Microsoft’s decision to purchase the devices and services division of famed phone maker Nokia a few weeks ago might have caught the attention of users hoping the Apple-like top-down approach to device development could boost Windows Phone, but if comments from Windows operating system chief Terry Myerson are any indication, one of the real advantages of buying Nokia’s entire phone division might actually be its plain mobile phone operation.
In a post on Nokia’s Conversations blog, Myerson welcomes users of the company’s phones who aren’t running Windows Phone, to the Microsoft family. While Nokia might only make Windows Phone based smart devices, the company is still a leader in cheaper feature-specific mobile phones around the world – especially in developing countries. As these device’s prices are cheaper, none of them feature Windows Phone at all. Instead, they continue to rely on Nokia’s Symbian operating system.
With this month’s buyout announcement, many watchers assumed that Microsoft would be holding onto the mobile phone business long enough for its smartphones to cannibalize feature phone market share, however a particular paragraph in Myerson’s post alludes to another possibility.
“In many cases, these customers are new to Microsoft, and their first personal computer will be a phone. With Nokia’s Mobile Phones starting at $20, more people will be introduced to Microsoft services earlier in their lives than ever before. In some geographies, Windows Phones are not available. Again, Nokia’s Mobile Phones will introduce more people to Microsoft services in more places than ever before.”
It’s that last sentence that is most important. Should its buyout attempt succeed, it seems Microsoft is planning to pivot the services that these feature phones rely on to its own Microsoft-owned solutions. In effect, it’s creating a beachhead for getting into markets that may slowly upgrade to Windows Phone over time.
By making these devices reliant on Microsoft’s services, it’s ensuring that the next-generation of smartphone users will see it in a more legitimate light than the current smartphone market, of which Windows Phone has only managed to gain around 4% market share.
So far, the company has yet to formally announce any of its plans for Nokia’s smartphone or mobile phone products should the deal clear all regulatory hurdles. The buyout deal is likely to close sometime early in 2014.