After several months of speculation regarding Microsoft’s strategy to increase Windows Phone’s user base, the company now seems to have a concrete plan as to how to do it.
In order for Microsoft’s operating system for mobiles, to accomplish the very difficult objective of gaining more ground in a market firmly gripped by Android and, to a lesser extent, iOS, they will need to look at cheaper handsets than that which are the major players for their competitors.
In the words of Gartner analyst Tuong Huy Nguyen, “The challenge Microsoft has had is that to get the volume they want, they really need to get into mid- and low-end devices”.
At just a little bit under 4 percent of the global operating system market share at the beginning of 2014, Windows Phone certainly isn’t about to win any popularity contests. But they may start gaining some momentum after Redmond announced plans to join forces with other manufacturers to build more affordable handsets.
First stop – India.
Their first bet is on India, more precisely on its giant, virgin market. “India is a huge, untapped market where smartphone penetration rates are very low, and where pricing is crucial”, says Colin Gibbs, mobile analyst and curator with GigaOM.
By renouncing its license fees for two local phone makers, Lava and Karbonn, the company hopes to get their software in the hands of as many people as possible. The two manufacturers are expected to unveil Windows Phone devices in the coming months.
Of course this wouldn’t provide any financial gains, at least not yet. It would simply be building towards a critical mass where, hopefully, the operating system’s large user base would spur developers to get involved with it and might even start a trend with manufacturers in other markets. Or at least that’s what Microsoft hopes.
The Huawei dual-OS device.
Another piece of news that sheds some light into the company’s strategic thought is Huawei’s chief marketing officer, Shao Yang, reportedly admitting that his company is planning on releasing a dual booting device in the US this year.
This idea was first mentioned last spring when a delegation led by Steve Ballmer visited Taiwan to discuss the possibility of implementing Windows Phone on HTC devices alongside Android.
The move from Huawei was received with mixed reviews. Nguyen argues that dual-booting provides little appeal for an audience that resents fragmentation. He goes on to call it “a bit disorienting from the consumer point of view”.
There is also the technical aspect to consider. At a first look, a dual-OS device would probably be more energy-consuming, especially when running them at the same time, to say nothing of the more intricate technical aspects that would drive the cost of the device higher.
The analyst for Gartner concludes: “It’s nice to have, but how many people need it? How many people want it? Think the appeal is much more limited than vendors might expect.”
Whether this will pay off or not for Microsoft remains to be seen. Android did its share of talking to anybody who would listen in its beginning and it paid off handsomely in the end. Will Windows Phone have the same luck? Certainly not to the same extent unless something drastic happens. But its business strategy in India is definitely interesting and might provide Microsoft with some real momentum if it’s successful.
Only time will tell.