Upcoming Windows Phones Unveiled
During the WPC, Microsoft also unveiled upcoming Windows Phones from the likes of Acer, Fujitsu, ZTE and Samsung-all of which embrace a thin-and-light design style, and all of which will presumably run the wide-ranging "Mango" update due in the fall. Is Microsoft following a variation of the Android strategy, with plans to flood the market with cheaper smartphones all running the same operating system? Certainly that worked for Google's operating system, which has seen rapid adoption over the past several quarters. And Microsoft can make the value-added argument that, with its tight control over its smartphones' hardware and software stack, Windows Phone will lack the incipient fragmentation of Android.A plan to flood the market with cheaper, feature-rich smartphones will only work, though, if Microsoft has the carriers and its hardware partners fully onboard-companies that already make lots of money off bestselling, market-proven Android and Apple devices. Nokia seems fully invested in pushing Windows Phone as a platform, but its presence in the all-important United States market is negligible; to make matters worse, the manufacturer is bleeding market-share during its transition period from Symbian's to Microsoft's platform, offering an additional challenge to the two companies' partnership. Such are the issues facing Microsoft over the next year and beyond. Throughout the WPC, Microsoft executives repeatedly cited research notes from IDC and Gartner suggesting that Windows Phone will surpass the market-share of both RIM and Apple by 2015, trailing only Android. But in order to do so, Microsoft will wrestle with a number of factors beyond merely lowering the price of its smartphones. Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
But will that argument be enough to reverse what outside analysts see as Windows Phone's steady market-share decline? That's the tougher question. Right now, Microsoft is betting that the "Mango" update will reinvigorate its prospects by sporting such new features as a redesigned Xbox Live Hub; home-screen tiles capable of displaying up-to-the-minute information; the ability to consolidate friends and colleagues into groups; and visual voicemail-more than 500 new elements in all, if you believe the company.