What is the Microsoft strategy, now with new partners?

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Early this week Microsoft made several announcements about Windows Phone and its future. Specifically, Microsoft announced nine new hardware partners committed to building Windows Phone. Some of these manufacturers are familiar to you, others not so much. Microsoft also announced new compatibility with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 200 and (previously unsupported) 400 processors and dual SIM and soft button support. More is better right?

Well…

When you read between the lines here, what you’re seeing is something that is probably great for Microsoft, but not so exciting for you and me. I couldn’t pick many of the new hardware partners out of a police lineup for one thing. Microsoft’s announcement pointed out that many of these names are very important in places like China, India, and Taiwan. When you factor in Microsoft’s added announcement about Snapdragon 200 and 400 support, well, to me this points the old Ouija board needle to a future with a lot of Lumia 520 clones a ‘coming.

520-bigCheap is good, just not great

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Lumia 520 is a fantastic bargain considering its capabilities and its hardware and price point. But more low-end Windows Phone hardware just isn’t all that exciting to us tech-reviewers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are those of you reading this that are pretty excited about things to come, even if it is on the lower end of the spectrum, and I invite you to sound off in the comments below if that’s the case. But with the dearth of so much Android out there, especially in light on Samsung’s GS5 announcement yesterday,  I’d like to see more competition in the premium hardware area.

And speaking of Samsung, it was part of Microsoft’s announcement as well, along with HTC, LG, and Nokia (duh) all of which are capable of making high end hardware. So that’s a good thing. I only hope that we can get some competition against the Lumia hardware that’s already out there. Competition breeds innovation and excitement and that’s what wets my whistle.

moto-g-review-17Low-end hardware is great. Microsoft outselling Apple in 24 different markets is a pretty cool thing, all things considered. It’d be even better to kick that number up more. Plus with Nokia’s new X line, and lower end Android hardware competing, it’ll be a good thing to have a number of competitors raising the bar by driving down costs. Competition can breed good things in the low-end space as well. So I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer here because maybe it’s not all that bad.

How low can you go?

It will be interesting to see after all, who can find the sweet spot between low cost and features. Imagine something on par with the Lumia 520, but pushing the $40 price point? That’s one extra trip to the ATM for cripe’s sake. Or imagine a device with the same specifications and price as the Lumia 520, but with a camera flash, or OIS or 16 GB storage? It does get one to thinking about what might be possible once more competitors enter the low end space. What might end up on the shelves of Walgreens, next to the soft drinks and the Hubba bubba bubble gum?

The Lumia 520 as it stands is a pretty slick little phone. The camera and storage are both points where the phone falls short, but a different manufacturer may be able to solve those two problems and offer up an even more compelling device.

microsoft_logoAnd the winner is…

Through it all, Microsoft will be the real winner in the arena as more users start using their services. Speaking of software-side winners, it’ll be interesting to see how these companies compete with Nokia’s software selections. Here Maps will be available to all, but Nokia’s camera software alone almost makes other competitors a non-starter in my book. What will other partners bring to the table, or what will Microsoft offer to compete with the software? It’ll be fun to watch.

Overall, going from a select handful of Windows Phone OEMs (read: Nokia) to over a dozen is a pretty exciting prospect. I’m not 100% convinced that the announcement outlines a plan for low end focus, but it kinda sorta hints at it. I really hope one or more of those OEMs can bring a truly compelling high-end device that makes Nokiasoft stand up and take notice. But even if that’s not the goal here, I’m ok with it. Not great with it, but ok with it. More Windows Phone is a good thing, even if the hardware is on the low end of the spectrum. More devices in hands, more butts in the seats. More developer interest?

So what do you think, Marilyn? Anything in this announcement blowing your skirt up? While we wait for her answer, let’s hear from you down below in the comments. Do you read the announcement as a plan for the low end? Is that a bad thing or a good thing?

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!