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Microsoft plans to finally catch up to Google and Apple

In a market where the consumer is always looking for the next biggest and best thing, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) made the questionable decision to forgo the most cutting edge hardware for its first generation of Windows Phone 7 smartphones.  

I. Microsoft Looks Ready to Finally Cave to Market Demands for Faster Hardware

In an interview with All Thing Digital, Windows Phone unit chief Andy Lees defended the decision.  Referring to the WP7 handsets' lack of LTE (which is featured on a handful of phones [1][2] with Google Inc.'s (GOOG) rival Android OS), he states, "The first LTE phones were big and big (users) of the battery, and I think it’s possible to do it in a way that is far more efficient, and that's what we will be doing."

As for Microsoft decision to solely support single-core handsets and limited the processor selection to Qualcomm, Inc.'s (QCOM) system-on-a-chip (SoC) processors, "They're all single core, but I suspect that they will be faster in usage than any dual-core phone that you put against it, and that’s the point."

To be fair, Microsoft is sort of correct on both counts.  LTE is battery hungry and even Verizon Communications, Inc.'s (VZ) leading network only covers about half of Americans.  And when it comes to the dual-core chips found on the iPhone by Apple,  Inc. (AAPL) and most Android smartphones, typically the dual-core processor is underutilized by all but the most demanding applications.  

Further, dual core SoCs are more power hungry.  And last, but not least Android dual-core smartphones take a small processing hit to run apps on a Java VM, versus WP7's C#/XNA implementation (although this performance hit has lessened with the arrival of just-in-time Dalvik compilation, and with developers adjusting to writing more efficient Java code).

That said, the more powerful hardware has given Android and, to a lesser extent, Apple smartphones a powerful psychological advantage.  After all, an LTE dual-core smartphone sounds a lot slicker than a single-core, 3G-limited model.

Droid Bionic ad
LTE modems and dual-core processors have given Android smartphones a psychological edge, something Microsoft miscalculated, with its "less is more" mentality. [Source: Best Buy]

Even Microsoft seems to be waking up to this fact that customers want big.  Mr. Lees comments, "So, I think that what our strategy is is to put things in place that allow us to leapfrog, and I think that’s how we've gone from worse browser to the best browser, and I think the same is true with hardware."

Microsoft says dual-core Windows Phone handsets are coming either this year or next.  And while he did not explicitly state it, it sounds like LTE remains a possibility in the near future as well.

II. "Windows Phone 8" in the Works

Despite relatively abysmal sales, Mr. Lees is optimistic about Windows Phone 7, insisting it suceeded in its goal of establishing itself as a serious competitor.  He comments, "We're not making specific predictions but I think that our momentum is going to build.  Our first (release) was about mindshare, and really getting the credibility, and I think (Mango) is really about starting to build unit volume and market share."

Microsoft is sticking behind Finland's Nokia, Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V).  Nokia is rather peculiar in that it announced early this year that it would be switching all its lineup to Windows Phone, yet has thus far been far slower than other Windows Phone partners to release hardware, leaving its global lineup in jeopardy.
Nokia Sea Ray
Nokia has yet to release a single Windows Phone 7 handset. [Source: TechNet]

But Mr. Lees, when asked to compare the Nokia relationship to the recent cross-licensing agreement with Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930), showed some love for Nokia, commenting, "I think that the agreement that we have with Nokia, it’s obviously a particularly special one, they’re exclusive to us, and we have a very, very deep partnership, and I think that Samsung is not quite as deep a dependence as the Nokia one, but it’s certainly in that vein."

And Mr. Lees also dropped a tidbit that a new major release of Windows Phone was in the works (Windows Phone 8, presumably), though he wouldn't say when it might arrive.  He comments, "Pace is just incredibly important.  If your pace is too short, then the magnitude of what you can deliver gets limited because of the time it takes to do all of the testing required to ship at very, very high quality. Having said that, what you don’t want to do is just have huge, great long release times where you’re out of the market."

Source: All Things Digital

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And what is an exclusive contract worth?
By drycrust3 on 10/10/2011 11:15:05 AM , Rating: 1
Nokia has yet to release a single Windows Phone 7 handset.

Nokia was relying on Microsoft to supply them with an OS that will give them an edge over their competitors, and every day that decision looks more and more like a bad decision. Sales have dropped through the floor as customers flock to competitors' products.
I think there must be a lot of angry people at Nokia, ruing the $1B Microsoft offered them.
As I see it, they have two options, one of which is to continue waiting for Microsoft.

RE: And what is an exclusive contract worth?
By inighthawki on 10/10/2011 11:41:27 AM , Rating: 5
The operating system is very solid, and you would know that if you've used it. It is not Microsoft's fault that Nokia just hasn't released a phone yet.

