Naturally, neither he nor Microsoft are to blame. It's the users. They “buy phone service from mobile carriers and/or buy a phone from a carrier. They love speeds and feeds and will generally buy anything they are told to by television ads and retail sales professionals.”
It comes down to control. Kindel is right about that. What he never understood – what he still doesn't understand – is how Microsoft's competitors gained control.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained first-mover advantage through its Apple Stores. This investment, which built an image around its successful iPod launch, became a platform it could use years later to play carriers off one another and, thus, retain customer control. It didn't hurt that Steve Jobs' fanatical attention to detail and the design-and-manufacturing system he had already created at Apple resulted in a ground-breaking, age-defining product.
Having failed to invest correctly to gain first-mover advantage, Microsoft still had the chance to gain second-mover advantage. But Kindel's own words betray why it couldn't.
With the Windows Phone, Microsoft has taken a different approach. WP raises its middle finger at both the device manufacturers and mobile carriers. WP says “here’s the hardware spec you shalt use” (to the device manufacturers). And it says “here’s how it will be updated” (to the carriers).
You don't get second-mover advantage this way. You stick your middle finger up at anyone in a market that's defined and that person has a choice, and that is to go with the first-mover. Gaining second-mover advantage demands something different. You either invest much, much more money than the first-mover did at the heart of their advantage – you build something much, much better than the iPhone – or you do what Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) did.
Kindel gets this right. Google gave carriers the control they wanted, it gave manufacturers the control they wanted, and as a result it gave consumers the low, low prices they wanted. “My hypothesis is that it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts,” Kindel sniffs. But that's Google's problem. Google has second-mover advantage.
By acting late, by focusing on its own needs rather than consumer needs and by not reacting correctly after the market was established, Microsoft blew the mobile future.
Thanks, in large part, to people like Charles Kindel. The only good news for Microsoft investors is he's out the door. If that exodus continues in 2012, perhaps what is left will be worth your investment. Not before.
Disclosure: I am long GOOG.