The Hail Mary

Paul Thurrott on the upcoming marketing efforts for Windows Phone:

Microsoft has one goal and one goal only: Convince consumers to purchase millions of Windows Phone handsets in the first half of 2012. Doing so will requires a new set of phones…as well as stepping up engagement with tech enthusiasts, increasing retail-worker recommendation rates through training ands sales incentives, and other means.

So in order to convince millions of consumers to buy a Windows Phone, all Microsoft and Nokia must do is build an entirely new set of phones, increase engagement with enthusiasts, and pay retail workers ($10 to $15 per handset) to recommend their phones.

That’s a lot to bite off in a very short period of time. The easiest part is tossing cash at retail workers, but that still require extensive training on new products. When in doubt, sales people sell what they know, and currently, Windows Phone is a big unknown.

And then comes the the “Hail Mary”:

According to the internal Microsoft documentation I’ve viewed, the total cost of this marketing tsunami is in the neighborhood of $200 million, not $100 million. And again, that’s just for the United States. And on AT&T at least, Nokia is outspending Microsoft 2-to-1.

That’s well over $300 million on marketing efforts in the United States alone. Wow.

This is what happens when two once dominant but proud companies believe they can buy their way into a market. And for Nokia, doesn’t their very existence depend on the success of Windows Phone? It sure seems that way.

Customers didn’t stand outside Apple stores waiting to get their hands on the iPhone 4S because the TV ads convinced them to. No, they were there because Apple created the best smartphone, and millions of people had to have it.

Do you know why iPhone owners (including myself) won’t shut up about their phones? Because they can’t imagine not having one and want to share that sentiment with everyone.  The first Tivo I bought, I did the same thing. I stood in Best Buy and Circuit City selling the device to total strangers. It was (is) so much better than anything else. Remember the first time you turned on your new HDTV and you could actually see the puck fly across the ice or spiral on Manning’s ball?  I’ll bet the next time you were at a friends house, and he fired up his crappy standard def set, you told him what he was missing.

Consumers are smart. They can sense when a product is on life support. When was the last time someone approached you and said, “Check out this killer app on my new Windows Phone?” It’s never happened to me and I live less than 40 minutes from the Microsoft campus in Redmond.

Those who have shown me their Windows Phone are almost sheepish about it. One friend got a free Windows Phone, told me how great it was, but had purchased two iPhone 4Ss the next time I saw him. And he’s a Microsoft employee!

I can’t go to church without half a dozen iPhone owners telling me about some cool app they found. It’s genuine excitement, not some salesperson slogging through a script hoping to score a $10 spiff for recommending a phone they themselves probably don’t use.

No amount of money can generate that person to person excitement and connection.

Windows Phone must stand on its own. When dealing with a market entrenched with iPhones and Android handsets, Windows Phone must be demonstrably better. Almost as good isn’t enough. As good isn’t enough. Microsoft and Nokia must create a device so good that people will stand in a line overnight to get their hands on one. I have a hard time believing either company can pull that off.

Although I believe Microsoft Phone is a decent effort, it’s bound to fail. Tossing $300 million at the problem appears to be a last ditch effort from two companies who used to be relevant in mobile.

I predict this “Hail Mary” lands far short of the target.

Verizon Store observations

I visited a Verizon Wireless store today. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  Most of the floor space is dedicated to new phones and the employees outnumber the customers 3 to 1. 

Today I wanted to purchase an extended battery for Kim’s Motorola Q. I figured I’d be in and out of the store in under 5 minutes. I was wrong. Here are a few observations from today’s visit to the Verizon store:

  1. It’s All About the Phones – The store’s layout and positioning is geared to sell you a phone. The more expensive phones are up front, close to the register and all are positioned just below eye level making them easy to try out.
  2. Look-a-Like Accessories – The phone accessories are hung below the phones, making them all look alike and hard to reach. Best I could tell, 95% them were cheap phone cases. Also, don’t assume the accessories found under the phone are made for that model. You may have to wander around the store, bending down under each set of phones to find that holster to fit your Voyager.
  3. You’ll Need to Stand in Line – If you’re after a more expensive accessory such as a $49 extended battery, you’ll need to stand in line behind those people who haven’t figured out how to pay a bill online. They write checks, ask insane questions and are in a general state of confusion. 

