Roger Cheng, of the Wall Street Journal, reported last Friday (Oct. 1) that Microsoft will be formally unveiling a lineup of smartphones using the revamped version of its mobile operating system on Oct. 11. AT&T will subsequently begin offering the new phones four weeks later, he added.
“The launch – centered in New York with satellite events elsewhere – is crucial for Microsoft, which has been battered by Apple’s iPhone and a wave of flashier consumer friendly devices using Google’s Android mobile software,” Cheng wrote.
“Microsoft will receive the marketing support of AT&T, which will be the initial exclusive U.S. carrier to sell the Windows Phone 7 smartphones. AT&T plans to sell the devices the week of Nov. 8. Initially, the carrier will offer three handsets – one each made by Samsung, LG and HTC – as it looks to diversify its portfolio of mobile devices beyond the iPhone.”
Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up in the mobile phone business. Cheng said Windows Mobile operating system was commonly found in business users’ smartphones a few years, only to be usurped over time by the BlackBerry, iPhone and Android platforms. “In the past year, Microsoft’s share of the smartphone operating system market has nearly halved, falling to 5 percent in the second quarter from 9.3 percent a year ago, according to Gartner,” Cheng wrote.
“Android has since replace Microsoft as the mobile OS of choice for handset vendors that don’t already have their own proprietary software. Motorola, for instance, has built its turnaround on its early embrace of Android. And while Samsung, LG and HTC have committed to making Windows Phone 7 devices, all of them have a much larger presence in Android.”
Even Microsoft’s attempt at making its own phones flopped. In July, the company discontinued its Kin phone line, less than two months after the phones hit store shelves (see Scrapping Kin). The phones, which were an attempt at reaching out at a younger segment of mobile phone users, got poor reviews and failed to meet sales expectations. Consequently, Microsoft said it would shift focus away from the Kin phones and more toward improving Windows Phone 7.
“But by starting over, Microsoft faces several challenges,” Cheng adds. “The company has to convince developers that its platform will make an attractive market for thousands of apps that have driven the success of the iPhone and Android smartphones. Like Apple, the company is insisting on a closed, controlled system where applications can only be sold through the Windows Marketplace.”