updated 03:30 pm EDT, Fri June 10, 2011
US carrier shops downplaying Windows Phone
An experiment in trying to buy a Windows Phone device has suggested that US carriers were neglecting Microsoft's platform. A visit to stores for each of the four WP7 carriers showed that the demo booths were either improperly kept or didn't have devices at all. Most of PCMag's questioning saw reps steering the buyer towards Android, even when the buyer explicitly stated an intent to get a WP7 phone.
"We sell what people want," the Sprint agent said. "There hasn't been much demand, but I think it's growing. Just yesterday somebody came in looking for this phone," he added, pointing to the HTC Arrive.
The shortfall may have come from Microsoft's inexperience with talking directly to carriers. While a vicious circle exists where Microsoft would have to get strong sales to get carrier support, the company also hasn't fought to make sure the platform was a major focus at the carriers.
Its difficulty in getting attention is also a reversal of fortunes relative to Apple. Macs during the 1990s once faced a similar situation, where Apple's looser policies on displaying and selling its computers often led to stores like CompUSA attempting to minimize the Mac section and staff that had virtually no experience with the platform or who actively tried to attack it. At the time, store salespeople were often paid on commission to promote HP or other Windows PC builders.
Apple decided to eventually open its own retail stores to combat that image and also negotiated for store-within-a-store setups in chains like Best Buy that guaranteed working demo units and knowledgeable staff. Microsoft has a similar practice with the official Microsoft Store, but its decision to purposefully treat them as 'experiments' to help other chains has led to less than a dozen US-only stores where Apple has over 300 worldwide.
The contrast reflects what many have considered Microsoft's inability to break out of its dependence on desktop software. While it still dominates computers, it has continued to lose share in mobile and won't have a viable tablet platform until Windows 8 arrives in late 2012.