Microsoft: Windows Phone Runs Risk Of Losing Big

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Windows Phone is a big gamble, says Brandon Watson, who runs Microsoft’s mobile developer relations

Some might say Brandon Watson, director of developer experience for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, has a chip on his shoulder. But that would connote harbouring a grudge or hoping to provoke a fight. That’s not his thing.

Watson’s game is defence with a very calculated offensive strategy — protect the budding Windows Phone franchise, while steadily growing the developer base by offering new opportunities for developers to distribute and market their applications, along with hot new tools to create them.

Microsoft’s chequered history

It’s the Microsoft way. Coming from a dark horse position, late to the game, Microsoft has a history of growing incrementally better with each new iteration. As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said: “We just keep coming and coming and coming and coming” after the competition.

On the smartphone front, Microsoft has a long way to go, but the offensive strategy that included a major partnership with Nokia, and a bunch of new tools and features in the upcoming “Mango” release of the Windows Phone 7 operating system, will help increase market share and get the Microsoft platform in front of more developers, says Watson.

So rather than being “chippy,” you might say Watson has a swagger. He calls it passion and he cites older generations, from his father to older executives at Microsoft, who’ve laid old-time sayings and lessons on him about how to proceed in the face of adversity.

In a meeting with eWEEK at Microsoft’s MIX11 conference in Las Vegas, Watson was alternately engaging, combative, enlightening and evasive, but never off point. And the point being that Microsoft is in the smartphone game for the long haul and plans to have its place in the market.

Coming from so far behind, that kind of talk is risky. But Vegas is the place for risk takers. And Watson is just that. He holds engineering and economics degrees from an Ivy League school and an MBA from a prominent business school. He then spent some years on Wall Street taking risks and making money, before he decided to make real stuff. He also did a stint as an entrepreneur and launched a startup he later sold. Along the way, he did two stints at Microsoft and is back with a vengeance

“You can’t win big unless you run the risk of losing big,” he said.

Mostly, Watson sees the role of his group as enabling developers. “Our job is helping them get started and making them rich and famous,” he said.

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