Microsoft is relying on phone carriers to help sell Windows Phone 7, but with partners like that, who needs enemies?PC Magazine sent a mystery shopper around to several carrier stores in Manhattan to try and buy a Windows Phone.
The AT&T store had only one phone on display — with a damaged screen. The reps at the Sprint store and Verizon kiosks tried to sell her an Android phone instead, and the Verizon rep admitted that most stores don’t even carry any Windows Phones.
Anecdotally, we’ve found the same thing at AT&T stores in San Francisco — Windows Phone is given low prominence, behind the iPhone, Android phones, and even the BlackBerry.
Apple’s retail stores are a huge help in selling the iPhone — they give potential customers many chances to try a phone out before buying one. Google didn’t need a retail strategy with Android because its low cost and customizability made it appealing to carriers — especially when it was the clearest alternative to the iPhone, which was originally locked into one U.S. carrier, AT&T.
But Microsoft is stuck in the middle. Windows Phone 7 has a great user experience, but there’s no venue for people to discover it. Microsoft only has 9 stores — the 10th will open in Houston on June 23rd — and the carriers just don’t have enough incentive to push Windows Phones.
The Nokia deal might move the needle a little bit, but Nokia’s influence and brand power have been waning in the U.S. for the last several years.
If Microsoft really expects to pass Apple in market share by 2015, as a couple of recent analyst reports have predicted, Ballmer and company are going to have to open a bunch more Microsoft stores between now and then.
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