I Want To Break Free

What if I told you that Microsoft was about to offer a free utility that would convert up to $200 of your existing iTunes or Play music library to comparable Xbox Music selections – do you think that would make a splash in the crowded smartphone ecosystem marketplace?  Way out there?  Read on.

Don’t Fight. Switch.

I love this series of Nokia commercials – especially this one with the Lumia 1020 in a school setting.  ‘Don’t fight, switch’.  It’s a great line and it certainly sounds simple enough.  Have you ever thought about the practical steps required to ‘switch’?  Have you considered how people other than we ‘Surface Geeks’ would approach such a switch?

Think back to your first smartphone purchase.  Did you realize – as a result of your selection – that you were making a commitment that would have long-term consequences?  Not only did you shell out hard-earned cash, but you made a choice that might prove difficult to migrate from in the future.

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Multi-mode Household

In addition to a selection of Microsoft devices, my household also has the requisite Apple hardware – including an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air.  Recently, as the iPhone has become a bit long in the tooth – and since my wife has never really taken to her MacBook Air – we started to contemplate ‘just switching’.

Making a List

When you start to think about switching, you quickly come up with a list of things that you need to plan for.  How many of these items apply to you?

Photos

If you’ve had any type of smartphone over the last four years, you’ve taken a boatload of pictures.  Not only do you have a large quantity, but the quality has improved significantly enough that the size of the files is now more of an issue that ever before.

Video

The same dilemma applies to videos as photos.  Four years ago, smartphone video quality was barely more than a novelty.  Today, we’re taking 1080p video on phones.  That’s a lot of space.

Music

Although music is still one of the primary uses of smartphones, digital audio quality has not kept pace with advancements in on-board cameras.  As streaming audio services continue to proliferate, we’ll continue to move from storing media on devices to the cloud.  Even so, most smartphone music represents a large investment of money that users need to consider before they switch.

Apps

This may be the biggest obstacle to migration of any type.  The press continually reminds us that Apple has all of the apps that would satisfy anyone.  Apparently, unless your ecosystem at least meets the quantity of Apple’s, your device is worthless.  That’s not my perspective, but obviously the majority of smartphone users currently agree.

Carrier Obligations

Although this is last on my list, it’s probably the first thing that you have to consider.  Have you satisfied the initial contract commitment with your carrier and are you within your upgrade window?  If not, you may be looking at a significant expense to switch to a new device – regardless of the operating system.

Taking the Plunge

So once you’ve decided to switch – and let’s assume that part of your decision requires a change of ecosystem – how do you approach it?  For my own situation, I’ve started by backing up the iTunes library and copying all video and picture files to a Windows Server 2012 Essentials share.  It also helps that the iTunes application for Windows contains the ability to create a new version of audio files – one of which is to the MP3 format.

Aside from some file format conversions, I should be good to go if we decide to make the move from an iOS device to something else.  Even if we do not make a move, at least I have a crude form of backup evolving for the precious photos that reside on the iPhone and are being added to it every day.

I Am the 3.7%

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re not daunted by the prospect of switching ecosystems.  Even though there’s some planning required, we’ve all done an in-place upgrade of our OS and swapped hard drives enough times that we can handle it. 

Now consider how your friends and family would approach the potential of a migration.  My guess is that most smartphone users have no idea how they’d approach a migration between ecosystems.  Without assistance – and with a gleaming new gold iPhone 5s available as an upgrade at their favorite carrier – most will choose the path of least resistance.

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with Microsoft text as he poses with Nokia Lumia 820 smartphone in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica

Help Me Switch

That said, could Microsoft help to ease the transition?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Microsoft could develop a transition utility that the carriers could work with at their store.  Imagine walking out of your carrier’s store with your M4As converted to MP3 – all converted and migrated to a DRM-free Xbox music library.  Similarly, the same utility could convert videos from MOV to MP4.  Wild idea?  Read on.
  2. Consider a holiday season special offer that would provide a $200 credit toward Xbox music purchases.  You’d have to have a qualifying music library – either iTunes or Play.  I’m thinking that this would be a bold marketplace move.
  3. What if Microsoft worked with carriers to develop a ‘get out of jail free’ month or two at the beginning of the school season or even on Black Friday weekend?  You could walk into your carrier with an allowance toward relaxing the remaining time on your contract – eliminating perhaps the biggest obstacle to switching.  Microsoft could work the details out with the carriers.

These are just some far-out-of-the-box thoughts.  Really, if we hope to move the needle, bold moves are mandatory.  Don’t fight, SWITCH!

What do you think?

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