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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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RE: Sales may be low...
By Flunk on 5/23/2011 3:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
I have that problem a lot. Many people have asked me why I didn't buy an Android phone. I tell them all that I think Windows Phone 7 is really awesome but I'm not sure that everyone believes me.

Anyway, more platforms is good for prices and features. We want competition to continue indefinitely and to do that we need strong competitors. To that end I suggest everyone buy the mobile OS they feel like buying. Who knows where that will leave us in 5 years but long term we're going to settle in on 2-4 good platforms that compete for our affections. This market is certainly big and profitable enough.


RE: Sales may be low...
By Breathless on 5/23/2011 4:23:30 PM , Rating: 2
Me too...

When I got my HTC Arrive from Sprint, the clerk tried to explain to me how inferior it was from the Android phone. He looked at me as I was checking out and said "are you suuuuure you want that phone?" I explained to him that I tried both phones and just liked the interface on the Windows phone better and don't need 500 billion apps. He listened to me - but looked at me exactly the way I imagine I look at people who ask me if they should buy Dell or HP as opposed to a custom built PC. It was a little strange being on the "other side" hehe.


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