RE: And what is an exclusive contract worth?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/10/2011 12:21:22 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I agree. The only real problem with Windows Mobile is that it's not on any phone that people give a damn about.

RE: And what is an exclusive contract worth?
By OoklaTheMok on 10/10/2011 2:23:36 PM , Rating: 5
The only real problem is that you still associate Windows Phone with Windows Mobile, and unfortunately so do others.

When I show my Windows Phone to those who currently have Android phones, they wished they had a Windows Phone. With Mango (WP 7.5), the choice between them is that Windows Phone is the clear winner.

RE: And what is an exclusive contract worth?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/10/2011 4:49:18 PM , Rating: 2
The only real problem is that you still associate Windows Phone with Windows Mobile, and unfortunately so do others.

Umm no, it was merely a figure of speech. I wasn't "associating" anything with anything.

Mango is great, I agree. Now let's get it on a cutting edge phone, that's all I'm saying. Because that's what is driving platforms right now. Does Android advertise how great it is? Not really, they push the phones themselves. The masses don't care about the OS.

By tayb on 10/10/2011 5:41:52 PM , Rating: 2
He wasn't talking specifically about you. That was obvious...

His point was that people here "Windows Phone" and they imagine Windows Mobile. People know that Windows Mobile sucks. They already have that preconceived notion. Microsoft really needs to beat that out of peoples brains because they have a real winner on their hands with Windows Phonw 7. It is truly a great OS.

By V-Money on 10/11/2011 12:26:55 AM , Rating: 2
There's more to it than that. Before I had my nexus one, I bought a palm treo pro with win6, and I hated that phone. Because of that I made the switch to android, and I never looked backed. It has more to do with timing, I've used win 7 and its nice, and I love my zune, but I can't justify switching now when android has always been good to me. Say what you want, but I've never really had issues with my phone and I like my cyanogen modded phone, plus all of the widgets and apps I use I already have.

By Paj on 10/11/2011 5:42:08 AM , Rating: 2
I Disagree. The average consumer (outside of certain business type clients) probably doesnt even know Microsoft makes a phone, either now or in the past. They wouldnt know anything about Windows Mobile, which was from the era when smartphones were far less ubiquitous than they are now.

The main obstacle Windows Phone faces is one of marketing - its sucks, plain and simple. Outside of a brief TV campaign when it was released, you never saw it promoted anywhere, at least in the UK. Advertising in press, outdoor or online focuses on BB, Android or iOS. Instore advertising hardly mentions WP7 at all.

RE: And what is an exclusive contract worth?
By mcnabney on 10/10/11, Rating: 0
By inighthawki on 10/10/2011 2:57:43 PM , Rating: 3
Whose surprised? Only you seem to be to think that Microsoft is holding back Nokia. Microsoft has released hardware specs that are fully capable of running EVERYTHING on the platform at full speed. There is little need to actually have any better. My windows phone can load almost every app in under 2 seconds, most near instantly, and the performance is flawless on almost everything.

By nikon133 on 10/10/2011 5:02:42 PM , Rating: 4
I'd say Nokia sales are going down because they don't have any W7 phone out yet, not because they decided to move to W7...

By DFranch on 10/10/2011 6:17:09 PM , Rating: 3
Nokia was foolish to announce they were switching to WP7 6+ months before they would have phones available. That was suicide. It would be like announcing the price of the xbox360 was dropping to $49 for x-mas, in march. who's going to buy one in the meantime? They would have been much better off waiting until they had a few WP7 phone's available, then announcing the switch.

Some needs a writing editor...
By OoklaTheMok on 10/10/2011 11:18:44 AM , Rating: 3
Microsoft plans to finally catch up to Google and Android

Should read "Microsoft plans to finally catch up to Google's Android"

Aside from that, Windows Phone doesn't need a powerful CPU in the same way Android does. This is because Windows Phone is a more efficient mobile OS than Android. For example, scrolling in Android is mashup of stuttering and smooth, in Windows Phone it's consistently smooth as silk.

Haven't we learned yet that a bigger processor does not inherently make something better?

RE: Some needs a writing editor...
By Booster on 10/10/2011 12:49:24 PM , Rating: 2
Haven't we learned yet that a bigger processor does not inherently make something better?

Exactly. Powerful CPU for a phone is not such a bright idea. I wonder how fast those dual-core 'monsters' go through their batteries - do you need to charge them like every 8 hours or so? No thank you.

RE: Some needs a writing editor...
By Booster on 10/10/2011 12:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
And as far as Nokia Winphones go, they're releasing a bundle pretty soon, in November IIRC.

