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The next release of the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 operating system, dubbed Tango, will be aimed at low-end smartphones with the "best prices" according to a leaked roadmap published by WMPoweruser.com Tuesday.
The leaked roadmap suggests that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 users can expect the update in the second quarter of 2012. It will be followed by another update, Apollo, in the fourth quarter of 2012. According to the leaked roadmap, Apollo promises to support high-end "superphones" and will be geared to business uses.
The roadmap says it is up to date as of October 2011, which means it could already be out of date.
It remains to be seen whether the Tango or Apollo releases can reverse Microsoft's fortunes in the smartphone market. In November, research firm Gartner said the software giant's third-quarter share of the smartphone market fell to 1.5 percent from 2.7 percent the previous year. Android increased its dominance to 52.5 percent of the market, while Apple's iOS commanded 15 percent of the market.
Charlie Kindel, who was Windows Phone Developer Ecosystem general manager until August, when he left to form his own company, claimed Monday that Microsoft's struggles in the smartphone marketplace aren't a result of lower quality. He maintains that Windows Phone 7 is superior to Android-but rather come down to friction with device manufacturers and mobile carriers.
"In the mobile device space the four primary sides of the market are not actually aligned very well," Kindel said in a blog post, referring to carriers, device manufacturers, OS providers and users. "In fact, there is such deep misalignment that there is great instability. Android has succeeded (in raw unit numbers at least) by capitalizing on that misalignment. Apple has attempted to change the game by cutting out one of the sides of the market. Windows Phone is attempting a different strategy."
He added, "Google has been wildly successful with Android (at least in terms of units) because Android was built to reduce friction between all sides of the market. It 'bows down' to the device manufactures and the carriers. It enabled device manufactures to do what they do best (build lots of devices). It enabled carriers to do what they do best (market lots of devices). It enabled users tons of choice. My hypothesis is that it also enables too much fragmentation that will eventually drive end users nuts."
Microsoft's approach, meanwhile, has been to strictly dictate the hardware specifications to device manufacturers and update procedures to carriers, he said.
"Thus both of those sides of the market are reluctant," he said. "Especially the carriers, but also the device manufacturers. Remember that end users just do what they are told (by advertising and RSPs). Carriers own the marketing money and spend billions a year. The money is provided by the other sides of the market: OS providers and device manufacturers, but the carriers get to spend it; they are the aggregation point where the money actually gets spent. The carriers choose what devices get featured on those TV ads. They also choose what devices to train their RSP (retail sales professionals) to push. They choose to incent the RSPs to push one device over another. This is why, despite being a superior product to Android, Windows Phone has not sold as well. Spending marketing dollars on advertising Android devices is an easy decision for the carriers. Pushing RSPs to push Android is easy."
Robert Scoble, prolific blogger and former Microsoft evangelist, said Kindel's explanation was far off the mark. In Scoble's view, smartphone purchases are about two things: not looking stupid and getting access to apps.
"One thing I learned working the counter at several Silicon Valley consumer electronics stores is that there's only one thing people really care about when it comes to buying things: Not looking stupid," he wrote on his blog, Scobleizer.
Whenever people discuss apps, they talk about iOS and Android apps, he said. And to the consumer mind, that makes iOS and Android devices safe bets, while others are not.
"When I go around interviewing startups I hear over and over that they are staying away from anything that isn't Android or iOS based," he said. "That means that any product not based on iOS or Android isn't "safe." End of discussion. Until RIM or Microsoft changes that belief among app developers in a demonstrable way Microsoft will continue to struggle."