While waiting in line for my extended battery, one lady had her laptop on the counter trying to connect to the internet. I wondered if she confused this store with Apple “Genius Bar”. Another guy couldn’t figure out how to pay his bill. A Verizon employee was patiently attempting to help him but to no avail. He might have had more luck if the customer wasn’t on a phone call the entire time.

Hey Verizon, how about opening up a line for those who know how to work their phones and pay bills online and just need a fricking accessory? Even better, how about putting the batteries NEAR THE COUNTER so I can grab one, pay and get back to my life?

Then again, maybe I’ll just avoid the frustrations next time by ordering online.

Considering a Motorola Q?

I bought a Motorola Q a few months ago. It’s not a bad device if you text/email a lot, but it’s not a great phone. I wrote a review of this phone after I’d had it for three months.

I recently upgraded to the Motorola Q9M (I’m told the “M” stands for Music) which possess the same chip as the Q but includes several big upgrades. The biggest of which is the move to Windows Mobile 6. The Q includes Windows Mobile 5 which is quite sluggish in comparison. Windows Mobile includes some shortcuts when dealing with mail that are not included in WM 5. If you read a lot of mail on your phone, the small improvement can lead to big productivity gains.

It’s worth upgrading to the Q9M just to get Windows Mobile 6 but I’m not happy that Verizon and Motorola decided that the older model couldn’t be upgraded. Why would Verizon do this when the phones have the same chip? In order to collect more money from you, that’s why!

Here are a few more reasons the Q9M is better than the Q:

  1. Vastly improved keyboard – the Q’s keys are terrible. I made far more typing mistakes on the Q. The keys on the Q9M are still small but they have a much better feel and are spaced properly.
  2. Improved Battery – This is probably a benefit of Windows Mobile 6, but the battery life is much better on the Q9M than the Q.
  3. Lighter Weight – The Q9M weighs less, yet still feels substantial in my hand.
  4. Improved ergonomics – Not only does the keyboard feels a lot better, so do all the keys on the Q9M. The big arrow buttons and analog stick are much improved making menu navigation easier on the Q9M.

One question you might have is whether or not the Q9M is a better phone. I think it is for two reasons: keyboard makes it easier to dial and Windows Mobile 6 improves the phone functions. It’s still not a great phone and if you’re looking for a great phone, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But it’s serviceable. I can’t understate how much better the device performs under Windows Mobile 6 though which makes using the phone a much better experience.

I don’t know why Verizon continues to sell the Q except that it’s $50 cheaper than the Q9M ($199 vs. $149). The only thing I like better about the Q is the scroll wheel sticks out a bit further and seems to have a better tactile feel compared to the slicker wheel on the Q9M. But that lasted a day and now I can’t imagine going back to the Q.

If you’re considering one of these devices, go with the Q9M. Even if you’re not a heavy text/email users, you’ll appreciate the substantial performance upgrade that Windows Mobile 6 brings to the phone. I wish I had upgraded sooner.

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              Q9M                                                 Q

How to improve cell phone service

Dealing with cell phone companies has provided some of the best examples of how not to treat customers. I must talk to 20 people that hate their cell phone provider for every person who is satisfied. 

Here are a few suggestions for cell phone companies I’m certain they will ignore:

  1. Don’t lock me into a 2-year contract – I understand this is difficult when people expect a free or very inexpensive subsidized phone, but I’d rather pay more for a phone and not be locked into a contract. Every month I remain an unhappy customer (or pay the $150-$200 early termination fee) is a month I’m building feelings of hatred towards your company. Why not let me go elsewhere rather than ensuring I’ll never try you again?
  2. Provide a realistic monthly fee estimate – You know that $60/month plan is going to cost $85/month. Why not tell me that right from the start? Surprises suck.
  3. Make removing features as easy as adding them – If I can add additional features to my service from your website I should be able to remove them there as well. Don’t waste my time by making me call a customer service rep who’s only job is to keep me from canceling the feature or upselling me on “new” feature.
  4. Allow your CSRs to make reasonable decisions – I’ve called in to make basic changes to my account and been told I’d have to speak with another department, a supervisor or call another number. Stop the run-a-round and help me!
  5. Notify me of new deals – It really sucks to hear about a new plan with more minutes, more features at a lower price from a new customer when I’ve been a loyal customer for years. If my plan changes, let me know. I shouldn’t have to call in to receive special deals. If you are pro-active, I’ll remember it and become even more loyal.
  6. Provide easy and fast activation – Verizon does a decent job here. If I want to activate a new phone at 2 am, I should be able to do that instead of calling back during business hours.
  7. Treat me like you value my business – This is the most important. I’m going to talk and blog about your service. Would you rather I tell potential customers to give your service a try or to avoid it like the plague?

