Wandering around Mobile World Congress last week, one of the things that struck me – one of the biggest disappointments (other than Samsung) – was the rather lackluster showing from Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.
According to various analysts with their all-seeing crystal balls, Microsoft will take second place in the OS race by 2015, and I have to say: I can absolutely see that happening.
Mobile World Congress was, once again, utterly dominated by Android. Everywhere you looked there were devices - of varying quality, admittedly - running Google's ubiquitous OS.
Meanwhile, in the comparatively meager world of Windows Phone 7, the only attendees were the Nokia Lumia 900 (which we met at CES last month), the budget Nokia Lumia 610 (whatev’s) and the cheapish ZTE Orbit. Was that it?
And, while Android raced into the quad-core era with the likes of the HTC One X and LG Optimus 4X HD, Windows Phone 7 debuted Tango, which introduces lower specs; slower processors and less RAM. That’s not exactly easy to get excited about.
Having said that, it’s easy to forget that we phone-loving geeks are actually in the minority. In fact, this is a great time to plug my recent feature Smart phones, silly people. On that theme, one of my lady friend’s picked up a new phone over the weekend, and when I asked what she got, she replied: “Who knows? It’s a Sony Ericsson and it says ‘HD’ on the back.” Sigh. Imagine investing hundreds of pounds in a TV and not knowing what it was. “It has a screen… and some channels…”
Oops, I’m off on a tangent. What was my point? Ah yeah, I was about to quote the great Jan Stoolmaker, who described the quad-core wares at Mobile World Congress as “esoteric nerd-fodder”. Brilliant.
Sure, there’ll inevitably be a significant number of people getting hot and bothered about the advances in specs, but the other end of the spectrum is just as important.
The big advantage Android has over iOS is a maaaaassive range of devices, with low-end handsets starting for just a few tenners, going aaaaall the way up to several hundreds of pounds. There’s truly something for everyone.
If you fancy an iPhone, however, the cheapest option is an iPhone 3GS (now almost three years old), weighing in at £319. Jeez.
Price is something that’ll be crucial to Windows Phone 7’s success, and Elop and Ballmer know this. At the moment it’s hard to imagine any one phone making as much impact and becoming as iconic as the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S II, but, with a range of prices and some quality low-end stuff, there’ll inevitably be an upshift in Windows Phone's market share.
Heck, we’re already seeing the Nokia Lumia 710 for £150 from Vodafone, and it runs Mango. We can only assume that the Tango-rocking Nokia Lumia 610 will settle around the £100 mark.
We nerds are all too aware of Nokia’s recent floundering; faffing around with MeeGo and yielding just one handset – the Nokia N9; arguably clinging onto Symbian for too long; siding with Microsoft when it had 1% market share; the Trojan Horse rumours. But all of that means absolutely nothing to Joe Average.
Indeed, as I mentioned in All I want is a Nokia 3210, I’ve spoken to lots of people recently who still fondly recall the days when Nokia dominated. With a pretty decent handset on offer at £100, it’s easy to imagine how things might change very quickly.
And going back to Windows Phone specs; while it’s still stuck on single-core till Apollo arrives, its high-end devices are just as nippy as some of Android’s dual-core efforts (as evidenced in the Windows Phone Challenge).
So, yeah, it might not be the most exciting development for us nerds, but the Nokia Lumia 610 (alongside other Tango-based offerings) will undoubtedly have a major impact on those pie charts. Second place for Windows Phone by 2015? Why not?