bias

When it comes to reviews or opinion pieces, especially for gadgets, there’s some "science" involved but a lot of it comes down to the critic's biases. The notion that a journalist is impartial is derisory, though many still feign the notion that it exists. Just like how history can’t be objective since what the historian deems important (and not important) drives the narrative, the same applies to tech articles explaining devices and giving opinions.

At Windows Phone Central, we write from the perspective of people who are already on board with the Microsoft’s mobile OS—it’s more about the hardware and how it compares to other Windows Phones. That’s our audience. Are we biased? Of course, but at least you know where we’re coming from—we’re not pretending otherwise.  

That’s what makes CNET’s latest video so frustrating. We don’t have a problem with people finding faults with the Lumia 1020, or even not preferring it. This is the predisposition thing rearing its head and if you like Android or iOS more than Windows Phone, then it will drive your opinion. But distorting facts or just getting things plain wrong is inexcusable.

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Just recently the BBC released yet more new apps for Apple’s iPhone and announced plans for more support of Google Android devices. The corporation has stated publically the need to make its content available to all in as many ways as possible but has persistently refused to develop a single app for Windows Phone. They now state they have no plans to support a Windows 8 app too.

The BBC have often cited incompatibilities in their chosen media formats with Windows Phone and the relatively small market share for the platform as being reasons not to make an app. In the latest statement from the ‘beeb’ it’s also apparent that market share and file types aren’t the only thing stopping them developing for Microsoft operating systems. Reason and logic don’t seem to come into play.

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We've been covering the seeming anti-Windows Phone/Microsoft bias that local carrier stores have been exhibiting for awhile now--namely that sales reps are giving the shaft to WP7 and instead are pushing Android or the iPhone, sometimes even with falsehoods or misinformation.

To validate the issue further, tech-guru and Gartner industry analyst Michael Gartenberg has recently experienced this behavior first hand. From Twitter (1, 2):

"At VZW and ATT stores to compare plans, both steered me to iPhone and Android devices...In both stores when asked about #WP7 was told "you don't want that". In one instance was "corrected" & told it was called Windows Mobile"

Yikes. Seems it's not too hard to get a bad sell on Windows Phone these days, despite the promise of "Mango". In reaction, Apple guru John Gruber of 'Daring Fireball' fame, sympathetically noted "This sort of dismissive treatment can be devastating to a platform. This was the problem facing the Mac during the ’90s.". Indeed. There's a certain irony here.

However, there is some good news here, namely that all of this attention and the website Windows Phone Tattletale has perked Microsoft's ears. The creator of 'Tattletale, Robert McLaws. Tweeted this just recently: 

"Just had a fantastic conversation with someone at Microsoft about #wp7 #retailfail. Great things are happening. Stay tuned!"

Followed by

"By the way, Microsoft has heard all your reviews loud and clear. You *are* making a difference, so please, keep secret shopping!"

Perhaps Microsoft will start using some leverage on their carrier partners for better results? Clearly these aren't isolated cases, but signs of a larger problem that Microsoft will have to battle. At least the giant appears to be finally flinching. All we know is Microsoft better have a serious game plan for this fall and "Mango", after all, it deserves it.

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A few days ago we reported on PC Mag's "study" (we use that terms loosely since the sample was so small) on carriers and how they are pushing/not-pushing Windows Phone 7 in the stores, specifically if retail associates were supporting the platform or undermining it. Unfortunately, between their report and your user reports in comments (something we've heard from months too in forums), it seems that the retail associates are far from endorsing the new OS, even to those who are directly asking for it.

Now, two more reporters have run the same tests (more or less) and have had the same results. Jessica Van Sack of the Boston Herald shares her story doing the same experiment:

"I tested that theory at several Verizon, AT&T and Sprint wireless stores in downtown Boston on Friday, every sales rep, without fail, tried to sell me an iPhone or an Android phone while inevitably dismissing WP7 with vague phrases like “In terms of productivity, it’s just not there yet,” or “I’m not really sure about that one. I haven’t really used it.”

Likewise, Joe Romaine of International Business Times relates his story going back a few months ago to a T-Mobile store in Manhattan. The salesperson stated: "Windows Phone 7 is very unreliable. Its has many problems. We get complaints all the time from people who bought them from us." and proceeded to try and talk him out of the device.

All of this, while still anecdotal, seems to back up readers' experiences in the stores as well. However, Microsoft has responded to the matter to PC Mag directly. Greg Sullivan, Windows Phone product manager noted:

"It's true that there's work to do from a marketing standpoint, and we have teams in place that are doing retail salesperson training, providing them with evaluation devices so they can use it and become more familiar...There's a whole host of efforts that are being undertaken to help get the work out, and it does take a little time."

Sullivan finally concludes with hope that the Nokia deal helps in this regard, noting Nokia's strong retail presence. Also, perhaps disappointingly, Microsoft is not yet prepared to offer cash-incentives for retail associates who successfully push Windows Phone. For us, we're still convinced that we won't see any real 'breaking point' in Windows Phone in terms of marketshare till late 2011. By that time, we hope to see such reports of retail sabotaging on the decline.

For now, you can document your experiences by using this website, Windows Phone Tattletale, started by Robert McLaws (This replaces the earlier OneNote method that we reported on).

Source: PCMag, Boston Herald, International Business Times; Thanks, Brianna, for the heads up on 'Tattletale'

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