Microsoft's Koefoed Pushes Windows Phone 7, Tablets

Microsoft executive Bill Koefoed summarized Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and tablet PC strategy during a recent talk in Boston. Microsoft has planned aggressive moves in both market segments.

Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of Investor Relations, discussed Windows Phone 7 and tablet PCs during an Aug. 10 talk at the Oppenheimer Annual Technology, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Boston. Smartphones and tablets are two areas where Microsoft has, with increasing volume, announced its intentions of seizing market share in the short to medium term.

Koefoed also told the audience that some 175 million copies of Windows 7 have been sold since the operating system's October 2009 release.

But Microsoft's mobile strategy soon came to the fore, with Koefoed predicting that Windows Phone 7 will launch "sometime in the back half of the [calendar] year," according to a transcript released by Microsoft. He suggested that the smartphone operating system, which consolidates both mobile applications and Web content into a series of subject-specific Hubs such as "Office" and "Games," will carve out market share by offering users a balance of business and consumer functionality.

Those business functions, in particular, are vital to what Microsoft sees as Windows Phone 7's appeal.

"I don't know if you're using Exchange, and I don't know if you're using some Office tools, but the integration with that is, frankly, unparalleled," Koefoed said. "I don't use an Android phone, so I don't know whether they have those capabilities. My assumption is probably they don't."

But consumer functions will also play a major factor.

"We've taken a lot of the enterprise tools and enterprise capabilities that we know that people are using, that people have been using on our Windows Mobile platforms historically, and adding consumer capabilities," he added. Those capabilities include Facebook, Xbox Live and Zune integration.

Conversation then shifted to consumer tablets. Since the Apple iPad's breakout success earlier this year, a number of manufacturers have announced plans for their own entrants into the category. However, Hewlett-Packard's recent acquisition of Palm and its tablet-friendly Palm WebOS, and other companies' very public examinations of Google Android as a potential tablet OS, have put Microsoft somewhat on the defensive with regard to Windows 7's ability to serve as an operating system for devices in the category.

During Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in July, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a keynote audience that tablets represent "a terribly important area for us" and that Microsoft would push "a range of Windows 7 slates." A few weeks later, during Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting, Ballmer suggested that Windows 7-equipped tablets would leverage Intel's lower-power Oak Trail processor, due in 2011; but he also proved noncommittal about potential release dates.

Koefoed used his Boston talk to re-emphasize Ballmer's points.

"I think we're laser-focused on tablets as an emerging category," he said. "Intel is going to come out with their Oak Trail chip around the first of the year and, we think, that's going to offer a lot of new capabilities. Whether it's better usage of battery life and the like, it's going to really help move the category forward."

Although he alluded vaguely to having "a great operating system" for tablets, Koefoed made no mention of whether a modified version of Windows 7 would run devices issued by the company's manufacturing partners.