CLAIMS ABOUT Windows Phone 7 (WP7) smartphone shortages might be due more to supply chain throttling rather than unexpected demand if the latest figures are to be believed.
Market researchers claim that the Vole's WP7 handset partners have managed to flog only 40,000 WP7 smartphones during the first 24 hours on sale in the US. The US launch follows a week after HTC's WP7 phones went on sale here in the UK with precisely no one reporting the long queues that have become common for gadget and games launches in the past few years. It seems that a similar picture of lack of consumer interest is starting to appear in the US.
Over here in Blighty, Microsoft and mobile operators have been cagey about releasing sales figures, making vague statements about "strong demand" that did nothing to quell speculations that WP7 hasn't got off to a rousing start. The 40,000 handsets that Microsoft apparently has sold in the US in the first 24 hours are a sign that even after the Vole spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing, punters are simply not buying into the hype.
It seems that Microsoft didn't do much to help matters either, scoring another one of its now expected own goals by choosing to launch the WP7 phones on a Monday. Michael Cote, an industry strategist with Cote Collaborative said, "Mondays aren't great launch days. They poured all that cash into it but they lost track of the fact that Fridays or Saturdays are the best launch days."
That pretty much sums up what seems to be Microsoft's view about how to win at anything - ignore established industry wisdom and instead just throw money at it.
The 40,000 figure is particularly shocking given that the Vole launched WP7 in the runup to America's holiday season. Apparently the only chance Microsoft has in its sales war against Apple's Iphone and the various Android smartphones is to cut its prices, according to Nielsen telecom analyst Roger Entner. "They'll [Microsoft] probably cut prices like everyone else does. It's the nature of the beast. The only one that doesn't do promotions is Apple," said Entner.
Entner's final comment really sums up the market strength of Apple's Iphone. The firm can charge over the odds for its products and still achieve superlative sales figures, something that other manufacturers simply cannot do.
Here in the UK, a number of WP7 phones can be had for no money down when signing up to long, life changing contracts. Contrast that marketing pattern to the terms for acquiring an Iphone 4, where hundreds of pounds have to be handed over up front just for the pleasure of signing up to 24-month contracts, and yet there's no shortage of takers.
These are not characteristics that one associates with a wildly successful product launch and they point the finger squarely at Microsoft for rushing WP7 out the door in time for the festive holiday shopping season.
There's also evidence of WP7's poor initial sales not being Microsoft's fault, except perhaps by accident. Reports are surfacing that gamers are queuing up for Kinect, the Vole's all body Xbox 360 controller. Then again Kinect, unlike Windows Phone 7, is truly an impressive bit of technology, rather than a me-too smartphone that offers little more - and some might say less - than what has already been available on the market for the best part of a year.
There was a time when selling 40,000 handsets in a single day would be a glittering success story, but given that both Apple and Google say that they activate more than 400,000 handsets each day, it goes to show how far away Microsoft is from chalking up anything that might be classed as a success with Windows Phone 7.
It seems that Microsoft is going to either have to tell HTC to manage its supply channel in order to avoid the embarrassment of WP7 devices gathering dust on the shelves or plead with the mobile operators to sweeten their deals.
The latter might be just enough to entice punters to reconsider buying WP7 smartphones, given the current economic climate. But whether or not that happens, if Windows Phone 7 ultimately fails to attract much consumer interest, don't say we didn't warn you. µ
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