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Microsoft 'Converts' iPhones, Android Devices To Windows Phone

Web site allows users to get the Live Tiles experience on competitive devices from Apple and Google.
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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but Microsoft is betting that an interactive demo is even more valuable. That's why the software maker has launched a mobile site that appears to turn an Android-based device or an iPhone into a Windows Phone 7 smartphone.

Clicking on the site via the Apple's iPhone Safari browser or through an Android browser launches an HTML and JavaScript session that fills the device's screen with Windows Phone's Live Tiles interface. The tiles link back to dummy data and content that give users the experience of using an actual Windows Phone.

The site mimics the experience of using Live Tiles to connect to such Windows Phone features as Local Scout, a hyperlocal dining, shopping, and entertainment search engine, contacts, Outlook email, messaging threads, and other services.

The thinking behind the campaign seems to be that Microsoft is convinced consumers will like Windows Phone's unique interface if they would only just try it. The problem is that few have. Microsoft's share of the U.S. mobile OS market, including Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, stood at just 5.6% as of September, down from 5.8% as of June, according to the most recent data from ComScore.

[ Microsoft is trying hard to compete, but it faces a tough road. Read iOS 5.1 Beta Points To New iPhone, iPad. ]

Market leader Android's share stood at 44.8%, while Apple's iOS held a 27.4% stake as of September.

Part of Microsoft's strategy to boost its numbers is to flood the market with Windows Phones from OEMs like HTC and Samsung that are low-cost, or even free with a carrier contract, yet retain high-end smartphone features like dual cameras and 4G support. The recently launched Samsung Focus Flash, which includes both of those attributes as well as a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor, is available for $50 with a two-year AT&T contract.

Also, Microsoft partner Nokia next year will introduce a range of Windows Phone 7 devices into the U.S. market. Nokia recently said it would add ST-Ericsson's mass market chipset to its roster of component suppliers in order to produce phones for the budget market. Ericsson's NovaThor system-on-a-chip platform is more of a mass market offering than Qualcomm's Snapdragon, which Nokia also uses.

Microsoft is also doing some high profile marketing around Windows Phone. Last month, the company placed a six-story mock up of a Windows Phone device in New York City's Herald Square to coincide with the formal launch of the Windows 7.5 Mango update, which adds a number of new features, including multitasking, to the platform.

The stakes are high. Microsoft needs to make inroads in the smartphone and tablet markets to offset declines in Windows PC sales that many analysts believe will occur as more computing goes mobile.

"Key consumer trends are to use mobile devices more and PCs less and to multi-task across multiple screens," said Gartner's Angela McIntyre. Smartphones are now "the go-to Internet device" said McIntyre.

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