It’s time for Mac vs PC like campaign. Windows Phone vs iPhone, if Microsoft wants to stay relevant

Apple makes the best smartphone. Google oversees the most popular smartphone platform. Blackberry is struggling mightily to stay alive. Where does this leave Windows Phone?

Barely statistical noise.

According to IDC, Android has a massive 75% global smartphone share. iPhone has 20%. Blackberry ekes out just over 4%. Windows Phone? IDC has to combine both old Windows Mobile and Windows Phone numbers. Together, they have a 2% market share. Borderline irrelevant.

Total Android smartphone shipments worldwide reached 136.0 million units, accounting for 75.0% of the 181.1 million smartphones shipped in 3Q12. The 91.5% year-over-year growth was nearly double the overall market growth rate of 46.4%.

In addition, the combination of smartphone vendors, mobile operators, and end-users who have embraced Android has driven shipment volumes higher. Even today, more vendors are introducing their first Android-powered smartphones to market.”


This harsh reality Microsoft faces around the world is very similar in the critical US market. According to Comscore’s Q3 2012 report, while approximately 51% of the population use a smartphone, every flavor of Windows Mobile/Windows Phone totaled a meager 3.6% market share – a drop from the previous quarter. I often wonder if even those few Windows Phones are stored in some Best Buy warehouse somewhere.

Can Microsoft ever be relevant in the smartphone wars? I have my doubts. Nokia, the premier Windows Phone vendor, so much so that Microsoft funnels hundreds of millions of dollars to them, continues its rapid decline. HTC has introduced a Windows device that looks like a copycat of the Nokia Lumia 900 line, but the company is going through a host of management, manufacturing, revenue and marketing problems. Don’t count on their help. Samsung might lift Windows Phone, however, they are absolutely killing it with Android. With the combination of Android success and their desire to control their own ecosystem, it’s hard to imagine Samsung ever putting adequate resources into Windows Phone. Obviously, Microsoft can’t turn to Motorola for help, as Google swallowed them for a gaping $12.5 billion.

Is it any wonder then that Microsoft, long a proponent of and the world’s biggest beneficiary of licensed software, now makes its own tablet? Or why they are reportedly seeking a vendor to make their own branded smartphone? They have little choice.  They are the ‘new’ Apple, fighting to hold on to their 5%, at best.

I think the comparison between Microsoft and Apple is a useful one. The fact is, Apple now towers over Microsoft. At $542 billion ($AAPL), Apple is worth more than double Microsoft ($MSFT). If you include the iPad – and you should – Apple is now the leading maker of personal computers. This is a once-unfathomable shift in the marketplace.

To succeed in the smartphone wars, Microsoft needs to adopt the old Apple mindset. Go straight after Apple in their  marketing. Forget what the bloggers say, ignore the pundits. Do a reverse. Switch the old “Mac vs PC” advertising campaign on its head. Make it: iPhone vs Windows Phone. That just might work. To date, Microsoft’s advertising campaign has been abysmal. They talk of “hubs” and “live tiles” and “you”. This is the phone for…”you”.

This is fail. No one knows what any of this means, no one cares. Everyone wants an iPhone. Or, a Galaxy. Or, a cheap Android phone. Microsoft badly needs to step up its game to promote Windows Phone, a slick, visual, and intuitive OS that if it suffers from a less robust ecosystem than either iOS or Android.

So, what should they do?

My first inclination, despite Microsoft’s money and software prowess, is they cut a deal. With who? Microsoft and Google are on a collision course. There can be no peace here. Apple has always gone it alone and will continue to do so. Facebook offers unique possibilities but Mark Zuckerberg does not want to cede control, and does not want to create a smartphone platform that will get Facebook blocked elsewhere. Besides, this still doesn’t answer the question of where Microsoft’s money will come from. Consider that by giving away Android in the hopes of capturing evermore private user data which they can sell to unknown entities, Google has gutted the Windows Phone licensing model. Google is happily eating costs borne by Android manufacturers with the singular hope of making the money back on a continuous stream of social-local-mobile based advertising.

Amazon has a related strategy. Their Kindle line of tablets, for examples, are made at or below cost. But, they hope to make money by encouraging users to buy more books, more digital media and other goods from

The harsh reality that Microsoft faces is that licensing software may not ever again work for them. Not like in the past, certainly. They could go full-bore into hardware, become exactly like Apple. But, the Apple Stores footprint, the iTunes driven media ecosystem, and 30 years of building their own hardware gives Apple such a massive head start that probably no amount of money can help Microsoft catch up.

What then?

Give up.

No, do not give up on smartphones. Not completely The smartphone is the computer. The smartphone is the future of personal computing. Microsoft must be a relevant player in the smartphone market if they are to remain relevant in personal computing. Rather, Microsoft should give up on those who have already decided on Android or iPhone.

But that’s not everyone. The Android and iPhone install base is already approaching the billion-user Windows (PC) install base. However, there are five billion mobile phone users in the world. We should assume that at least 1-3 billion of these will transition from “dumbphone” to smartphone this decade.

