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Despite Small Sales, Microsoft Re-Affirms Commitment to Windows Phone



CEO Steve Ballmer of Microsoft re-affirms his company’s commitment to the Windows Phone platform during a keynote at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles, California. Though the CEO had admitted that the platform, which was re-tooled less than a year ago, only achieved a small market share, Ballmer remains optimistic about the prospect of Windows Phone 7.

“We’ve gone from very small to very small but its been a heck of a year,” Ballmer says. “A year ago, Microsoft had no Windows Phone. In the last year we’ve sold millions of phones.”

Microsoft, which was blindsighted with the rise of iOS and Android had decided to scrap its Windows Mobile operating system–the last iteration of that OS was Windows Mobile 6.5–in favor of a fresh start. The company unveiled Windows Phone 7 to the public as a designed-from-the-ground-up experience late last year.

“It’s certainly a very busy active competitive market. We got a lot of work to do to break through. And yet, the people in the phone business believe in us. We’ve already had over 20,000 applicationsbuilt for Windows Phone in 8 months, that’s a faster ramp than either Android or iPhone have.”

Despite having captured under 10%–the latest market share numbers are closer to 5%–Ballmer’s optimism is fueled in large part due to the company’s recently announced partnership with Nokia. In February at Mobile World Congress, Nokia stunned the world by announcing that it would stop making Symbian smartphones and divert focus away from MeeGo in favor of banking on Windows Phone 7. The company revealed that Android was too constrained and that it is hedging its bet on Microsoft’s new and unproven platform after years of developing Symbian.

Of Nokia, Microsoft is saying that the partnership will help them target more geographic areas and release phones targeting even lower price points by leveraging Nokia’s brand power and scale.

Microsoft will be debuting second-generation Windows Phone hardware by Christmas time to refresh interest in the platform with the Mango software update.

Ballmer and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop aren’t the only ones betting long on Windows Phone 7. Research analysts at Gartner and IDC have both predicted that the platform will be the number two platform by either 2013 or 2015 thanks to Nokia’s help.

Additionally, with Microsoft owning a large chunk of mobile patents with Windows Phone 7, building Windows Phone 7 devices may be just as expensive as Android. While Android’s promise of a free and open OS was attractive, manufacturers who rely on Google’s operating system are being hit with patent lawsuits from both Microsoft and Apple, forcing them to license the technologies in which Android infringes upon, which can cost the equivalent of a Windows Phone 7 license. Even Windows Phone 7 partners are not immuned as Microsoft had sought damages from HTC and are working with Samsung on a resolution.

Ballmer says, “And whether it’s phones or slates OR PCs or console devices, we’re certainly pushing extremely far and extremely fast.”

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