Can Verizon alter Windows Phone's fortunes?
On May 26, Verizon will release the HTC Trophy, its first Windows Phone device. As with other Windows Phone units released over the past few months on other carriers, it will feature a 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, 16GB of storage, and a 3.8-inch touch-screen.
In a May 19 press release, Verizon offered to throw in a free Xbox console game for anyone who purchased the HTC Trophy before July 15. That same release spends its largest paragraph touting Windows Phone's Xbox Live integration, which lets users access their gamer avatar and challenge others online.
The HTC Trophy isn't the first Windows Phone device to run on a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) carrier. That particular honor belongs to the HTC Arrive, on Sprint. But given Verizon's sizable market presence, the Trophy (along with any other Windows Phones that appear on the carrier) could boost Microsoft's smartphone prospects during a particularly difficult phase in its long-running competition against Apple's iPhone and the growing family of Google Android devices.
While a Windows Phone presence on Verizon is certainly necessary for the continued viability of platform, the question is whether Verizon-which already sells the iPhone and a number of high-end Android devices, such as the Droid-will devote the marketing resources necessary to give Microsoft a toehold presence. That same question extends to the other carriers, all of which sell Microsoft's competitors to a massive audience.
Windows Phone originally appeared on GSM-based networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile. "In developing Windows Phone 7, we are placing high-quality customer experiences above all else," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote to eWEEK in late 2010, on the eve of the platform's release. "In keeping with this goal, Microsoft chose to focus on delivering a great GSM version to the world first, and then a great CDMA version in the second half of 2011."
Microsoft's Windows Phone sold 1.6 million units in the first quarter of 2011, according to new data from research firm Gartner. Although that pales in comparison with the number of Apple and Google devices activated during the same period, Microsoft executives' traditional defense has been that Windows Phone is selling at a comparable rate to other first-generation platforms.
Windows Phone "devices launched at the end of 2010 failed to grow in consumer preference and CSPs [communication service providers] continued to focus on Android," reads Gartner's May 19 research note. However, "in the long term, Nokia's support will accelerate Windows Phone's momentum."
Microsoft's deal with Nokia will see Windows Phone ported onto the latter's hardware. As Nokia begins to abandon its homegrown Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft's offering, however, it could create an opening for the companies' competitors to seize additional market-share.
Microsoft is also developing a substantial Windows Phone update for later in 2011, codenamed "Mango," which will introduce a broad range of consumer and enterprise functionality, including the ability to search a server for email items no longer stored on the device, and share and save Office documents via Office 365 and Windows Live SkyDrive. Mango will offer Bing Audio, which identifies any songs playing in the vicinity, and Bing Vision, an augmented-reality feature that lets a smartphone's camera scan barcodes and QR Codes.