This will require aggressive, productive marketing. I offer these suggestions to Microsoft:

Spread fear and uncertainty as best they can. For example, Google Motorola has a notorious reputation regarding intellectual property. Never fail to mention that Microsoft values IP and never fail to mention that patent issues could derail Android at any time.

Next, talk about the very real security concerns of Android. It is estimated that one quarter of the Android apps in Google Play pose some form of security risk. The numbers are staggering.

Of the 412,222 Android apps evaluated from Google Play, Bit9 says more than 290,000 of them access at least one high-risk permission, 86,000 access five or more and 8,000 apps access 10 or more permissions “flagged as potentially dangerous.”

This fear is at least as acute within the enterprise:

The study also included a survey of 138 IT professionals responsible for mobile security for over 400,000 users in their organizations. It found:

  • 78% think phone makers do not focus enough on security, but 71% allow employee-owned devices to access their organization’s network.
  • Only 24% deploy some form of app monitoring or control to grant visibility into employees’ devices.
  • 84% feel Apple iOS is “more secure” than Android and 93% of respondents allow iOS to access their network.

Of course, it’s not only a security risk that Android presents. There is a privacy risk, too. In their marketing, Microsoft should never fail to note that Google makes nearly every penny from advertising. The value of that advertising is based on Google’s ongoing collection of user’s personal information. No one wants this. Promote ‘do not track’ actions and support for user privacy in all cases. Make is fast and simply for any user to opt-out of data collection of any sort.

Next, focus on the beauty and functionality of Windows Phone “Live Tiles”. Have commercial after commercial showcase how live tiles work and what they can do. These ads should be done **exactly** like the old iPhone “there’s an app for that” campaign. Nothing slick, nothing hipster-cool, purely straightforward.

Next, Microsoft should flip the old “Mac vs PC” campaign. Change it to iPhone vs Windows Phone. Whether you prefer iPhone or not, that’s not the point. Microsoft needs to gain traction in the smartphone wars. They should copy the Mac vs PC campaign shot for shot. Only, now make it so that the goofy guy with the iPhone looks silly compared to the young, smart fellow with the newer, prettier, more functional Windows Phone.

Lastly, showcase all possible benefits for choosing Windows Phone over iPhone. I’m not convinced, for example, that many people will care how well Bing works or how IE operates on Windows Phone versus what they have on iPhone or Android already. I’m not sure how buyers will respond to ads that tell them that Outlook and Word are available on Windows Phone. A billion iPhone and Android users certainly don’t need that. But, some might, and it could tip the balance.

Don’t protect the old Windows based profit center by making Windows Phone a mere satellite in the dying PC ecosphere, which serves only to reduce Windows Phone compared to Android and iPhone. But do note that an **additional** benefit of Windows Phone is its integration with all the familiar old Microsoft tools. There is nothing new to learn or buy, that’s the message.

To date, Microsoft advertising has completely skirted around the very things that might make someone choose Windows Phone over its much more popular competition. Plain and simple, Microsoft ads suck. This has to end. I think my suggestions will work. What do you think? More importantly, how can Windows Phone be made relevant?


This ad looks slick but it will convince no one to choose Windows Phone:

This ad looks bland but sells lots of Macs:

Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at

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  • Sam

    Brian S Hall should never be allowed to share his thoughts publicly

  • Kyle

    Not sure how you are so confident that Microsoft’s advertising is ineffective. Do you have a source indicating a preliminary result?

    Speaking of preliminary, you’re suggesting that MS should throw in the towel in the midst of launching their new unified platforms? This is foolish thinking.
    Then again, so is starting an article that you expect people to take serious with a biased statement like “Apple makes the best smartphone” – pure troll bait.

  • ROSS

    What can I say…you are Crazy man…

  • Arun

    First line of the article: “Apple makes the best smartphone”

    Reminds me of my first nursery rhyme 25 years back, “ba ba blacksheep…”

  • Brian S Hall

    It’s based on two straight years of market share that would make Firefox Phone managers blush. 3% or less.

  • Back to basic….

    Here is a like a super subjective personal blog either apple or android fans…..not really a IT news portal….

  • Ralph Jones

    “Then again, so is starting an article that you expect people to take serious with a biased statement like “Apple makes the best smartphone” – pure troll bait.”

    Well, according to most reviews, they DO make the best phones! This may be irksome for Android and M$ fans, but hey, them’s the breaks!

    Then there’s customer satisfaction, which, IMHO is an even more important consideration.

    From JD Powers:
    “For the EIGHTH CONSECUTIVE STUDY, Apple ranks highest among manufacturers of smartphones in customer satisfaction. Apple achieves a score of 849 and performs well in all factors, particularly in physical design and ease of operation.”:

  • ratnok

    “Apple makes the best smartphone. ”

    I stopped reading there. I don’t waste my time with full page advertisements.

  • Xavis

    WTF is wrong with this site these days! Objectivity at its finest…

    Unwiredview, please don’t be another site that I will remove from my feeds.

    Journalism of this type may bring you hits now, but it will hurt you in the long run.

  • Brian S Hall

    The iPhone is the most popular. Generates the most revenues. Generates the most profits. Has the highest repeat customer sales numbers. Has the highest customer survey satisfaction numbers. Deal with it.

  • DazzlingD

    So does McDonalds.