Microsoft plans to bring it’s Windows Phone 7 OS to 23 new countries, as well as make the operating system available for use on more low-end devices, in an attempt to reclaim lost business from Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Microsoft plans to open up shop in China, Thailand, Venezuela and the 20 other countries by the end of the month, according to Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division. This will boost Microsoft’s phone market to 63 countries, a 60% increase.
Al Hilwa, an analyst from International Data Corporation, states that global smartphone sales will top 1 billion units in 2015, with “China as the biggest single market – and Google and Apple aren’t as entrenched in these emerging markets, which provides an opportunity for Microsoft.” Regardless, cheap Android phones are gaining traction in developing markets. “That opportunity may be fleeting in that we are seeing a lot of Android phones come down to the low end,” Hilwa said. “They need more phones, more carriers, more prices, more languages.”
As Microsoft doesn’t manufacture their own handhelds, it has adjusted its software to run on cheaper devices, like the upcoming Nokia Lumia 610, and its Asha series, unveiled today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Windows Phone 7 has been adjusted to require only half the memory to operate than previously, and runs on Qualcomm 7X27A chips, cutting manufacturing costs by roughly 30-40%, according to Myerson. Windows phones could cost $100-$200 to make, which should lead to cheaper phone prices in new markets. Microsoft is also working on adapting certain apps that won’t yet run on the slower and cheaper OS, and seeks to persuade more carriers to offer prepaid Windows Phones, a service that is popular in the emerging markets.
Myerson added that app stores in Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines have gone up recently to help promote the coming phones.