Microsoft betting big on Indian market

M. Dinesh Varma

CHENNAI: Microsoft is betting big on the Indian market as it launches a global roll out of Windows Mobile 6.5 software for smartphones.

The showpiece services in the new Windows Phones are MyPhone that allows users to sync their contacts, photos and messages for free to a 200 MB private zone on the web and Windows Marketplace, a channel to shop for, download or purchase a range of Microsoft-certified mobile applications. Increasing consumer choice in terms of handset pricing and the variety of form factors seems to be the key to Microsoft’s shipments to India, which is among its fastest growing markets for Windows Phones. The new Windows Phones are supported on handsets from device makers such as Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and LG with the price tags starting from about Rs.11,000.

The choices in form factors range across touch phones, QWERTY and non-touch QWERTY sets and slider phones.

“We’ll be doubling the number of device variants that offer the Windows 6.5 experience from the current 10 handset models by the end of the year,” Sumeet Gugnani, Director-Mobile Communications Business, Microsoft, told The Hindu.

The plan is to unleash “a tidal wave of new phones” as Microsoft negotiates with device partners to scale up smartphone variants that support its new operating system to at least 30 handset models in a few months.

India, as an extremely important and fast-growing market for Windows Phones, was under “strong focus” of Microsoft, said Mr.Gugnani. Windows Phones has been doubling sales year-on-year in the smartphone space in India and Microsoft is eyeing the high-end users in 10 key cities to improve upon its 10 per cent share of the smartphone market.

On the criticism that the 6.5 version appeared to be a half-step with the expected launch of Windows Mobile 7 operating system by the middle of next year, Mr.Gugnani said that the new version was a composite entity that provided an improved user experience and seamless phone, computer and web interface.

“For that matter, every version is a stop-by in evolution of technology…Windows Mobile 3 gave pull mail, version 5 push mail technology and 6 provided HTML email support. The 6.5 suite has two huge services in MyPhone and Marketplace,” he said.

He points out that the Marketplace feature helped users connect with a range of applications, free and paid, that had an everyday relevance —from books and entertainment to maps and social network sites.

The new Windows Phones also come with a refashioned Internet Explorer browser with a built-in Adobe Flash facility that nudges the web navigation experience much closer to that on a personal computer.