As with much of this crazy August, Microsoft's week was dominated less by the company's own news, and much more by seismic shifts among its competitors. With Steve Jobs having resigned his longtime CEO post at Apple, pundits from both coasts have started ruminating over what his departure means for the smartphone game at large-a game in which Microsoft aspires to a significant stake.
Actually, most of those talking heads seem to think Jobs' departure will have precious little effect on Apple's fortunes, at least in the shorter term. "Apple's product development road map stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built," Forrester analyst JP Gownder wrote in an Aug. 24 corporate blog posting. "Jobs' departure won't affect Apple's product portfolio, quality or competitiveness for a long time-if ever."
If you take that analysis at face value, Microsoft probably can't rely on a sudden change in Apple's fortunes to benefit Windows Phone. Nonetheless, Redmond is proceeding merrily apace with its smartphone plans, including the ramp-up to the release of the massive Windows Phone "Mango" update.
According to the latest rumors, Microsoft is also prepping a stripped-down version of Windows Phone, codenamed Tango, for lower-end smartphones. This chatter stems in large part from an Aug. 23 posting on a Hong Kong-based Website titled "We Love Windows Phone," which described Tango as a version of Windows Phone for low-cost hardware, targeted at developing markets (China, India, etc.). According to a Google Translation of the Website, Tango "is not a major update." Supposedly, all this information was confirmed by speakers at a Microsoft seminar in Hong Kong.
Bloggers and journalists on this side of the Pacific quickly picked through the story. "I've heard there are, indeed, two Tango releases on tap," Mary-Jo Foley wrote in an Aug. 24 posting on her All About Microsoft blog: the first one will expand "the Windows Phone footprint into new markets," while the second "will be targeted at low-cost devices and include fixes and new features."
Microsoft is also continuing to target developers and manufacturers possibly dissatisfied with Google's recent plans to acquire Motorola Mobility, and Hewlett-Packard's announcement that it would kill its tablet and smartphone initiatives.
"To Any Published WebOS Devs," Brandon Watson, Microsoft's director of developer experience for Windows Phone, wrote in an Aug. 19 Tweet. "We'll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, incl. free phones, dev tools, and training, etc."
Given how HP let the TouchPad live a mere six weeks before pulling the plug, there really wasn't a lot of time for its developers to create much of an app store for webOS. But Microsoft has little to lose in trying to persuade those same developers-however few in number-to give its own smartphone platform a shot.
Watson's Tweet echoed a comment earlier in the week from Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's Windows Phone Division, who responded to Google's acquisition plans with a widely-circulated statement: "Investing in a broad and truly open mobile ecosystem is important for the industry and consumers alike, and Windows Phone is now the only platform that does so with equal opportunity for all partners."
Microsoft is currently locked in a vicious intellectual-property war with Motorola Mobility. This week, the International Trade Commission (ITC) opened its hearings into whether the handset maker's Google Android devices violate Microsoft's patents, as Redmond insists.
Even as Microsoft promotes Windows Phone, it's also continuing with the slow trickle of official information about its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, via the "Building Windows 8" blog. The latest revelation: a new-and-improved copy experience.
"Copying, moving, renaming and deleting are far and away the most heavily used features within Windows Explorer, representing 50 percent of total command usage (based on Windows 7 telemetry data)," Alex Simons, Microsoft's director of program management, wrote in an Aug. 24 posting on the blog. Even though Windows Explorer could handle the larger copy jobs-i.e., the ones that take more than two minutes to complete-it wasn't "optimized for high-volume jobs or for executing multiple copy jobs concurrently."
The "Building Windows 8" blog has offered a steady stream of new, sanctioned postings over the past few days. A previous entry focused on Windows 8's support for USB 3.0. Ones before that focused on some of the new features that will supposedly make an appearance, including an app store. Although Microsoft hasn't officially offered a release date, it's widely expected that Windows 8 will debut in 2012.