How Not To Manage Product Upgrades: Lessons from Windows Phone
If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that I’ve written several posts about the Windows Phone platform (see my thoughts on Microsoft’s strategy and my review of the Windows Phone 8 for example). I was an early adopter of the Lumia 920, and at the time felt it was a pretty good product. But while Microsoft has made some traction in emerging markets overseas, the platform has a ways to go in order to make in-roads in the West.
Over the course of the past year Microsoft has released some upgrades to the Windows Phone 8 Operating System that have added functionality. They’ve avoided the Android fragmentation problem by following Apple’s example and sending updates directly to the handset. Still, they are missing some core features such as support for the latest processors and 1080P support. That has been promised in the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1.
Planned Obsolescence Experiences
Early adopters of Windows Phone 7 had a nasty shock when they were told their phones would not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8. At the time. there were significant hardware bottlenecks that prevented the upgrade. Still, there were many early adopters of Windows Phone who were extremely displeased by being left out. As a consolation prize, Microsoft released an update that brought some of the Windows Phone 8 experience to the older handsets. It still left a bad taste in many users’ mouths.
“Fool Me Once Shame On You, Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me”
Windows Phone 7 users were undeniably frustrated when they couldn’t upgrade to Windows Phone 8. As part of the transition to Windows Phone 8, Microsoft made a commitment that early adopters of the Windows Phone 8 devices would be able to upgrade to future versions.
But there seems to be a disconnect between that commitment and what both Nokia and Microsoft are saying now. According to a Computerworld article Nokia and Microsoft might be backtracking. A reporter asked a Nokia representative about the upgrade path for existing Windows Phone 8 handsets to the new 8.1 operating system. The response: “Microsoft has confirmed that smartphones running Windows Phone 8 will be upgradeable.”
Upgradeable to what, you might ask? Neither Microsoft or Nokia will give you a straight answer. With a whopping 3% market share, Microsoft seems to be taking the Apple tight-lipped approach to commenting on future products. But in the smartphone market, Microsoft is not Apple. They don’t have the market share or “street cred” to get away with withholding this kind of information.
Those who are considering a Windows Phone are unlikely to give the platform a chance if this type of ambiguity continues. For all its faults, Apple did outline clearly what features of iOS 7 would work with their older iDevices prior to the release.
If you want to earn your customer’s trust, make sure they are informed about any upgrade path. Especially if you’re debuting a “new platform” — it’s critically important that your customers be aware of what your plans are for the product.
How have you handled product upgrades with your customers? Comment on your experiences below.