Microsoft is risking big with its diverse Windows Phone pricing strategy, which raises the specter of fragmentation.
The third pillar of Microsofts Windows Phone pricing
strategy is apparently underway.
High-end Windows Phone devices represented the first pillar.
However, in the year-plus since Microsoft began rolling out offerings in that
price range, the companys overall share of the smartphone market refused to
budge. Granted, users abandoning the now-antiquated Windows Mobile contributed
a fair amount to that market-share dragbut that doesnt negate the fact that,
despite some handsome devices, Microsoft and its manufacturing partners never
came up with a viable competitor to Apples iPhone or Motorolas Droid line.
More recently, Microsoft began a push into the midmarket, as
exemplified by the Samsung Focus Flash and Nokias Lumia 710. Both smartphones
retail for $49 with a two-year contract.
Now comes that third one: low-end devices. Nokia, which has
assumed the flagship position for the Windows Phone line, has introduced the
By offering Windows Phone devices at a variety of
price points, Microsoft is walking something of a tightrope. It needs to expand
its user base but cant risk fragmentation. Windows Phone software, originally
developed for high-end devices, will also need to undergo modifications in
order to provide a quality experience on lower-end hardware.
The next version of Windows Phone, reportedly code-named Tango, will meet these low-end goals by requiring only 256MB of RAM.
Microsoft seems to have already started prepping third-party app developers to
the shift. If your application will not function properly on a 256MB device,
you can opt out of this device category on marketplace, read a note posted to MSDN
After that, Microsofts plans become a bit more opaque.
According to February reports on Pocketnow.com
, Microsoft is prepping a Windows Phone 8 that will support
multi-core processors and native BitLocker encryption, and integrate in many
ways with the upcoming Windows 8. Both those blogs painted a picture of a
mobile operating system loaded with features and optimized for power users
(hence the multi-core), which raises the question of how (or even if) it will
play with lower-end devices. If Microsoft splits its mobile road map between
low-end Tango devices and hardware running Windows Phone 8, then it
potentially faces some Android-caliber fragmentation issues.
Thats obviously a scenario, however hypothetical, that
Microsoft would like to avoid if possible. But as long as the company remains
determined to play at all price points, these issues will indeed arise in
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter