No Microsoft-branded mobile device in the near future

Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system was released in October last year, and as the follow-up to their Windows 7 platform, a number of users quickly adopted the new interface and user experience. In South Africa the adoption rate has been met by Microsoft with some enthusiasm, as Anthony Doherty, Microsoft’s Operator Channel Lead explained to IT News Africa during Microsoft’s bi-annual Tech Ed.

Luca Decour, Windows Phone 8 Lead in South Africa, and Anthony Doherty, Microsoft's Operator Channel Lead (image: Charlie Fripp)

“When it launched we were obviously very optimistic, but what we need now is the whole ecosystem to embrace Windows Phone 8 and to land more devices in the hands of users,” he said.

For the mobile platform, Windows Phone 8, the technology giant rolled it out over a number of devices from different manufacturers. “We found mobile operators are on board with Windows Phone 8, and have a wide range of models and devices that run on Windows Phone 8.”

But Doherty conceded that their work is not complete just yet. “But a more extensive range is very important, as well as the right price points for these devices. This is also a reason for our success, and we have seen a significant uptake of Windows Phone 8 because of it.”

Speaking of mobile device, there were a number of rumours in the media that Microsoft could be working on developing their own mobile phone, but Doherty was quick to explain that there is not something like that in Microsoft’s pipeline.

“For Microsoft’s own mobile phone, we are not seeing it in our roadmap, but I don’t know. At this time we are very supportive of our partners, who gives us the reach and a business opportunity. Our overall strategy is to be focussed on devices and service, and we rely on OEM partners for devices. Our value proposition is a wide range of products, and to give choice to our customers.”

Together with mobile devices, apps that make the user experience more exciting is also important, and Microsoft is intensely focused on delivering as much locally-based content as they can. The company recently launched the 4Afrika initiative, which aims to promote and drive local Microsoft content specifically developed for the continent.

“Mobile apps are another adoption point for us where we meet the expectations of consumers. We had a look at other mobile stores to see what was popular from them, but after some development, 46 out of the top 50 apps are now available in our market place. But what is also important is making sure that we provide locally developed apps with local content – apps like News24 and other premium apps,” Doherty said.

“The 4Afrika initiative has a number of pillars, and some of the apps are pre-loaded on a number of device specifically built for the African market.”

Local content in apps that reside in the Microsoft ecosystem is actually an integral part of Microsoft’s strategy. “We are all about driving app developers and driving the platform, and we measure apps by the top apps in the market place, as well as the breadth of their reach. Programs like our AppFactory, that develop meaningful apps that appeal to all, are a major part of making apps locally relevant.”

Luca Decour, Windows Phone lead in South Africa, added that Windows Phone 8 has exceeded expectation in SA. “Windows Phone 8 is exceeding expectation in South Africa, and we now have a 9% market share in SA. We still have a long way to go, and are humble about it, but this is a journey for us. We would like to see more people in the street with our devices, and that is a focus for us – getting more devices in the hands of consumers,” Decour said.

On top of that, Doherty added that apart from apps and a new operating system, the consumer experience is incredibly important. “The consumer experience is important to us, as well as the users interface – which is very different with Windows 8, and its a bit of a behaviour change in users.”

Although data from Gartner and other analysts have shown that the adoption rate of Windows 8 could be less than that of Windows 7,  Doherty was stern when he added that Microsoft is not confused about where they need to go in the future.

“We are committed to Windows Phone 8 and not confused about the future. We are invested in the smartphone business, yet remain mindful about the journey that lies ahead for us. And that is also why we have great OEM and partner adoption. Our biggest inspiration is customers experience and part of our roadmap is to make sure the experience is a great one, which can’t be jeopardised,” he concluded.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor