What it is: The best ideas don’t always win out. Given a choice between a great idea poorly executed or a mediocre idea superbly executed, the mediocre idea will win every time. Success depends more on execution than the initial idea.
Here’s where most people get it wrong. They think if they come up with a big, grand idea, that’s all they need to succeed in life. Then they jealously protect that idea for fear someone might steal it.
While this could happen, it’s far more likely than even the best idea is worthless if you can’t turn a good idea into an actual product or service that others can use. The real key to success isn’t having a great idea, but having any idea and executing it to the best of your ability.
In the computer world, Microsoft is famous for fumbling the future. After the iPhone destroyed the existing smartphone market, Microsoft decided to scrap their old Windows Mobile operating system and create a new one from scratch called Windows Phone. Great idea, bad execution. Here’s how Microsoft fumbled away the future from both a user’s and a developer’s point of view.
For users, Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7. Then they waited two years before releasing Windows Phone 8. The problem was that existing devices running Windows Phone 7 couldn’t run Windows Phone 8. That meant all those early adopters had to buy entirely new devices if they wanted the latest operating system update.
Imagine if every time you wanted to update your iPhone, you had to buy a new iPhone. Few people would do that and that’s why few people bothered to upgrade to Windows Phone 8 by buying a new phone.
Here’s another problem. Even though Microsoft touted Windows Phone 7 (and then Windows Phone 8) as superior to iOS and Android, they didn’t have enough apps to make Windows Phone compelling. Even Microsoft didn’t develop their own apps for Windows Phone. If Microsoft wasn’t willing to develop apps for their own platform, who else would do it?
The combination of slow updates, incompatible hardware, and lack of apps doomed Windows Phone from a consumer’s point of view. From a developer’s point of view, things are even worse.
Initially, Microsoft wanted developers to create Windows Phone apps using Silverlight, Microsoft’s Adobe Flash clone. However when Flash proved unable to work correctly on mobile devices, Adobe killed Flash for mobile devices. That also helped kill the market for plug-ins like Silverlight. Now all those developers who took the time to master Silverlight to develop Windows Phone 7 apps had to relearn new skills to develop Windows Phone 8 apps.
Then Microsoft came out with Windows 10 Mobile, which is a different operating system from Windows Phone 8. Developers who took the time to learn the Windows Phone 8 SDK (software development kit) now have to relearn the Windows 10 Mobile SDK. When Microsoft keeps pulling the rug out from under its own developers, how many will keep trying to develop for Windows Phone if their skills become almost useless with each new version of the operating system?
Microsoft also made a fatal error when they developed Windows Phone. Microsoft focused on making Windows Phone a rival to the iPhone. When Apple introduced the iPad, Microsoft suddenly realized they didn’t design Windows Phone for tablets while Apple had originally designed iOS for tablets and modified it for the iPhone. That meant iPhone apps could also run on the iPad. Microsoft couldn’t do that with Windows Phone on tablets, so they designed a new tablet operating system called Windows RT.
To create apps for Microsofts phones and tablets meant learning new skills and technologies. If you created a Windows Phone app, you couldn’t easily port it to run on Windows RT. Likewise if you created a Windows RT app, you couldn’t easily port it to run on Windows Phone. By making app development twice as hard, Microsoft insured that both Windows Phone and Windows RT would always suffer from a lack of apps.
Windows Phone was a good idea that was poorly executed. Now with Microsoft killing future development of Windows Phone in favor of Windows 10 Mobile (an offshoot of Windows 10), the future of Microsoft’s smartphone and tablet strategy looks in doubt. Microsoft’s goal is to cram Windows 10 into every possible device from smartphones and tablets to laptop PCs. That’s their desperate attempt to keep Windows relevant. In the short-term it will keep more people from defecting, but as Microsoft fails to execute their good ideas correctly, you can expect their execution to keep driving more users and developers away with each passing year.