When Samsung pledged to collaborate with Microsoft over the development and marketing of Windows Phone, it probably didn’t think that partnership would extend to Microsoft snagging its executives.
But that seems to be the case, with the blog Boy Genius Report posting Nov. 7 that Gavin Kim, formerly Samsung’s vice president of consumer and enterprise services, is now Microsoft’s general manager of the Windows Phone team. For the moment, Kim’s LinkedIn page still lists Samsung as his primary employer.
“I will be responsible to help set the future direction for the Windows Phone platform and to accelerate Microsoft’s trajectory to win the hearts and minds of consumers, carriers, device manufacturers, developers and partners,” Kim told BGR. “In my experience, there is an already fervent base of Windows Phone supporters out there and they all get it.”
Kim joins Windows Phone just as Microsoft begins a concerted push for the platform, which in the year since its initial release has attracted some strong reviews but middling market share. Samsung, Nokia and other manufacturers are prepping the rollout of Windows Phones devices loaded with “Mango,” a wide-ranging update that tweaks the platform in hundreds of little (and big) ways.
While Windows Phone started out as a line of higher-end devices, Microsoft seems determined to penetrate further into the midmarket. “We are dramatically broadening the set of price points in Mango-related phones that we can reach,” Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, told the audience during the Asia D conference Oct. 19. “That’s particularly important because going lower down in price point opens up more addressable markets.”
Microsoft has loosened its minimum hardware requirements for the platform, with its hardware specifications now listing “primary camera” and “front-facing camera” under “optional hardware.” The rest of the “standard hardware” remains much the same, including three hardware buttons (start, search and back) and an accelerometer. Those specifications were last updated Sept. 23.
Loosened specs could allow manufacturers to produce lower-cost handsets. Nokia has already started down that road with the Lumia 710, which includes a 1.4GHz processor and 5-megapixel camera.
Windows Phone’s market share currently lags that of Google Android and Apple iOS. However, some analysts-including those from research firms IDC and Canaccord Genuity-have suggested that Microsoft could eventually seize a much larger portion of smartphone users within the next few years, provided its partnerships play out to their full potential.
That is the landscape confronting Kim as he enters his new role.