Microsoft launched its latest mobile operating system upgrade yesterday, with the release of Windows Phone 8. Guy Daniels reports.
There’s more than one Perfect Storm hitting the US at the moment. Whilst Hurricane Sandy is causing devastation along the east coast, the major mobile device and software vendors are whipping up a frenzy with their latest releases. Having just witnessed the high-profile release of Apple’s iPad Mini and Samsung’s record-breaking smartphone sales figures, we now have Microsoft and Google launching major new products. Yesterday we emphasised the importance of the smart device market over the next five years – all the leading vendors want to ensure they have the products that will keep them in the game.
Microsoft has to date met with a “so what?” reception for its Windows Phone operating system. Consumers already have a choice of two incredible platforms, in Apple and Android, and BlackBerry users appear reluctant to leave their familiar devices behind, no matter how lacklustre the latest offerings are. So are we surprised that there haven’t been many takers for Windows Phone 7 so far? Of course, the situation isn’t helped by a lack of devices, and a worrying lack of an upgrade path for early adopters.
Microsoft has decided to revisit history as it unveils its latest OS upgrade; Windows Phone 8. Writing on his company’s blog, Terry Myerson, Corporate VP for Windows Phone, claims that his team wasn’t impressed by earlier models of iPhone and Android devices – despite huge popularity amongst consumers:
“Phones had become centered on icons and technology, and we believed they should be centered on people. So we set out to build a phone for each of us, rather than a single phone for all of us. The result, in November 2010, was Windows Phone 7. We didn’t expect to change the world overnight.
But the design awards and glowing reviews that poured in from customers and critics told us we were onto something special.”
Many would take issue with the facts in that positioning statement. Microsoft was surely aiming at higher initial sales than it actually achieved. Anyway, Terry likes his hyperbole, as he describes the launch of Windows Phone 8 and last week’s desktop/tablet OS as “an absolutely epic, history-making month for Microsoft”.
We will soon be able to find out for ourselves if Windows Phone 8 is indeed epic, as the first new phones are expected to start going on sale at operators and retailers in Europe this coming weekend, and will start to roll out in the US and worldwide in November.
Windows Phone 8 builds on its previous feature set. And now that Microsoft’s desktop and tablet OS has taken its design cues from mobile, the whole product suite now as a much needed coherent feel to it. There’s seamless connection to services like the cloud based SkyDrive for access to photos and documents from any device.
Myerson says that the Windows Phone Store offers apps in 191 countries or regions, with the total number now at 120,000. Popular US online music service Pandora is coming to Windows Phone in early 2013, with one year of ad-free music. He says that Windows Phone will have 46 of the top 50 apps available on other platforms. Developers can now download a free Windows Phone 8 Software Development Kit.
Ovum analyst Nick Dillon said that Windows Phone has previously struggled in sales and marketing support from operators, which have generally been lukewarm about the operating system, preferring the easier sell of iPhones and Androids:
“However, in contrast to the launch of Windows Phone 7.5, Ovum has noted an increase in optimism and support for the platform from both vendors and mobile operators ahead of Windows Phone 8, which is generally driven by the belief that Microsoft’s proposition is now both unified and complete. In terms of sales, Ovum forecasts Windows Phone to grow from 4.5 per cent of smartphone market share in 2012 to 13 per cent in 2017, putting it in third place behind iOS and Android.”
However, the software upgrade woes remain – there’s no sign yet about an upgrade from Windows Phone 7.8. Will existing customers lose out again? And will potential new customers finally agree with Myerson and turn away from phones that are “centered on icons” and instead risk the move to a phone that is centred instead on resizeable tiles?
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