The question I ask is not, “Is Microsoft too late in the smartphone market?” That is what all the technology pundits and Wall Street analysts are asking. Instead,  I ask a more fundamental question, the answer to which will determine Microsoft’s success or failure in this endeavor.

Does the Microsoft brand have brand permission to even have a smartphone?

Let’s think for just a moment about the three leading brands of smartphones currently. The Blackberry, iPhone and the Droid. What do the two fastest growing brands have in common (Droid and iPhone)? Worldclass industrial design, elegance, simplicity, intuitiveness, and something harder to pinpoint — Elan.

apple-iphone-4-1The Blackberry has some of those attributes and an entrenched enterprise userbase. On a recent flight, the fellow sitting next to me was speaking on his iPhone4 with a Blackberry in his lap. When he finished his conversation, I asked him why he had both?  He said he was a Federal Government employee and the Government did not yet support the iPhone and he had to use the Blackberry for the enterprise server. He added that soon the US Government would support Apple devices and the only folks who were against it were the government IT guys, whom he added would be out of a job if it happened.

So, as a brand, which one of these attributes do you think Microsoft owns and has permission to leverage?

  1. Worldclass industrial design
  2. Elegance
  3. Simplicity
  4. Intuitiveness
  5. Elan

The answer, of course, is none. What about innovation? I think Microsoft reminds me a lot of Kodak, a great and powerful relic of the past that will be attempting a rebrand of sorts in the coming weeks. Rebranding is a difficult challenge, much harder than a brand launch. It can be done because change can be your brand’s best friend.

You might find this little movie entertaining. But it is very much on point. It is a funny look at what would have happened if Microsoft had created the iPod packaging

Microsoft iPod