Windows Phone 7 Launch -- What Went Wrong?

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Microsoft needed its Windows Phone 7 launch to make as big an impact as possible to give it some momentum in order to catch up to the iPhone and Android phones. It's now clear that didn't happen. What went wrong?

Initial reports say that on launch day, Microsoft sold only 40,000 phones. Given that the iPhone 4 had 600,000 pre-orders and Google activates 200,000 Android devices a day, this was an underwhelming launch.

It's even more underwhelming when you consider the amount of marketing dollars Microsoft has been throwing at Windows Phone 7. Computerworld reports that the company is spending $500 million for TV advertising. That should buy it a lot more than 40,000 phones on launch day.

In addition, supplies of Windows Phone 7 are "tight," Microsoft says, even though demand isn't overwhelming.

All in all, this is not a pretty picture. So what went wrong?

In Video: Windows Phone 7 on the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround

Let's start with the basics. Even before launch, it was clear that there was going to be shortages of Windows Phone 7s, no matter the demand. When the phone was launched in Europe, there were problems because of component shortages, possibly having to do with screens or cameras. Microsoft's primary partner in the UK, Orange, was forced to give out t £20 vouchers to customers who ordered the phone but could not get them because of shortages. Mobile Magazine quotes an Orange store manager as saying:

"I was shocked when I heard the news. We are the lead partner for Windows Phone 7. But I believe this is a manufacturer issue on a world-wide scale."

Microsoft, though, had already planned its $500 million ad campaign, and found itself in the unenviable position of paying millions of dollars for TV ads around launch day, knowing that the phone might be subject to shortages.

Some people have also criticized the company for launching the phone on a Monday, saying that Fridays and Saturdays are typically better days for launches.

The final issue has to do with the phones themselves. Generally, the phones were given cautiously good reviews. But if Microsoft is going to catch up to iPhones or Android phones, it needs more than that --- it needs a blockbuster hit. Generally, reviewers don't view the phone that way.

All that being said, this is a marathon for Microsoft, not a sprint. The mere fact that the company has committed $500 million to advertising for the phone shows that the company is in it for the long haul. Still, launch day was not an auspicious start.

This story, "Windows Phone 7 Launch -- What Went Wrong?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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