Microsoft is betting that cheaper phones, the Mango update, and more partners can help it succeed in the smartphone space. Is that possible?
Could a cheaper Windows Phone change the
mobile game for Microsoft?
During his July 12 keynote speech at
Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, in Los Angeles, Windows Phone
Division president Andy Lees suggested that advances in technology would put the
price of a smartphone capable of running Windows Phone software somewhere between
$100 and $150.
"We're at an inflection point in Moore's
Law where you can put everything needed to run a computer on a single chip," he
said. "We can take the advantages we provide the PC and immediately provide
them across devices."
Microsoft has already begun leveraging the
rest of its technology stack to build out the capabilities of Windows Phone.
The version of Internet Explorer 9 running on Microsoft's smartphones, for
example, has the same software underpinnings as the browser that runs on PCs.
With devices across the spectrum capable of swapping key pieces of technology,
Lees added, "there won't be an ecosystem for PCs and an ecosystem for phones,
then one for tablets; they'll all come together."
Windows Phone needs all the help it can
get, at least in terms of establishing itself in the ultra-competitive
smartphone arena. For the three-month period between the end of February and
the end of May, research firm comScore estimated that Microsoft's U.S. share
dipped from 7.7 percent to 5.8 percent. During the same period, adoption of
Google's Android platform rose from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple
enjoyed a slight uptick, from 25.2 percent to 26.6 percent. Research In Motion
continued its market slide, declining from 28.9 percent to 24.7 percent.
During his July 11 keynote speech at the
WPC, CEO Steve Ballmer conceded that Windows Phone's market presence is "very
small." Nonetheless, he went on to insist that other metrics bode well for the
"Nine out of 10 people who bought Windows
Phone would absolutely recommend it to a friend," he said, reiterating a
talking point voiced by many a Microsoft executive over the past few months.
"People in the phone business believe in us."
He also referred to Microsoft's deal with
Nokia, which will see Windows Phone ported onto the latter's devices. "Nokia
could have bet on themselves, bet on Android or bet on Windows Phone," he said,
suggesting that the Finnish manufacturer went with Microsoft after "they saw
our roadmaps and saw what we did."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.