The smartphone landscape is cutthroat, highly competitive and unwelcoming to newcomers.
Given this reality and the state of Windows phone, it's fair to wonder how upstart Windows phone company WhartonBrooks is faring in its quest to be the only phone company dedicated to making only Windows phones?
I've done some digging and have been in contact with self-proclaimed "world's biggest Windows phone fan" WhartonBrooks CEO Greg Murphy. What follows are updates to the WhartonBrooks journey.
Building a team
As a self-proclaimed dreamer, Murphy knew he needed to partner with people with varying skill sets to help him make his dream a reality.
Derrick Egerman was the first person tapped. Egerman agrees that he too is a dreamer, but as Chief Strategy and Planning Officer he brings a breadth of ideas, a vast network and an affinity for networking that are essential for a company seeking growth.
Murphy needed people with different skills on his team.
Percy Price was next on board (not pictured above). As Chief Development Business Officer he brought both an ability to build connections, as well as a pragmatic way of thinking to the table. His grounded and very inquisitive nature offered balance to the two dreamers that founded the company. He has helped bring needed partners and people into the mix.
Derrick Ballard was fourth to join the leadership team. As Chief Technology and Innovation Officer he brings a forward-looking and big picture perspective to how Cerulean phones can connect to larger economies and global infrastructure. Murphy shared that Ballard's contributions will help give WhartonBrooks a huge footprint.
This four-member core leadership team is responsible for driving the company's strategy. This plan includes expanding the business's staff into different areas that will help bring the vision to fruition.
One of the critical areas of team growth will be in the form of customer support, or Mobile Mentors, in time for the phone's launch. Mobile Mentors will help customers take advantage of Windows phone's unique features. Murphy acknowledges that Live Tiles, a connected experience (and now Continuum) are features other platforms don't have and were lost on some people. Education for Windows enthusiasts and those who wanted to try the platform is something that was missing.
Mobile Mentors will help educate consumers about Windows phones' unique features.
Additionally, a team will eventually be formed to develop ideas around product development life cycles. This team will help ensure that the software takes advantage of the hardware to breathe life into areas of the platform that have not yet gotten attention.
Furthermore, the company has two divisions. Cerulean Mobile focuses on consumers whereas WhartonBrooks focuses on medium to small businesses. In relation to its business-focused component, Murphy shared that in time they'll be hiring people for business sales force positions. Murphy expressed a local construction company has already shown interest in a single device that project managers can carry while mobile and dock while at a desk.
Thinking outside the box
OEMs have found differentiation difficult on Windows phones closed platform. What will make Cerulean phones different from any other Windows phone? As the old saying goes it's not what you know it's who you know.
Windows Phone 7/8 programmers are bringing a unique "out of box" experience.
Murphy's OEM contact at Microsoft connected he and Egermen with the programmers responsible for making features that were part of Windows Phone 7 and 8. These programmers are excited about creating a unique "out of box" experience for Cerulean phones through some as yet undisclosed software innovation. Will it be reminiscent of Windows phone features that were present in Windows Phone 7 and 8 but are absent from later iterations of the OS; or will it be some entirely new experience? We don't know.
We do know, per Murphy, that passionate and knowledgeable Windows phone programmers are on board with bringing exclusive software features to Cerulean phones. Will this be enough to retain current and win back disenchanted fans?
The more countries, the merrier
WhartonBrooks' brief journey has been rough. Their first meet and greet was canceled, their anticipated Fall 2016 launch delayed and in October a factory delay hindered progress.
All bad news isn't all bad, however. Murphy adds:
Where we are now is reconfiguring the phone – again – to include more bands. We have partners in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Bolivia who have joined us to launch in those countries. This has definitely impacted our timeline. No matter who wants to join in this time we're pushing forward.
The fact that some delays are related to entities in various countries seeking to partner with WhartonBrooks is a good "problem" to have.
Delays were caused by partnering with additional interested countries.
Customers in the US, Germany, India and Australia have also shown high interest. This interest, coupled with thousands of mailing list sign-ups, has excited the internal teams and investors.
If that weren't enough, Murphy and Egerman teased that there is an international box store with both a web and local presence that has shown interest in Cerulean phones. Who might that be?
But I want a Microsoft phone
Murphy says that they are expecting their next round of samples before the end of January. If all goes well he'll then "announce everything".
Still, many Windows phone fans prefer first-party hardware. Murphy's and Egerman's response:
…I am sure when you get a flavor of what we want to bring to the table that we will acquire fans for our way of doing it. Our idea is to make the phone that people want, not provide phones they have to take. Microsoft, they want others to make the phones, that's the bottom line. They made this program so people like us would actually do it. And here we are doing it, and excited to be only the ones doing it and we hope it stays that way.
Yes, they're doing it but will they succeed? Critics have valid concerns. The industry is fierce and even members of WhartonBrooks target market, Windows phone fans, can be hostile. Will investors see the decreasing number of Windows phone users as a bad sign? Or will WhartonBrooks' promise to make fans the phones we want be enough?
Naysayers see failure before the journey's end. Others see hope (and are rooting for WhartonBrooks) as the journey progresses. To which group do you belong?