I recently read a good post from Phil Lozen on why Windows Phone really should be targeting Android and not the iPhone. You can find that article here. I basically agree with the assessment but it's so important to outline the areas where Windows Phone 8 really needs to improve to succeed.
Distribution of Inexpensive Phones
Any trip to your local Best Buy, Radio Shack, or Wal-Mart will show you a long line of inexpensive Android phones. On a recent trip to Wal-Mart, I saw 8 phones ranging in price from free to $149. No Windows Phone devices at all. Discerning buyers have already voted with their dollars but there is "another billion" users out there who are still using "feature" phones. These customers don't really care about a nit or two of screen brightness or a ghz here or there in cpu speed. They want a phone that will work, have decent battery life, and is *cheap*. Nokia and HTC are off to a good start with preorders of their new devices coming in at $149 and $99 respectively.
However Microsoft has to find a way to get shelf space. They can't supplant Android through online ordering. Sow how do they do that? Well, Phil outlined a strategy of tightly connecting WP8 devices to your home computer running Windows 7 or 8. This should be combined with building excitement with young people through new game experiences and XBox 360 integration.
Take Market Share From RIM
RIM is dying. Everyone knows that the Blackberry was the traditional business phone but it is going the way of the dodo and it's market share is up for grabs. So how does Microsoft take that market share? First, make sure WP8 is the very best messaging platform. Communication is the core tool for mobile professionals. Email and SMS have to be rock solid. Can you say auto loading of HTML messages, in-line replies, and better quoting? Second, VPN has to be available in WP8. Professionals simply have to be able to connect to their remote workplace. And, finally, the battery life on these devices needs to be acceptable. Of course, if some salesperson is watching movies on the plane then she will need to charge but under normal usage such as Office document editing, emailing, and phone calls, the phone needs to comfortably last the whole day.
Be A Platform
Android and iOS provide two opposite extremes when it comes to mobile experiences. Android is basically the wild west where almost anything is possible but apps and experiences are connected so loosely that you have a hard time having that cohesive feeling. The iPhone and iPad are very tightly controlled and provide a nice sandboxed environment for their users but many find it too confining. Even iOS diehards will admit that having an iPhone means you live the Apple lifestyle. You do it "the Apple way".
Microsoft should find way to chart through this gap. Users want, and need, a more tightly controlled environment to insure quality in their experience but what is the harm in allowing alternative browsers or alternative SMS apps on the platform? I should be able to install a custom Emoji keyboard and have Emoji characters throughout the system. In short, MS should be able to provide me some controls and barriers to protect my sandbox while still allowing developers to customize the experience through alternate applications.
They should not define the experience completely but instead define the framework for the experience. They are doing some of this through the new contracts in WP8 but we'll have to see how far that goes.