Nokia is killing it, people. Nokia dominance in the Windows Phone market space has been undeniable for some time now. It is just knocking it out of the park with every at bat. Nokia no longer runs around the bases, it trots around the bases. Nokia is on a hot streak lately, just nailing it in everything they do. Which is kind of a problem if one happens to be a smartphone manufacturer not named ‘Nokia’.
The problem with being the biggest, baddest, strongest and fastest kid on the playground is, other kids tend to not play with you. When the competition is dominant, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to stand up and say, “I can play too.” And that’s the position in which LG, Samsung, HTC and others find themselves in right now. What’s more, those other kids have an entirely different playground they can go play in.
Harder, better, faster, stronger
Now I know what you’re
screaming thinking. “But competition is good for the consumers. Without competition there is no need to innovate.” This is all true. Other OEM departures from Windows Phone 8 would be a bad thing for consumers. But I’m not so sure it’d be a bad thing for those other OEM’s. They’re the ones who have to sell the dang phones after all. If Nokia is king, and everyone else is a jester, then from a strictly business standpoint, it doesn’t really make sense to stick around and be a small fish in a small pond.
Fortunately, for Microsoft and Windows Phone, that other playground has a particularly big, bad, strong and fast kid in it called Samsung. And he’s brought his not as big, not as bad, but still big and bad cousin HTC along with him. So other OEM’s have a bit of a decision to make – which pond to swim in.
The metaphors are getting a little tired, aren’t they? Ok, I’ll stop.
Nokia has long been setting the pace in Windows Phone. But a 41 megapixel camera might just be a the straw that broke the camel’s back for others. Saying the Lumia 920 has “superior low-light performance” is an abstract and highly subjective statement. But saying “41 megapixels” is a whole different conversation. That’s a solid number. Nothing subjective about it. That’s three times what the best phone camera that exists today on any platform. What’s a girl to do?
Where to go?
It becomes especially rough considering a few other factors that are not in Windows Phone’s favor. First of all, consider Windows Phone’s position in the market. Windows Phone has been making steady strides in the right direction to be sure, but it hasn’t exactly been burning up the charts either. Being a small fish in a five percent pond is…well, a tiny tiny flippin’ fish.
Second, there’s just not much else an OEM can differentiate with Windows Phone other than hardware. Hardware which has really plateaued and become stagnant of late. About the best HTC might be able to bring would be BoomSound which would be a wonderful addition to the Windows Phone line. Is BoomSound greater than a 41 megapixel camera? Not in my world.
Windows Phone doesn’t even offer the option of skinning to improve a user experience. Now settle down, fanboys. I’m acknowledging that Windows Phone already has a great user experience, but without skins, it’s the same user experience regardless of manufacturer. What I’m saying is there’s no room to innovate in that particular area.
Samsung != Innovation
Meanwhile, while Samsung has held a significant chunk of the Android pie, they have two things going against them. First, Android’s pie is much bigger than Windows Phone’s pie. Even a small percentage of Android market share will likely translate to more profits than a non-Nokia Windows Phone market share. Also, unlike Nokia, Samsung hasn’t exactly been flexing its innovation muscles lately. Interestingly, like Nokia, Samsung spent a large majority of their Galaxy S4 unveiling talking about the camera. The difference being that Nokia actually has something special to show. All Samsung had to offer were a few software novelties you won’t use most of the time anyway. Oh, and tap dancing.
Nokia has been pushing Windows Phone forward inch by inch for years now. They are miles ahead of the competition in most ways. But they’re sucking the fun out of other OEM product announcements. And until other OEM’s can figure out a way to catch up in a big way, that will continue to be the case. I don’t want other OEM’s to give up on Windows Phone, but I’m starting to think maybe they should.