RE: Some needs a writing editor...
By theapparition on 10/10/2011 2:19:11 PM , Rating: 3
I wonder how fast those dual-core 'monsters' go through their batteries - do you need to charge them like every 8 hours or so? No thank you.

Many dual-core SoC actually use less power than thier single core predecessors. Through advanced manufacturing technologies and/or the ability to shut one core off when idling.

For example, the claimed literature is that the battery life increased from the iPhone 4->4S. Now I don't typically believe Apples marketing claims, but other dual core phones have had similar gains.

Put quite simply, you have no idea what you're talking about.

RE: Some needs a writing editor...
By Booster on 10/10/2011 6:04:40 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't single-core variants also benefit from 'advanced manufacturing technology'? More cores = more power drain, dude.

RE: Some needs a writing editor...
By Booster on 10/10/2011 6:06:48 PM , Rating: 2
And with a phone you want every bit of power you can save, obviously. Because it's a phone, duh.

By someguy123 on 10/10/2011 9:25:24 PM , Rating: 2
What many core systems allow you to do is essentially turn off the cores not in use. You can save battery this way, while still maintaining high peak performance for when an app or something demands it by activating the other cores and multithreading.

If you only support one core it'll need to be fast enough to run your OS at comparable speeds to other phones, so you end up with 1 faster core with a power draw similar to 2 slower cores, but without the ability to turn off a core when the app doesn't require that much processing power. You'll also always need a core active to maintain your phone's OS while idle, and you can only downclock it so far, so, by comparison, it ends up with higher draw.

RE: Some needs a writing editor...
By Manch on 10/11/2011 7:15:57 AM , Rating: 2
True, bigger doesnt mean better but it's the "Win on Sunday. Sell on Monday" aproach.

Not every Android phone is a Monster, but those are teh ones that get the most attention. Reviews, and word of mouth about great they are trickles down to the lesser phones.

I had an EPIC 4G. My friend liked my phone so much he got a lesser Samsung phone from Sprint(dont remember the name) It's not that the phone he got was crap or anything. It was a decent 3G phone. He got it tho bc he liked my phone which at the time was one of the flagship phones for Sprint but he didnt want to pay the extra 10$ or fork out any cash up front, so he saw Samsung, Android, and it looked like my phone so to him it must be just as good or close.

MS technically may not need the HW but they do need a Halo Product. Just like each HW manufacturer/carrier has had their own. Google-Nexus, Samsung-Galaxy, HTC-EVO/THUNDERBOLT, etc.

Wether it's needed to run the OS smoothly or not, MS needs a phone with everything in it to include the kitchen sink. If they execute it right, it will get reviews, good press, and that will trickle down to the lesser phones. Nokia, needs to do the same. they shot themselves in the foot stating they are abandoning their OS before they had a Win phone to release.

Also, remember a few years back a bit. Motorola was struggling, and then they came out with the razr. It was the shot in the arm they needed. They manage to do it again with the 'droid line. Maybe Nokia will have a phone that will do just that for them in Nov.

There already is a dual core WP7
By avrnj on 10/10/11, Rating: 0
By inighthawki on 10/10/2011 9:24:34 AM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about? The HTC Titan certainly does NOT have a dual core chip...

By Labotomizer on 10/10/2011 7:53:10 PM , Rating: 3
Everyone seems so concerned about the lower specs of WP7 devices. Yet what no one seems to notice is that my HTC Trophy is still faster than a Droid Bionic. I'm sure the Bionic can smoke it in certain games in terms of graphics detail and FPS, but the overall OS is far, far more responsive than any Android device I've ever used. It's fast and unbelievably stable. I've had mine since August 5th and I've had to reboot it 3 times, and those 3 times were when the Mango updates were installing. That's it. Close to 3 months, no reboots, no lock ups, no random weird issues.

Others can keep the nightmare that is the Android OS. I'll reconsider once Google decides to exert some control over its ecosystem and figure out a way to keep so much crap running on their devices. I've seen Tegra 2 Android devices stutter switching between home screens with some busy widgets on it. It's obscene. I would consider an iPhone if I didn't dislike Apple. I know it's foolish, but overall I think WP7 is a better choice anyway. If Verizon didn't have the Trophy when I bought my new phone it would have been an iPhone over another Android. I need my phone to work and Android doesn't seem concerned enough about it. Android is the Windows XP of the phone world. The only difference is you can't wipe and reload your phone with a base Android image, the best you can hope for is to root your device and uninstall crap. But that's not the same as anyone who has ever uninstalled crapware on an OEM PC rather than reload it can tell you.

By StraightCashHomey on 10/10/2011 10:36:20 PM , Rating: 2
I've been waiting for dual core for so long. Hopefully they throw in some SLI GPUs eventually.

Davlik compilation?!?
By Flassari on 10/11/11, Rating: -1
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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