A day after Microsoft’s Windows Phone “Mango” update reached its Release to Manufacturing milestone, one of the company’s hardware partners revealed its first smartphone running the software.
The IS12T, produced by Fujitsu Toshiba Mobile Communications, will offer a 3.7-inch screen paired to a 13.2-megapixel camera. It will arrive on Japanese store shelves by September or later, according to an IDG video uploaded to YouTube and posted on multiple news Websites, including PC World. The phone supports CDMA-based (Code Division Multiple Access-based) networks.
Hardware specs aside, the majority of early buzz for Fujitsu’s smartphone centers on its Windows Phone software. Mango offers some 500 new tweaks and features, according to Microsoft, including a redesigned Xbox Live Hub, home-screen tiles capable of displaying up-to-the-minute information, the ability to consolidate friends and colleagues into groups, and visual voice mail.
Mango reached its Release to Manufacturing milestone July 26. “Earlier this morning, the Windows Phone development team officially signed off on the release to manufacturing (RTM) build of -Mango’-the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system,” Microsoft executive Terry Myerson wrote in a posting on The Windows Blog. “Here on the Windows Phone team, we now turn to preparing for the update process.”
He didn’t offer a definitive release date for Mango, although other Microsoft executives have cited a fall timeframe. Previous Windows Phone updates encountered delays and complaints of stalled or “bricked” devices, forcing Microsoft into damage-control mode-an experience the company almost certainly doesn’t want to repeat.
Mango also offers Microsoft a chance to reverse Windows Phone’s marketplace fortunes. During a July 11 keynote speech at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference, CEO Steve Ballmer described the platform’s market share as “very small,” but insisted that other metrics (such as consumer satisfaction) boded well for Windows Phone overall.
“Nine out of 10 people who bought Windows Phone would absolutely recommend it to a friend,” he said, reiterating a talking point voiced by many a Microsoft executive over the past few months. “People in the phone business seem to believe in us.”
While Microsoft routinely refuses to release any hard sales data for Windows Phone, analysts estimate the platform is struggling for adoption. For the three-month period between the end of February and the end of May, research firm comScore estimated Microsoft’s U.S. share dipping from 7.7 percent to 5.8 percent. If accurate, that comes despite the marketing plush behind the Windows Phone platform.
During that same timeframe, Google Android jumped from 33 percent to 38.1 percent of the market, and Apple rose slightly from 25.2 percent to 26.6 percent. Research In Motion slid from 28.9 percent to 24.7 percent.
“It is hard to tell what Mango will do [to] sales of Windows Phone,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa wrote in a July 27 note to media. “In my opinion, now everything rests on the diversity of the device portfolio that begins to emerge. The platform has a solid story on the developer ecosystem where Windows Phone has crossed the 25,000-app critical-mass.”
Samsung, HTC, LG Electronics and Nokia have all committed to building new Windows Phone devices preloaded with Mango, while Acer and ZTE have reportedly agreed to produce Windows Phone units for the first time.