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
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
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
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
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.