Not so long ago, Microsoft, along with RIM and Palm used to rule the smartphone domain. Those who still feel nostalgic about the era can recall when smartphone meant business phones, mostly seen in the hands of professionals. Nokia’s entry into the arena with their hugely successful Symbian 60 OS changed the attitudes somewhat but the real killer blow came from iPhone in 2007.
All of a sudden, definition of a smartphone changed. Soft touch driven, offering vibrant display screens and loaded with multimedia features, the iPhone was instantly a hit and rapidly adopted by the premium users. Android happened next and analysts are still in process of measuring the impact it had (and is having) on the way we use our handsets. Old Goliath fell, making way for young Davids. Microsoft, RIM, Nokia etc, all were forced to bite dust by Android and iPhone’s joint rampage. So, what is it that makes Microsoft believe that it can regain its lost territory in smartphone domain? Let’s find out.
Microsoft’s Smartphone moment
Microsoft is a giant when it comes to computing. 90% of all the PC systems in the world run on Windows operating system. So, the million dollar question is that why it lost its way in the smartphone domain? Was it intentional or Microsoft got whitewashed out of their superiority complex? We believe not it was neither. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, though an efficient OS platform in itself, mainly lost out due to lack of innovation and focus that is required in an as personal device as a mobile phone. Let’s face it. People do get bored by using same stuff over and over again.
Also, Microsoft was not offering anything radical in any of its OS updates either. They were all the same in terms of net usability, offering a kind of ‘miniaturised PC’ experience to the users, which was somewhat out of sync with modern needs as no one would like to carry a mini PC in their pockets, which can give you a feel of PC but cannot replace it. Essentially speaking, a real mobile experience lacked in Windows Mobile devices.
Now, that the situation has somewhat stabilised, Microsoft is pushing through the smartphone market with WindowsPhone 7. The OS, launched in early 2011 aboard HTC HD7 has generated rave reviews and recently received its first upgrade – Windows Mango. The choice of vendors has also been widened, ranging from old partner HTC to Samsung, LG and of course, Nokia.
Windows Phone 7 is an entirely new OS, and not backward compatible with earlier versions of Windows Mobile or its app ecosystem. It is an effort to rehash the smartphone domain by Microsoft, something it has done before with PCs in 1990s and Xbox in 2000s. Though, the task is not that easy this time for Microsoft. With two well entrenched mobile OSes in global smartphone market – the iOS and Android, both of with are also evolving rapidly, the software giant has its task cut out.
Technically speaking, Microsoft is in a better position to win the deal. As most of the corporate houses run their systems on Windows desktop OS, with Microsoft supplied productivity suites like MS office etc and use Microsoft exchange server mailing services to setup Emailing systems, the WM7 is better suited for business market, where you can seamlessly sync your data with devices running Windows, without losing touch.
Nokia + Window = World domination
Still, the million dollar question remains. Is it too late for Microsoft to be back in the game? Well! We believe it can. After all, Microsoft is a well established company and dominates the global software arena, has deep pockets and can afford to be patient with its designs.
The choice of partnering with Nokia and making them ditch the development of their own Symbian OS is coup of sorts in itself. Nobody would have believed Nokia would do so before the announcement came. Though, Nokia itself is a big casualty of iOS+Android combine but it still remains world's largest handset manufacturer by installed manufacturing base and a trusted brand in much of Asia, Europe and Africa. The tie up with Microsoft gives them a stable and modern smartphone OS while Microsoft gains valuable partner, which can help them lower down the prices of devices by economies of scale.
To further leverage Nokia's popularity in markets with less inclination towards smartphones, Microsoft also lowered minimum hardware specifications required by WM7 to penetrate these regions. Sum it up and you have a win-win situation for both.
A window into future
Microsoft’s latest venture into handset OS domain is a winner since the beginning. Microsoft’s experience in productivity and Nokia's specialisation in providing cost effective high-quality handsets and selling them is a partnership that will establish the WM7 among the top OSes available in the market.
WM7 Mango 7.5 took care of those already who were criticizing the OS platform as half baked and the next update. Apollo, the next update being planned is expected to further iron out the bugs and add NFC capability and convergence between Microsoft OS running devices, providing seamless connectivity.
Those who are questioning apprehensive about the number of applications available for the platform should also bury the fear as Windows Phone Marketplace already matches number of apps available on BlackBerry App World and as the devices flood the market, the situation could quickly turn for good.
Henceforth, the global smarphone domain is officially a three way struggle for supremacy between Microsoft, Apple and Google, the very same troika, which dominates PC world. Everybody else is doomed.