In my column this week, I return to the subject of Microsoft — and suggest a way that the company can give its Windows Phone OS a boost.
Carrier subsidies are increasingly standing in the way of innovation.
“We’re drunk off the subsidy model,” IDC analyst Ramon Llamas told VentureBeat last week.
The lure of cheap, subsidized phones underwritten by massively long two-year contracts stands in the way of competition and innovation. The big carriers use their contracts to lock in profits and help limit the customer “churn” that would otherwise make their revenues too unpredictable. But those two-year contracts keep people from upgrading as quickly as they would otherwise, stifling handset makers’ ability to get the latest models in our hands.
Carriers also stifle OS upgrades, keeping you from upgrading to the latest version of Android because they don’t want to invest the time to make it work with a string of older phones: They’ve already got you locked in to a contract, so why would they want to make your phone any better than it already is?
The U.S. is not unique in its dependence on carrier subsidies, but it’s not the only way: In many European countries, for instance, people buy their phones and SIM cards separately, without long, onerous contracts.
Some carriers are starting to see this as a wedge issue. T-Mobile, for instance, promises to do away with contracts and subsidies altogether. The carrier sees it as a more honest, direct model, and I agree: I’m done with contracts. I recently paid $245 to get out of my contract with a large carrier after I had endless problems with its service and its phones.
In an earlier column, I blamed Microsoft for not being able to solve these problems. It was an unfair criticism, but it does reveal an opportunity for the Redmond, Wash.-based software company.
We need someone to break the logjam. Could it be Microsoft?
Instead of standing by and playing the same ballgame as every other mobile phone maker, Microsoft should take a page from Apple’s book and rewrite the game. It’s got the leverage, it’s got the installed base, and it’s got a powerful weapon: cash.
Read the full story: http://venturebeat.com/2012/12/11/dylans-desk-carrier-subsidies/