#mwc12 – Microsoft working on sub-US$200 price point for Windows Phones

27 Feb 2012

MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS – More than 100,000 developers are working on Windows Phone apps and the software giant is also working with hardware makers, including Qualcomm, to develop sub-US$200 versions of Windows Phone smartphones to address the teen and emerging markets.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Microsoft’s Windows Phone lead for Western Europe Tom Vandendooren explained that 18 months into the Windows Phone strategy Microsoft is focused on ensuring quality apps are the hallmark of users’ experience on the devices.

The key hint to what Microsoft appear to be doing with Windows Phone and what may follow with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is that ultimately whatever screen you are interacting into the future, be it a smartphone, a tablet, a PC or a TV, you are simply using Windows.

“Windows Phone was a fundamental restart on our mobile strategy. We realised we needed a different approach to the mobile industry. The industry was looking at phones as small PCs, and we decided to adopt the fundamental approach of phones becoming app launchers and it meant going back to the core of what we feel a phone should be – a social device to get to the people you care about.

“This meant new user interface principles and ensuring that apps integrate experiences in different ways.

“The key is consistency and ensuring step by step we get to the ultimate goal of being able to drive new mobile ecosystems that span a number of devices.

“Apps are a leading indicator of how the platform is catching on. Today we are at around 100,000 developers building apps for the platform and right now we are beyond 65,000 apps in the market.

“The trajectory is once we get to the next Windows Phone launch we should be beyond the 100,000 apps milestone,” Vandendooren explained.

He said that while quantity is a fair barometer of how well rival ecosystems like Android and iOS are faring, quality is the real mark of distinction and Microsoft insists manufacturers and developers adhere to core principles. For example, every Windows Phone device has to have a camera button to allow people to take pictures even in screenlock mode, and more fundamentally apps have to be capable of integrating with other apps in the ecosystem.

“If you think about the cloud, for example, people access the cloud via multiple devices and have settings across these various devices. The key objective is consistency and elements of this are coming together. We want consistent experiences to be had across the business market using our productivity apps, for example, and for consumers who may want to access and save content to their Sky Drive or Xbox ecosystem. Our objective is to make it easy for apps in our ecosystem to integrate easily with one another, as well as with our cloud offerings.

“This means we need to curate in such a way that the ecosystem feels integrated. This means moving away from apps sitting in silos but being part of a broader spectrum.

“At the same time we have our apps sand-boxed so that people are less exposed to malware.”

Vandendooren said the key is to make Windows Phone an ecosystem that people can trust and he described Apple’s ecosystem as elegant but too much of a walled garden and Google’s Android ecosystem as “a little too sci-fi.”

The key, he said, is dependability. “If you make the Sky Drive consumer offering available across different screens, people shouldn’t have to think about where to put stuff. We want to take every screen and know that that screen lives in a larger Windows ecosystem and users can access all their stuff on any screen.”

Vandendooren said Microsoft is planning to scale out the Windows Phone platform to a new, lower price point and added that the software giant is working with Qualcomm to develop a new cheaper chipset.

“We want to bring Windows Phone to a new price point of less than US$200 which opens up a range of new addressable markets, such as the teen segment and emerging, developing markets.

“We want to empower these markets with capabilities like instant posting to the cloud, the range of apps, posting to social networks like Facebook. We want to make that super-fast and super affordable.

“At the same time you want every phone to have these capabilities – no one should have to settle for less.

“That’s why we are guiding manufacturers and app creators to enable greater integration. Movie apps, for example, should be able to integrate with map apps or restaurant apps, for example.

“Since we reset our mobile strategy we decided that we want to offer users more stuff but at the same time enjoy the same capabilities and behaviours across multiple apps.

“We are now focused on expanding out the marketplace into new countries and languages and the new low price point is key,” Vandendooren said.

Read more on the Mobile World Congress 2012:

#mwc12 – Wireless sharing tech to debut alongside HTC One in April

#mwc12 – Telefónica and Mozilla pioneer smartphones built on HTML 5

#mwc12 – Sony unveils new Android UI with Xperia P and U smartphones

#mwc12 – Telefónica shows off download speeds of 100Mbps via LTE

#mwc12 – Samsung unveils new Galaxy Beam and Tab 2 series

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years