[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv-fbO-_xl0]YouTube - Season of the Witch: New Windows Phone Ad[/ame]
Microsoft has launched its latest effort to stay relevant in the smartphone wars with the release of Windows Phone 7 yesterday. Showing off nine new devices that will run the new version of the Windows Mobile operating system, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer called them "a different kind of mobile phone." Microsoft is differentiating Windows Phones from iPhones and Android devices with an interface in a "glance and go format:" a tiled interface of "hubs" for different tasks rather than apps per se. They also released a clever - and creepy - series of ads showing people staring at their phones, zombie-like.
Microsoft has a market share of only 5% in the global smartphone market, according to a recent report from Gartner, as compared with 9% a year ago. The iPhone - a single device, on one carrier in the US - has a 14% share. All Android phones make up another 17%, just behind BlackBerry with 17% and the smartphone champ Nokia with 41%. WinPhone 7 is starting with a remarkably heterogeneous lineup of phones: the Dell Venue, HTC 7 Mozart, HTC 7 Trophy, HTC HD7, HTC Surround, HTC 7 Pro, LG Quantum, LG Optimus 7, Samsung Focus, and Samsung Omnia 7 are all based on Qualcomm's 1GHz Snapdragon processor. This kind of recalls Microsoft's early-80s strategy of only supporting computers with Intel x86 chips.
They have chosen an interesting strategy to take on the established smartphone platforms. Rather than talk about how many apps they have, they pretty much do away with the whole concept of apps, focusing instead on their "hubs," which are tiles on the home screen that when tapped, open contacts, email, messaging, pictures, etc. Ballmer claims this will "makes everyday tasks faster by getting more done in fewer steps and providing timely information in a 'glance and go' format."
Microsoft's ad campaign tries to make this case in a pretty inventive way. If you walk around the city, it's hard not to notice how many people are staring at their smartphone screens. The two new ads rolled out for the Windows Phone 7 launch play on this: phone users in "Really" stand there oblivious to the people around them and get into mishaps, while "Season of the Witch" shows a creepy world where everyone is staring at their phone, walking in slow motion while Donovan's 60s psychedelic classic song plays.
Of course, it remains to be seen how customers take to this marketing message, but it has to be better than the official Microsoft press release, highlighted by Gruber: "The goal for Microsoft’s latest smartphone is an ambitious one: to deliver a phone that truly integrates the things people really want to do, puts those things right in front of them, and either lets them get finished quickly or immerses them in the experience they were seeking."