows Phone, because I do. (I like them all.) I think Microsoft has a great product on their hands, and they have plenty of additional products tied to that initial base that make the whole system just awesome to think about. User satisfaction for Windows Phone is in the top ranks, but sales don’t match the love. And unfortunately, Microsoft only has Microsoft to blame for the fact that Windows Phone isn’t part of the real top contender conversation right now.

This isn’t the first time that it’s been said, either. Microsoft obviously has several different strategies for their products. Strategy upon strategy, in fact, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I know, definitively, what any one of them are. But one thing seems pretty clear: they’re doing the same thing with Windows Phone that they’ve done with their products in the past. The “slow and steady wins the race” method, which is great for some products, and not so great for others.

Is Windows Phone a tortoise? Probably. And Microsoft seems to be oddly content with that position. But unfortunately for Microsoft, the mobile phone market is moving at a hare’s pace, and this isn’t a fairy tale or children’s story we’re talking about here. Companies like Apple, Google, and HP aren’t going to just sit back and stop coming up with great new products or ideas, and their development on the software end of things isn’t going to stop any time soon. So while Microsoft is happy sitting idly by, rolling out major updates in a slow-but-steady fashion, but without launching any new phones at the same time, the market will keep on truckin’.

So what is Microsoft waiting for? Some think they’re using 2010 and 2011as a sort of launching pad, where they’ve shown their product, and will use the very end of 2011, but mostly 2012, to really show it off. Specifically, Nokia and Skype are going to be their key points, which help push Microsoft through to the next phase of Windows Phone, and eventually closer toward that unreachable finish line. But, does this work? If Microsoft is banking on Nokia and Nokia specifically, what about the other manufacturers like HTC and Samsung who have agreed to release Windows Phone devices? Obviously those companies are surging with Android-based handset sales, so if Microsoft is going to just focus on Nokia, why would they continue to release Windows Phone handsets? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see HTC or Samsung not releasing Windows Phone handsets in the future I’m just throwing out a question.

Honestly, I don’t see Microsoft as the underdog, as I’ve heard them referred to in some specific situations. They’re a strong company that have great products and prolific sales in other departments (and not so good of sales in others), and I’ll admit that their current strategy may actually work out for them eventually. Like Xbox, just having the product available and making it the best they can, may bring more and more people into the fold. However, the mobile phone market advances far faster than the home console market, so Microsoft needs to find a way to balance great products and keeping the customers out there in the wild interested.

So how does Microsoft keep the customer interested? How does Microsoft snake customers from Apple, Google and HP? Does it involve 4G? Or more word of mouth? Part of it will be the features and hardware they release over the next several months, but time will tell which of these things is more important. What do you think Microsoft is waiting for? And do you think the company can change anything to change sales of Windows Phone right now? Let me know in the comments below what you think.