Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt: Smartphones look good


Between Microsoft's announcements of their new Windows Powered Smartphone design with Intel and their partnership with T-Mobile, I'm starting to get a little of that FUD in my system. I KNOW that Symbian has a lock on the major manufacturers and is going to kick ass, but MS is famous for starting slow out of the gate with buggy products, then continuing to take over later. Intel just made them soooo happy with their new "wireless internet on a chip" XScale processor which has everything you could want for an smartphone (4 megs memory, integrated signal processing, etc.) and runs at over 300 Mhz! Now suddenly that slow and bloated spec that MS has come up with has a real platform to run on, and it's somewhat intimidating.

Erik is convinced that MS will rule in the U.S. and Symbian will be the European flavor. I don't agree - and it's hard to tell when Erik is just playing devil's advocate - but let's just take that at face value for a sec. There's a strong case to be made that Microsoft is doing an end-run around the manufacturers by going right to the gate-keepers themselves: The carriers. They and the handset makers have always had a sort of tense relationship. Along comes the devil and promises everything you can promise if you're Microsoft (marketing, Windows integration, maybe higher margins, etc.) and even if the telecoms are somewhat wary at first, they can't resist the $40 Billion Borg forever, can they? And users will prefer the Windows Powered Smartphone because it looks like what they're already used to and integrates with Outlook. Also I don't think Steve Balmer is an idiot - I think he's a bozo, but a ruthless bozo - and he's heading up the Windows Powered Smartphone effort now. That means it's serious.

Add to this that Nokia isn't as popular in the U.S. as they are outside the country, that their phones won't integrate with Outlook very well (if at all), the smaller manufacturers are making serious cash (HTC is not a small company) and you start to feel the FUD creeping up on you. It's Microsoft's calling card and I'm sensing it now. MS seems to have a convincing argument for success, arguments against competitors and the phones LOOK GOOD. Classic FUD.

My only thoughts about all this is that Symbian works and is here now and the manufacturers understand the mobile phone market and are backing their solution. These devices aren't computers and mobile phone consumers aren't geeks. I like how the Intel model above looks because I'm a geek and I'm into functionality over form (well, for the most part)... it appeals to me just like it does to the geeks in Redmond. But will Mom and Pop and their teenage kids like it? I don't think so. Nokia, SonyEricsson, Samsung, Panasonic and all the rest know what Joe Mobile Phone User want. Thus their phoens will be better targeted. And Symbian is a great OS and with every day is getting more and more compelling apps. This is all good.

We'll see. With numbers like 10 million Series 60 units being sold by Nokia, it sort of means that this is going to be a Niche market for another year or so. We're just at the beginning of this all. And that's what worries me most, Microsoft isn't really trying to catch up from very far back this time.



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