I want to like my cell phone company. I had a horrendous experience with Sprint before I moved to Verizon. Verizon isn’t perfect but they are pretty good and getting better.

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Vaja Case for Motorola Q Review

I’m a big fan of cases from Vaja. I purchased one for my iPod Video nearly two years ago and it’s held up very well while protecting my iPod. I recently purchased a Motorola Q and decided I needed a similar case to protect its handsome black exterior and screen.

I decided to see what cases were available for the Q and turned to Vaja first. You won’t find these cases at Target, Best Buy or the Verizon store. Vaja makes all their cases in Argentina from the best leather available. The downside is that all cases are custom built and can take several weeks to make and ship to you. The upside is you’ll have one of the very best cases available for your phone. If you’re looking for a cheap ten buck case, this isn’t going to be your cup of tea.

The Vaja website uses Flash for the case customization (see picture below). You are able to chose the leather type and colors as well as extras such as belt clips and personalization (name, initials, notes). I have no idea why anyone would want to add a note to the back of their case.

vaja

I decided on the basic black leather case for the Q called the classic. I selected the “Plain Aniline” leather option, black color scheme and passed on the belt clip and personalization. Total cost: $60. I then waited just over two weeks for the case to arrive via Fed Ex. It ships in a box that only Apple fans could appreciate. The box, instructions and enclosure are elegant.

I’ve been using the case now for about a week and I like it a lot. It fits the Q like a glove. In fact, it fits it almost too well because it’s very difficult to put on. This isn’t a big deal since I won’t be taking the case off very much if at all.

The Good:

  1. Top quality materials
  2. Tight fit, doesn’t slip
  3. Good screen protector
  4. Stitching is impeccable
  5. Looks fantastic

The Not So Good:

  1. Dust gets under screen cover
  2. Difficult to remove case
  3. Expensive

Conclusion:  A top quality case for those who are looking for stylish, well-designed case. A worth-while investment for those who tend to keep a phone for a couple of years. If you churn through new phones every six month it’s hard to justify the cost. But I highly recommend this case for the Q. From my experience with Vaja, you can’t go wrong with any of their products. They even has cases for the fancy new iPhone.

More Reviews of the Vaja case for the Q

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Geek Squad for Cell phones?

I am enjoying my Motorola Q phone from Verizon. The sync with Windows Exchange just works as does Mobile Messenger. It’s a good phone, good IM device, and great email/SMS device. I also run a little application that shows a color coded map of the Seattle area traffic which helps plan my route into work. Even the web browsing isn’t bad as I’m able to read my RSS feeds in Bloglines quite well.

Now that I’ve got it setup, the Q is great little device. But I wouldn’t wish the setup process on my worst enemy. The setup of the last computer I bought from Dell took less than 30 minutes to unbox, setup and configure.The same process for my Q took at least 4 hours.

One major point of confusion is Microsoft ActiveSync which I now refer to as ActiveSuck. It might not suck so bad had I not been used to the sync app for Palm based phones which provide a number of helpful options not found on ActiveSync. For example, the first time you sync your Palm the program gives me the option to synch the phone with Outlook, have the phone overwrite Outlook or have Outlook overwrite the phone. I bought a used Q with over 460 contacts and ActiveSuck assumed I wanted them sync’d to Outlook.

Motorola provides a software update tool that makes it fairly easy to update Windows Mobile. Once I had the latest software installed, I was able to begin the Exchange email configuration. The issues here are numerous and boring so I’ll skip them except to say I believe many of the hoops I had to jump through are probably due to security precautions setup by Microsoft’s IT department.

Maybe I’m getting old, but is it normal to expect spending an entire afternoon setting up a new phones these days? This isn’t just a Motorola or Microsoft problem. I recall thinking the same thing during the setup of my first iPod.

Is there such thing as a Geek Squad for mobile devices? That might not be a bad business idea.

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How do I set the homepage in IE on the Motorola Q?

OK, I feel stupid. There’s got to be a way to set the homepage. I’m tired of launching IE only to see what Verizon wants me to see. How do I set the homepage on IE on the Q?

Or is there another browser I should be using? I tried Mobile Opera and it was painfully slow and buggy. But it did allow me to set the homepage!