Microsoft CFO Peter Klein recently had a chat with Reuters while attending the annual Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. During this chat he mentioned that Microsoft was “very focused on continuing the success we have with PCs and taking that to tablets and phones.”
When asked, citing Microsoft’s relatively unimpressive 3% market share, if there was a ‘Plan B’ to their mobile strategy, Klein’s response was just as corporate mouthpiece-ish.
“It’s less ‘Plan B’ than how you execute on the current plan,” said Klein. “We aim to evolve this generation of Windows to make sure we have the right set of experiences at the right price points for all customers.”
So basically, he said he is a huge Van Morrison fan and there is no Plan B. Admirable, musical taste notwithstanding, but that’s kind of a bad thing. As the saying goes, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” and the same can be said of businesses and consumers. When pushing a product out the door, what works in the boardroom does not necessarily work in really real life. In short, there should always be a Plan B. Taken at face value, Klein’s statements are at best wildly overconfident and at worst blindly foolish.
Having said that, there is more here to consider. First of all, we cannot assume that Klein’s statements are meant to be taken at face value. Even if there is a Plan B, and Plan C, and D, etc. it doesn’t make much sense to acknowledge they exist. Plan B assumes failure on some level. Even saying “of course we have a Plan B” acknowledges that confidence in Plan A’s strategy is not there. So no, there is no Plan B because Plan A will succeed.
Second, we’re not talking about Ubuntu, or Open webOS or Tizen or any number of operating systems that require an explanation after stating it’s name. I’ve had so many conversations that started with “What is that?” “It’s a Pre3” “Oh, is that Android” “No, it’s webOS” “webOS? What’s that?” (That explanation is generally followed by “Where can I get that?” and the anti-climactic “You can’t”).
Indeed not. You know this “Windows Phone”? It’s kind of a thing. You can tell someone you’re using a Windows Phone and they know what that is. That is mind share. It’s not iPhone or Android level mind share. It’s certainly not the same market share. But it’s making strides in the right direction.
Plan A also involves partnering up with solid manufacturers. Nokia and HTC are two of the best hardware manufactures out there and they’re both putting out great Windows Phones. That also helps gain reputation and mind share.
What’s more, Plan A has room to adapt and to change as needs dictate. Already Microsoft has changed the basis of their operating system with only minor speed bumps – and mostly from us technophiles – along the way. There simply hasn’t been a need for a Plan B thus far. Microsoft is doing a lot of things right within Plan A, and who is to say Plan A is done?
Many people point to the rise of Android as a model that Microsoft – or indeed any new player in the mobile space – needs to emulate to succeed. The problem with the comparison is that when Android came onto the scene, there was iPhone and there was everyone else. There was really no other major player in the mobile space except for perhaps Blackberry which had already begun their decline. Android really only had one target in their sights and that was the Technicolor fruit with a bite missing. It also had the advantage of being the “non-Apple” choice. It still took years for Android to gain the traction it needed to catch up to and stand tall with the iPhone shoulder to shoulder.
Microsoft has an even more difficult task with two major players in the market. There is no one target here. They need to go up against and stand toe to toe with two major players – no small task. Achieving the unprecedented rise that either of the other two achieved will be that much more difficult. This is the very definition of being a marathon, not a sprint.
The problem with that strategy is of course, everyone wants a splash. Everyone wants to see “BOOM! Look at that!” They want to say “WOW! Look how fast Microsoft is mowing down the competition!” In short, chicks dig the long ball. There is no glory in staying the course, or grinding it out. In too many eyes, if you’re not an instant success, you’re a failure. To its credit, Microsoft is not playing that game. They’ve actually given their product more than 49 days to succeed, unlike some other companies I won’t mention but their initials are “HP”…oh wait.
Microsoft should have a Plan B. They probably do have a Plan B. Even if they do, they probably won’t tell us about it, nor should they. They are playing the long game. The one thing that has been consistent in the Microsoft’s presence in the mobile space is growth. Not meteoric growth, certainly. But growth. The type of growth that may end up sneaking up on Apple and Google and one day they’ll sit down at their table and there’s a third place setting.
My vote is for Microsoft is to stay the course. Tweak your strategy as needed, but keep pushing, and keep building, and keep improving. Hang around. Be the pesky little brother that follows their older siblings around everywhere until one day they stand up and fit in as if they’d always belonged. Because one day, Microsoft, you will.