Microsoft’s week centered on its decision to end its MIX conference, as well as some new sales data on Windows Phone.
“We have decided to merge MIX, our spring web conference for developers and designers, into our next major developer conference, which we will host sometime in the coming year,” Tim O’Brien, Microsoft’s general manager for Developer & Platform Evangelism, wrote in a Jan. 24 posting on The Official Microsoft Blog. “There will be no MIX 2012.”
In its place, Microsoft will host another developer event later in the year, which could take a deep dive into Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the Windows Azure cloud platform.
MIX’s elimination comes barely a month after news broke that Microsoft would pull out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). An official Microsoft blog posting in December portrayed that decision as unilateral on the company’s part. “We have decided that this coming January will be our last keynote presentation and booth at CES,” Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of corporate communications, wrote in that posting. “We won’t have a keynote or booth after this year because our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing.”
Microsoft’s decision to eliminate MIX and stop attending CES could reflect its busy 2012, which will include the launch of Windows 8 sometime in the second half of the year. Microsoft could be adjusting its conference schedule for optimal product-release impact with both consumers and developers. Either that, or else Microsoft just happened to bow out of two conferences in the same time period.
This week, Nokia-one of Microsoft’s major partners on Windows Phone-announced it had sold more than 1 million Windows Phone units in the fourth quarter of 2011. That surpassed some analyst expectations, although the Finnish phone-maker’s quarterly results suggested it has a lot of ground to recover if it ultimately wants to challenge Google Android and Apple’s iOS.
Nokia’s midmarket Lumia 710 currently retails for $49 with a two-year contract, and the higher-end Lumia 900 will reportedly hit the market within the next few months at a $99 price point. “At these prices, Nokia can expect to be viewed as a strong alternative to competing platforms,” Ken Hyers, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote in a Jan. 26 research note, “particularly for the more than one-half of the U.S. population that does not yet have an Android or Apple smartphone.”
Those sales could help Windows Phone take a more robust share of the overall smartphone market. Despite some strong critical reviews, Microsoft’s latest mobile platform is still struggling for adoption, something the company hopes to start changing in 2012 through a combination of upgraded software and more devices on the open market.
Microsoft is also busily gearing up for the Windows 8 beta in February-and talking about the operating system’s new features. This week, the company posted a bit more about how Windows 8 will leverage tablet sensors to enhance apps.
“Initially, some thought that the need for such sensors was scoped to very few apps, such as specialized games,” Gavin Gear, a manager of the Device Connectivity team, wrote in a Jan. 24 posting on the Building Windows 8 blog. “But the more we examined the 3D motion and orientation sensing problem, the more we realized that applications are much more immersive and attractive if they react to the kind of motion humans can easily understand, such as shakes, twists, and rotations in multiple dimensions.”
Hence, Microsoft’s requirement for its hardware partners that any Windows 8 tablet feature a performance-calibrated combination of gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer and magnetometer. “Combining the input of multiple sensors to produce better overall results is a process we call sensor fusion,” Gear wrote. “The -magic’ of sensor fusion is to mathematically combine the data from all three sensors to produce more sophisticated outputs.”
Microsoft will need more than that, of course, to make Windows 8 on tablets a competitor to Apple’s iPad. Hence what will surely be a massive marketing campaign-not to mention some expertly timed events.