Asus was one of the earlier players who had entered into an agreement with Microsoft regarding the software-maker’s Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. However, since the platform had debuted late last year, consumer handsets from Asus are nowhere to be found–the company’s first batch of 500,000 Asus-branded Windows Phone 7 handsets had been sent for engineering test at Microsoft and to early developers behind Windows Phone 7. Fast forward a few months, and the company is now saying that it is re-evaluating where it stands, and that it is waiting for the right timing to release a Windows Phone 7 device to the market: “We figured that one year later, Windows Phone 7 should be in very good shape.”
In an interview at Mobile World Congress, Benson Lin for Asus’s mobile unit, says that the company was pre-occupied with other initiatives at the time that Windows Phone 7 debuted, and that Asus didn’t have strong carrier commitments. “We came up with a first-generation product on Windows Phone 7 that we could have gone to market with,” Lin says, but the company “didn’t have the bandwidth” to support a new platform. At the time, Asus was tied up in an agreement with Garmin to manufacture Android-based navigation phones.
Given recent interest in Windows Phone 7 again–Nokia had recently inked a deal with Microsoft to bring Windows Phone 7 to Nokia hardware, overshadowing the company’s prior commitment to the Symbian operating system–Asus may try again soon and will be evaluating interest from carriers and operators at Mobile World Congress.
Asus’s wait and see approach may not be a bad strategy at all. Given that Windows Phone 7 was basically rushed to market, and was missing key features–such as copy and paste–and Microsoft is still trying to grow its catalog of third-party apps for the platform, by the time Asus jumps in, the platform may be mature enough to make a meaningful impact. “We figured that one year later, Windows Phone 7 should be in very good shape,” says Lin, but he also added that “the operator voice will be the key factor to think of in our Windows Phone 7 strategy.”
When–and if–Asus does hop back into the Windows Phone 7 arena, it won’t be releasing phones with the old prototype hardware designs that were released as engineering samples and developer hardware platform. Like Nokia, Asus will attempt to differentiate its offerings with new UIs and new hardware.
A year later, and hopefully after Microsoft releases a few software updates to add some new, core features, it looks like Windows Phone 7 is now starting to mature to play against the big boys of mobile.