Just a smidgeon over a year ago, the Australian airwaves featured a curio story wrapped up in a PR event by Microsoft. The (newly) famous (again) Isaiah Mustafa hit the Bondi surf for the launch of Windows Phone in Australia. The “I’m on a Horse” guy, riding high on popular social media hype at the time, flew briefly in and out of Australia to capture some much-needed social hype over the Windows Phone launch in this country. Twelve months on and it would seem Microsoft is intent on Nokia being the true knight in shining armour for their Mobile OS in the local market. The question for Microsoft is; will that horse have bolted by 2012 when Nokia enter the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) market here?
As a publicity stunt, it was momentarily attention grabbing (it did make the Fairfax tech pages!) and then disappeared without too many ripples. Australia then saw Windows Phone eventually settle down onto 3 main carriers (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone), Here’s a brief video of the official Telstra device launch last year that you may not have seen yet (a larger 11m video summary of the Telstra launch is HERE):
Windows Phone in Australia experienced varying small-scale degrees of initial promotion (in-store, TV etc.), and then an additional short burst of refreshed advertising around April of this year following the NoDo update. Telstra had a few bites of the cherry – including bundling movie tickets on some WP7 plans – and we even saw a brief spurt of official Windows adverts around this time as well.
Since April as new Android handsets, Nokia Symbian devices and more leapt out of the retail phone stores in Australia, Microsoft had quietly been about readying and then launching their much-needed “Mango” Windows Phone 7,5 official update (check out the fantastic guest-post review of Mango here at WPDownUnder by Zulu69”. This update builds on the brilliant design and user Interface of WP7 with a raft of new features, capabilities and enhancements. However, one year on – Australia has yet to see a single firm announcement on local release dates for the new handsets advised by OEM’s, Carriers or Microsoft.
Generation 2 devices such as the HTC Titan & Radar (pricing), Samsung Focus S and Focus Flash are all confirmed on the US Windows phone page – and at their primary carrier/Telco pages, with all but the Titan having O/S release dates. Microsoft UK and US have also been ramping up the promotional efforts, from online competitions, blog posts, public advertising and events such as the NYC “mystery” night this Monday and earlier “Spend The Night” functions.
However all the buzz around the globe at the moment on WP7 has been with the official entry of Nokia onto the Windows Phone stage. In what is probably a smart move by MS based on both theirs and Nokia’s history, they appear to have handed the bulk of the responsibility and funds for the marketing and advertising efforts to them. Windows Phone and Nokia’s smartphone future are now inextricably melded together. The recent launch of Nokia’s first Windows Phone devices, the Lumia range has been backed by strong early promotion in the European markets handsets are first being sold in.
However Australia will not see the Nokia devices until 2012. In the meantime, as overseas markets have their GEN2 handsets release dates and carriers confirmed, we still have no official advice of any release dates or carriers for new handsets. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone in Australia are yet to publicly confirm devices they will be offering or when they will arrive. Quite disappointingly, the head of Telstra Mobile products, Andrew Volard, published a Telstra Exchange Blog post covering pre-Xmas 2011 Smartphone releases for Telstra without any mention of Windows Phone…
Unfortunately, between very little in-store promotion of Windows Phone, no major advertising here since around April of this year and with no new devices to headline the Windows Phone push, the first 12 months have shown that having a great, intuitive, seamless, powerful and incredibly smooth and amazing to use mobile OS has not been enough on it’s own to substantially grow sales. “Mango” is an amazing update, filling the majority of the gaps in features/performance to it’s major competitors (we just need Internet Tethering officially please!).
However Windows Phone sales in Australia remain very low, most likely <5% of Telstra’s smartphone handset sales (optimistically). Anecdotally, I was informed by an Enterprise contact that in a B2B meeting, a Telstra senior representative was heard to say something along the lines of “….14 year old girls do not want to buy Windows Phone, and that’s where the market is”. This may go a long way to explaining why Telstra recently brought out Rebecca Black to Australia to promote their 4G network of all things! (I DARE you to click on this link to see her performing for Telstra in Sydney!). It will be interesting to see how much Telstra promote the new handsets when they eventually arrive as an indicator of whether they are in for the long haul with WP7 – or on a holding pattern until the arrival and marketing $ of Nokia.
Noticeable increased levels of interest in sites like Whirlpool (WP7 Forum section – when they eventually assign one!), tech cover from sites like Gizmodo and of course, WP7 specific sites such as WPDownUnder – Australian interest in WP7 seems to definitely be on the rise. However, it will be largely up to Microsoft Australia, HTC, Samsung & Telstra/Optus/Vodafone to generate more momentum and interest in the platform at home, in-store and on the airwaves until Nokia handsets and promotion arrive here in Q1 2012.
Zune Pass music in Australia (launching Nov 16th) should help increase interest in WP7 and is a long looked-for feature rollout for Australia. However Microsoft need to do more, whether by resourcing WP7 more heavily internally, improving the online Blog and engagement initiatives (outside of the Developers) to users and consumers or giving Telco’s more incentive to promote, advertise and feature WP7 devices. And to do that, we need GEN2 handsets here ASAP. Reading the December issues of APC and PC User magazines, both featuring the latest and greatest Christmas 2011 Smartphone comparisons, it’s quite sad to see one still comparing the latest Android or iFruit products to a HD7 or Omnia – and the other not even showing a WP7 device! To capitalise on the small but steady growth in interest we need those new handets in store yesterday!
Let’s hope Windows Phone 7 gets more of a chance with Mango, and with new handsets….and that the channel partners and Microsoft get cracking in Australia to raise the product profile and get this great mobile OS into more users hands. The horse hasn’t bolted yet….but someone needs to shut the gate – and quickly!
(PS – If you clicked on the Rebecca Black link above, I promise NEVER to mention or link to her again on this blog #banhammer !)