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Windows Phone: More High-End Devices Coming Soon

As Windows Phone loses market share, Microsoft exec says HTC One (M8) and other new flagship devices could bolster demand.

via a device's touchscreen. He also noted that new features such as Cortana, the Windows Phone 8.1 digital assistant, do not require client upgrades because almost everything runs in the cloud. Microsoft execs have argued this cloud focus helps low-end devices maintain a high-level user experience.

Microsoft's new hardware standards enable OEMs not only to make cheaper devices, but also to more easily retrofit existing high-end models. Because Windows Phone no longer requires physical buttons, for example, HTC didn't have to redesign the One (M8) hardware it had already designed for Android.

Not all Windows Phone 8.1 flagships will derive from existing Android models. When Microsoft gets around to releasing a flagship Lumia, for instance, the hardware will be designed expressly for Windows Phone. But it's important that Microsoft gave OEMs this flexibility to reuse ideas.

At the high end of the market, devices such as the iPhone enjoy tremendous product loyalty. Apple doesn't lose market share because it loses customers; it loses market share because the low end of the market, where Apple doesn't bother to compete, is growing faster than the high end, where Apple dominates.

Samsung, meanwhile, eats up most of the high-margin opportunities left over by Apple, and Android devices are slowly gaining share in business settings, where Apple owns the mobile scene. These challenges won't persuade many OEMs to commit major resources to a fleet of expensive new Windows Phone devices, at least not until the OS shows more life. But by enabling OEMs to reuse existing hardware investments, Microsoft is allowing partners to produce attractive devices without assuming so much risk.

"The software shift enabled existing devices that didn't run our previous specifications to run our software," Sullivan said.

The earlier specifications, however, were established under an important goal: to create the kind of tight hardware-software integration that made the iPhone so popular. Sullivan said the looser hardware standards don't compromise this strategy, noting that Microsoft engineers worked closely with HTC counterparts. Even though the HTC One (M8)'s Dot View cover already existed for Android, the Windows versions includes the ability to invoke Cortana, he explained, adding that such efforts help the hardware to "light up" Windows Phone's digital experiences. 

Time will tell if the One (M8) and other high-end Windows Phone handsets create the "halo effect" Sullivan described, stimulating demand for lower-end models. In the meantime, some users of the original version of Windows Phone are still waiting to receive Windows Phone 8.1. Sullivan said the update should run on the vast majority of existing Windows Phone 8 smartphones and that carriers were working to push out updates as quickly as possible.

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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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Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/23/2014 | 3:48:13 PM
Windows Phone 8.1
Have any readers been using Windows Phone 8.1?

I've had the chance to use the HTC One (M8) with Windows Phone 8.1 for the last few days, and though I'm still forming opinions, I think the OS is much improved, and that HTC's hardware is pretty nice, but not as ergonomically pleasing as an iPhone. I'm curious to see what future high-end Lumias will look like, now that Microsoft is running the show.
User Rank: Ninja
8/25/2014 | 6:46:42 AM
Re: Windows Phone 8.1
I feel like I've been reading about how Microsoft is getting ready to make another run at the phone market for the last (1, 2, 3?) years and nothing ever comes of it.  I have not seen Windows Phone 8.1 but I can't imagine a MS mobile platform that would get me to leave Android.
User Rank: Ninja
8/25/2014 | 7:29:43 AM
High end?
Microsoft has already had, and has, high end phones from Nokia. We've read good things about the hardware. The cameras are good. But it seems as though few people care. The problem is that people just don't like Win Phone. It's not whether it's equal to Android or iOS. It's simply whether people like it. It could be the most sophisticated OS in the world, but if people look at it and think that it's harder to use, or they don't like the way it looks, or whatever, they won't buy it. More high end phones won't fix that. WebOS had the same problem. People would pick it up, play with it for a few seconds, and put it down again. I've seen people do that with Win Phone as well. They aren't interested in spending time to figure out how to use it, and the truth is that it's not as obvious as Android or iOS. It's also from Microsoft, and I believe that people are tired of Microsoft. They feel they still need to use Windows, but they don't want to use it for mobile as well. This is a mountain Microsoft has to climb over. In addition, it occurs to me that there are still a number of Nokia loyalists around who are buying these phones. They care less about the OS than the name on the phone. But now that Microsoft owns this, they are slipping away. I had mentioned this before Microsoft completed the purchase. I believe it's still true.
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/25/2014 | 1:23:52 PM
Re: High end?
I don't think the typical Jane or Joe Consumer has much opinion on Microsoft vs. Google vs. Apple. That's inside baseball, as they say. They care about apps, camera, cost, and what their friends are carrying.

If Microsoft were smart, it would make a phone optimized for college students then push it hard to students seen as 'influencers,' or whatever the current term is, even subsidizing data plans if needed for top trendsetters. Keds sneakers did it, certain beer brands do it. Not hard to see a phone following suit.
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
8/27/2014 | 11:50:25 AM
Solid, indestructible and, best of all, cheap
I bought my son a Nokia Windows-based smartphone on a pay-per-month (AT&T) plan and couldn't be happier. It was only $49, the service is $25 per month and my son says the Nokia device is "indestructible." He has dropped it several times (even without the cover), and unlike the two Apple iTouches we've owned that have suffered cracked screens, this thing takes a licking. I hope Microsoft keeps those phones alive, if only to keep things competitive and costs down.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/28/2014 | 5:00:19 PM
Windows phone as data port for Surface Pro 3?
Q: Can a cell phone with a windows operating system be used as a data port? I'd like to use with a Surface Pro 3? Thanks for any kind of suggestions :)
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2014 | 5:05:56 PM
Windows phone.
I don't have a taste for Windown Phone. I regret my purchase of a Window phone that i had to sale first-hand. Not only do I find it inconvenient but also unnecessarily complicated for a phone. That being said, I wouldn't be interested in what are the innovations being introduced in this regard.
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