Windows Phone Will Target Smartphone Midmarket

Next up for Windows Phone: attacking the middle range of the market.

“We are dramatically broadening the set of price points in Mango-related phones that we can reach,” Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, told the audience during the Asia D conference Oct. 19. “That’s particularly important because going lower down in price point opens up more addressable market.”

Until this point, Microsoft had positioned Windows Phone as more of a competitor to high-end devices such as Apple’s iPhone and the Motorola Droid. But Microsoft’s traditional aim with any of its products has been to capture as big an audience as possible, so a thrust toward the smartphone midmarket is perhaps inevitable.

For a couple of months, rumors have circulated about a stripped-down Windows Phone OS code-named Tango, aimed at lower-cost hardware and developing markets such as India and China. Back in August, Mary Jo Foley wrote on her All About Microsoft blog about two new Tango releases that could expand Windows Phone into new markets and load onto those cheaper devices.

At the moment, Microsoft is mostly concerned with pushing Mango, a wide-ranging update with some 500 tweaks and features, onto Windows Phone. That’s happening in conjunction with a host of new manufacturers, including Nokia and Samsung, prepping a host of new Windows Phone devices. Although outside research firms generally place Windows Phone’s share of the smartphone market far behind that of the iPhone and Android, Microsoft hopes that the combination of boosted software and new manufacturing partners can give the platform the momentum it needs to seize a bigger portion for itself.

One of those partners, Nokia, reportedly plans to show off its first Windows Phone devices at Nokia World in London, due to start Oct. 26.

That information also came from Lees, who told the Asia D conference Oct. 19: “Next week it’s going to be Nokia World, where they’re going to announce their phones and how they’re going to make the most out of the Windows Phone opportunity.”

It’ll be interesting to see what rolls out. By tossing out homegrown mobile operating systems such as Symbian in favor of Windows Phone, Nokia is betting its existence on Microsoft software allowing it to push back against Android and other competitors. I’ll bet anything that Nokia’s push will eventually involve Windows Phone devices targeted at that midrange. The only question is when Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will try to make that happen.

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