Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform may boast 165,000 mobile apps but Nokia thinks there’s more work to be done in order to grow sales. Some key quotes from Nokia Vice President Bryan Biniak in an interview with International Business Times last Friday highlight the “app gap” challenge while also setting the bar higher for mobile app experiences. Here are a few key quotes from Biniak:
“To give you a reason to switch, I need to make sure the apps that you care about on your device are not only on our phones, but are better. I also need to provide you unique experiences that you can’t get on your other devices.”
This is the same point I’ve made in the past when discussing the challenge facing BlackBerry. And it’s why that company and Microsoft are currently fighting to be the third smartphone platform that’s well behind iOS and Android: The incumbents have not only the apps that people want today but they have the developer support for apps people will want tomorrow.
“People rely on applications for their day-to-day life and if you don’t have something which I use in my day-to-day life I’m not going to switch [operating systems] because I don’t want to compromise the way I live my life just to switch to a phone.”
There are plenty of happy Windows Phone customers that have every app they need, but I’m not one of them — even though I like the interface and many of the new handsets. However, I fit directly in the example that Biniak provides: There are a few key apps I use daily that simply aren’t on Windows Phone yet. So why would I, or anyone in the same situation, switch?
That’s a challenge that Microsoft continues to face because current smartphone owners are used to having the apps they want and need. Those on feature phones may better fit the Windows Phone target customer since they’re not yet app addicts. And that could be why Nokia has released a number of relatively low-cost Windows Phone handsets over the past two years: Its best bet to grow hardware sales may be in the low- to mid-range handset markets.
Biniak continues to suggest that the challenge for Windows Phone isn’t hardware, nor the platform itself. It’s about the apps. Nokia seems to be doing its part when it comes to hardware but Biniak almost sounds frustrated by the software side of things:
“We are releasing new devices frequently and for every new device, if there is an app that somebody cares about that’s not there that’s a missed opportunity of a sale.”
He’s right: If a potential customer finds that a shiny new Lumia can’t run an app they want, why would the experience turn into a sale? It likely won’t.
Much of this situation has to do with timing. Had Microsoft been quicker to migrate away from Windows Mobile sooner, the platform would have arrived prior to iOS and Android becoming the smartphone behemoths they are today. Now that these two account for more than 90 percent of smartphone sales, getting consumers — and developers, for that matter — to make a switch is much more difficult.