Windows Phone 7’s Launch Disappoints, LG Exec Says

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In one of the first indications about manufacturer satisfaction with the Windows Phone 7 launch, an LG executive said the big Microsoft roll-out was, “less than we expected.” The comments, provided in an interview to Pocketlint, offer not only some real insight on the way the WP7 launch has fared, but it also points to the some of the unease manufacturers and operators have with their growing dependence on Android.

James Choi, marketing strategy and planning team director of LG Electronics global, said LG had high expectations for the WP7 launch, but from a consumer visibility perspective, the November introduction fell short of expectations. This comes after Microsoft said it sold 1.5 million phones to retailers, but gave no indication of end-user sales. But Choi said WP7 addresses a large audience who might find Android too complicated for them.

“What we feel is that it is absolutely perfect for a huge segment out there. What we feel is that some people believe that some operating systems, mainly Google, are extremely complicated for them. But Windows Phone 7 is very intuitive and easy to use,” Choi said. “For tech guys like us it might be a little bit boring after a week or two, but there are certain segments that it really appeals to. We strongly feel that it has a strong potential even though the first push wasn’t what everyone expected.”

Choi makes clear that Windows Phone 7 is still a priority for LG, because in many ways, it brings balance to LG’s portfolio. While Android is increasingly a leader in smartphones, it’s a tricky proposition for carriers and manufacturers to be tied to one platform. Choi said WP7 is set up to be a good counterweight to Android for many mobile players including operators, who Choi says are worried there’s “too much Android,” in their portfolios.

This could be the talk of an executive not interested in angering Microsoft. But there is merit to what he says. There is, I think, a good position to being an alternative to Google, which in itself shot to fame by being the best alternative to Apple’s iOS. For manufacturers and operators, it’s nice to keep the number of platforms they support limited, but a reliance on Android could eventually leave them with fewer options for differentiation. Windows Phone 7 may not be the answer in the long run. We’ll know more later but it has the opportunity to be fresh alternative to Android.

The problem, Choi said, is that Windows Phone 7 is only aimed at the high-end space because of Microsoft’s hardware requirements. But he said if and when Microsoft relaxes those rules and allows more low and mid-tier phones, he expects Windows Phone 7 sales to pick up. As I’ve written before, Windows Phone 7 has a decent shot at taking away some higher end Android customers because it provides one of the most polished user experiences this side of the iPhone, something Choi seems to agree with.

If WP7 can establish itself as the most credible alternative to the iPhone, it could still catch on, because I think simplicity and cost are what many mainstream consumers want. Less than half the market has bought a smartphone, and the hold outs are going to be even more interested in ease of use. Now that the iPhone is becoming more available here in the U.S., it will be interesting to see if WP7 can still get a leg up. Microsoft has a lot of money to spend, and according to at least one parter, it still has a chance.

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