Friday, 29 April 2016
Thursday, 28 April 2016
Microsoft is constantly rumoured to be on the point of releasing a new Windows 10 Mobile that will reach the market and save the business. The mythical beast is almost universally known as the Surface Phone on the rumour sites and some with good track records are suggesting that it will arrive in April next year.
Jam tomorrow? Almost certainly. A whole year is a long time to wait for something that may or may not save a dying platform. However, let’s be honest here, outside of Windows Phone fans, Windows 10 on Mobile isn’t really ready for a big push. Since its launch Microsoft has pushed out 11 fairly big updates, each of which has brought the platform closer to completion. There are still some holes and bugs, but Windows 10 Mobile users can be pretty confident they’ll be filled or squashed as a matter of routine.
Its the same sort of process which has taken Windows 10 on the desktop from unfinished to nicely polished part way through its first year since release.
So we know that Windows 10 Mobile will get better and we’re also seeing more and more third parties releasing universal apps to fill the app store gap. Its only a small number in the grander scheme of things, but its the sort of movement the Windows Store has lacked since arriving with Windows/WP 8.
With gaps in its armour being closed on an almost daily basis it makes sense for Microsoft to hold off on a flagship phone until such time as both hardware and software are as good as they can be.
Assuming that the Windows Phone fan community keeps buying devices in sufficient number to keep platform recognition up (and prevent Windows 10 Mobile disappearing into the Other category in market reports) Microsoft has the time in hand to delay its big play.
But it needs to make that big play.
The last Windows Phone that really drove any kind of consumer interest was the Lumia 1020. Its camera was a big enough differentiator to be recognisable even amongst focused consumers who could see no further than Android and iOS. The camera was a talking point and an opportunity to demonstrate what Windows Phone could do.
Of course the marketing was tepid and sales weren’t great, but the very existence of such a remarkable phone (well okay, a remarkable camera on a phone) meant that potential customers saw and tried a Windows Phone, most of them for the first time. And some of those users went on to buy a Windows Phone of some description.
If Microsoft does create a Surface Phone next year it has to have that same jaw-dropping, attention grabbing quality that the 1020 had when it arrived – looking like and working like nothing else out there.
I’m not sure that anyone can create such a phone given the maturity of the market however given Microsoft’s low market share and apparent desire to lead (as demonstrated by the Surface / Pro / Book range) maybe it can create something which doesn’t fit the current smartphone template and is better for it.
IDC has reported growth of just 0.2% in global smartphone shipments in the first calendar quarter of 2016, with a significant fall in the rate of growth in China identified as the driver behind the slowdown.
Samsung comfortably managed to retain its position at the top of the tree, maintaining its year on year volume. As previously discussed Apple saw a massive contraction in volume, though it retained second place in the market. However the growth of Huawei at number three continues at a pace, with volume up by nearly 60% year on year.
It’s not inconceivable that Huawei may sneak past Apple into second place in the market ahead of the launch of the iPhone 7 – which will undoubtedly fix Apple’s sales problems.
Oppo and vivo are now the fourth and fifth placed manufacturers, both growing massively – IDC suggests that this is a result of the change in the buying patterns of the Chinese market, with average selling price rising from $207 in 2013 to $257 last year.
None of which explains why Apple sales are so far off. The Chinese market has continued to grow – and we’re told that Apple is strong in China. The richening of the average sales price should benefit Apple. So either Apple has seen a massive slowdown outside of China, whilst still performing well in China, or it has failed to maintain its momentum in the region.
With Q1 containing the Chinese New Year sales bump, it will be interesting to see what happens to the market in Q2 – will there be a contraction of the market as a whole, mirroring the fall in Apple’s sales at one month delay or will it hold steady, with the fall in Apple’s sales being a blip, perhaps caused by delays ahead of the iPhone SE launch and supply problems once it became available.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Monday, 25 April 2016
Microsoft Canada seems to have come up with an innovative way of improving its sales numbers for next quarter: everyone you buy a phone they give you another free. Excellent tactic tainted only by the stink of desperation that emanates from the offer.
It's a bad move in so many ways.
Firstly, it's not actually going to coax any more sales out of the woodwork - buyers who would otherwise have ignored the 950 XL aren't going to stop doing so because of the prospect of getting a free 950. Those already planning to buy one will likely shift the free handset the don't want or need on ebay, dropping the second hand values of those handsets out there and also limiting new sales by throwing a lot of unopened, warranted devices into the second hand market.
And of course customers in other regions are going to halt that 950 purchase have they were planning as they wait for the offer to go global.
So far from having a positive effect (except perhaps on Microsoft Canada's stock inventory) there's no real benefit for Windows Mobile.
There were other ways in which Microsoft could have made this deal more attractive. A years subscription to Office 365, a year's subscription to Groove Music and a free Continuum dock would have cost less whilst offering a consumer a pretty compelling bundle.
Of course Microsoft couldn't do that as it seems intent on keeping Groove a completely secret service, and bundling it would have let customers know that it existed.
There's widespread acknowledgement that the Lumia 950 and XL don't feel like the premium handsets their price tags suggests. Microsoft seems to have significantly overshot in its attempts to correct that mistake.