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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses a crowd of developers in Japan.  (Source: Microsoft)
Update could be a game changer for Microsoft in war against Android, iOS

At a keynote at the 2011 Japanese Microsoft Developers Forum today, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer had exciting news for smartphone fans.  He announced some of the first known details about the company's next major release of its Windows Phone OS, Windows Phone 7.5.

I. Everybody Loves the Mango?

Mr. Ballmer says the upcoming OS, codenamed "Mango", is part of Microsoft's vision of "transforming the future of communications."

The chief executive admits that it's been a struggle over the last couple years for the prominent OS maker, but promises great things to come.  Mr. Ballmer comments, "We came to market with Windows Phone a year later than I wish we had, shame on us.  But we're moving forward very actively.  We launched Windows Phone last November, we've done a set of upgrades, we have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan.  Not only is it a release that is much more global, but we've added over 500 new features to Windows Phone."

"We have a big launch event to talk about the next release of Windows Phone tomorrow, so that information will be forthcoming, including some of the particulars about who is going to be building Windows Phones and which carriers are going to be offering them here in Japan."

Details about what "Mango" might hold haven't been specified, yet, but it's pretty easy to guess some of the items that may be on the menu.  Microsoft has long promised opening up multi-tasking for all third-party apps, pending a future update.  And Microsoft also promised connectivity with the popular Kinect motion sensor and Mobile Internet Explorer 9, a much-improved mobile browser.

Other improvements could be hardware dependent, such as Near Field Communications (NFC) technologies for wireless billing.  Rival Google Inc. (GOOG) has been pushing NFC particularly hard with its industry-leading Android platform.

Tie-ins with recent acquisition Skype, including video-chat services could be on the agenda, as well.

II. Windows Phone 7 Sees Poor Sales

Microsoft finds itself in a slightly curious position, in terms of sales.  On the one hand, its current sales are rather abysmal.  Of the approximately 100.8 million smart phones sold in Q1 2011, only 1.6 million were Windows Phone 7 handsets, according to a report by market research firm Gartner, Inc. (IT).

Microsoft is actually selling more Windows Mobile handsets than Windows Phone 7 handsets.  In Q1 2011 it sold 2.1 million Windows Mobile handsets, thanks to its drastically reduced prices on the phones, in an attempt to clear the way for Windows Phone 7.

On the other hand, the world's largest phone maker, Finland's Nokia Oyj. (NOK), has a deal with Microsoft to phase out Symbian OS and replace it with Windows Phone 7 over the next couple years.  If Microsoft can pull off a smooth transition, that move could catapult the company to second place in global phone sales, ahead of Apple, Inc. (AAPL).

Thus the future of Windows Phone 7 -- much like its upcoming update -- remains an enigma.

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By fishman on 5/23/2011 2:51:29 PM , Rating: 2
"that move could catapult the company to second place"

Symbian is dying fast now that Nokia has has announced that it will end using it. Current Symbian users who have their contracts come up will buy an android or iphone and not wait for the Nokia WP7. By the time the Nokia WP7 comes out, you could loose as many as half of the Symbian users. And if sales of WP7 are still low when the Nokia WP7 is introduced, you probably will lose quite a few more to the other phone OSes.

RE: Nokia
By boobo on 5/23/2011 4:26:45 PM , Rating: 2
Not really. That's not how the Symbian market works. The strength of Symbian is in not-very-smart phones. Symbian is sold mostly in the 3rd world where Android and iPhone devices cost between 500,000 to 950,000 while Symbian devices cost 35,000. The people who were in the market for a 35,000 phone don't have contracts, don't care about the future of the platform, and will certainly not upgrade to a 100,000 phone; much less a 500,000+ phone.

If Nokia can produce a WP7 at "Nokia prices," the market will go with them. If they sell WP7 at Android/iPhone prices, they might as well not have a current user base.

Prices ranges based on an average 3rd world country and its currency.

RE: Nokia
By mcnabney on 5/23/2011 5:11:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Android OS is free and capable of running on fairly weak hardware. The only reason Symbian is cheaper is because of the selected hardware, not the OS itself.

RE: Nokia
By rhangman on 5/24/2011 1:07:45 AM , Rating: 2
Bada is also free (for Samsung since it is their own OS) and capable of running on even weaker hardware (since it can use a RTOS kernel in addition to Linux).

I can already see evidence of Samsung picking up Bada sales in traditionally Symbian areas.

RE: Nokia
By mcnabney on 5/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: Nokia
By achintya on 5/24/2011 12:53:09 AM , Rating: 2
Do remember that Symbian is also a diverse OS with multiple versions of it on Nokia phones. Nokia is not going to shove WP7 in that basic phone which is capable of making calls, sending messages, and a few other things occasionally. More than half the world's population would be using these basic phones, or would not be able to use the 'smartphones', which for them are useless since they don't understand technology. Do you really expect a guy sitting in a village in Africa or India to be able to use a smartphone properly? For them, smartphones are not as useful.

And for the Average Joe, he does not care about (or even know much about) the changeover of Nokia from Symbian to WP7. All he cares about is a great phone with good functionality. Which is what Nokia sells currently. Their phones might not have the ecosystem of applications (I dislike the term 'Apps') but they are rock solid in terms of quality and features.

One of the primary reasons why Nokia is losing users today is pressure from both the high-end as well as the low end. In the high end they have the Android/iPhones and in the low end they have the knockoff Chinese phone makers who are popping up every other day in all the developing nations. (which is where true growth lies for these phone companies).

Yes, Nokia will have to fight tooth and nail for its market share once it launches the WP7 phones, but till then it is not sitting idle and is still launching some great phones.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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