As Windows Phone loses market share, Microsoft exec says HTC One (M8) and other new flagship devices could bolster demand.
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Times are tough for Windows Phone -- so tough that more than a few commentators have already suggested Microsoft should just throw in the towel. But with renewed support from hardware partners, Microsoft leaders still believe Windows Phone can succeed, especially as new devices fill out the lineup.
Since last spring, Microsoft execs have framed their Windows Phone strategy around low-cost devices for emerging markets. This month, however, HTC released a Windows Phone 8.1 version of its One (M8) flagship, which was previously an Android exclusive. Microsoft, currently reorganizingwhat's left of its Nokia acquisition, is expected to release mid- to high-end Lumia devices in coming weeks.
If Windows Phone is to grow in emerging markets it needs these higher-end models to set the tone, Windows Phone director Greg Sullivan told InformationWeek in an interview. "Flagship devices help define a platform, create awareness and desire," he said, adding that in markets where Microsoft advertises high-end devices on television, sales of lower-end devices tend to spike.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, these spikes haven't yet added up to much. Earlier this year, Microsoft leaders touted Windows Phone's growth in emerging markets, pointing out that its platform's share even surpassed iPhones' share in certain regions. But according to research firm IDC, this momentum stalled in the most recent quarter; Windows Phone OEMs shipped fewer devices than they had in the year-ago period, and the mobile OS's market share fell to only 2.5%, down almost a full percentage point from the quarter before.
Given this dismal outlook, it makes sense that Microsoft is focused on emerging markets. "We want to go where the growth is," said Sullivan.
To make headway, the company has attempted to re-energize its hardware partners, most of which had left Windows Phone for dead at this point last year. Microsoft established a service portal to help regional OEMs support Windows Phone, for instance. The company also relaxed the OS's hardware requirements and did more to push the company's vision through software, Sullivan said.
He pointed out that previously Windows Phones had to have physical keys, but everything can now be done
Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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