A leaked Windows Phone road map purports to trace the smartphone platform's evolution over the next year.
The road map was first posted Dec. 27 by the blog WMPoweruser, which declined to mention the source. Nonetheless, if taken at face value, the document suggests that Microsoft will follow up its recent Mango software update with additional versions aimed at the midmarket, business users and the higher-end "superphone" segment.
The second quarter of 2012, according to the road map, will see the arrival of an update labeled "Tango," which will feature "products with the best prices." This likely means Windows Phones aimed at the midmarket, with a possible stripped-down user interface to match the lower cost.
That will be followed in the fourth quarter of 2012 with "Apollo," for which the road map offers three bullet points: "increase overall volume," along with competitive "superphones" and "business." Based on that, one can infer that Microsoft intends the Windows Phone line to branch out yet again, targeting both the superphone (i.e., high spec) and business markets. The "increase overall volume" could allude to Microsoft anticipating more Windows Phone units in users' hands by the end of 2012, or else the hope that smartphones loaded with some sort of Apollo software update will kick off a higher volume of sales.
Despite the Microsoft brand name and phones from several manufacturers, Windows Phone failed to gain much traction with consumers in 2011. During his July 11 keynote speech at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, CEO Steve Ballmer described Windows Phone's market presence as "very small."
Tango and Apollo rumors have floated for some time. In August, Mary-Jo Foley posted on her All About Microsoft blog that she'd heard of "two Tango releases on tap," with the first aiming to expand "the Windows Phone footprint into new markets" while the second "will be targeted at low-cost devices and include fixes and new features."
Meanwhile, Apollo had already been tagged (by Slashgear and other sources) as Microsoft's next big code update. However, possible features remain unclear. Microsoft makes a habit of not publicly commenting on future Windows Phone developments.
Throughout 2012, expect Microsoft to push Windows Phone as a viable alternative to both Google Android and Apple's iPhone. In addition to software updates, the company has signed agreements with Nokia and other manufacturers to build new devices and market them aggressively. But with its market share still tiny, Microsoft will need to make a considerable effort if it wants to truly challenge Google and Apple for smartphone supremacy.