Though it is a leader in software, Microsoft is noticeably behind in the world of mobile computing. This Monday, Microsoft is set to release its most promising mobile effort yet – its own line of phones, code-named “Project Pink.” These phones are rumored to feature premium social networking capabilities, another area of tech where Microsoft has yet to fully venture. With so many other popular phones on the market offering similar features, what can Microsoft’s new phones offer if they hope to stand a chance against their competitors?
Up until now, Microsoft has focused its mobile efforts only on software for non-smartphones. Though Windows Mobile runs on a number of phones, the OS lost more than a quarter of its market share last year. Will Project Pink be its comeback? Microsoft’s leap to mobile hardware is similar to Google’s release of Nexus One, where sales are still below expectations. For the Pink line of phones to be successful, Microsoft needs to identify an under-met need within the mobile phone market, and find a way to fill it. Though it may take some time for Microsoft to grow its market share, there are a few ways they can start doing it right away with Project Pink.
It’s not a secret that the Project Pink phones are aimed at a younger audience, its social networking features provided with young adults under 18 in mind. This is a good move on Microsoft’s part, as it may be able to effectively capture and keep these younger users for many years. According to a study published last month, teens make up 55 percent of visitors to social networking sites, but only 7 percent of social networkers on smartphones are in that age category.
Apple has certainly held other app stores to a high standard. However, Apple is known for its strict software developer kit (SDK) guidelines and merciless app rejections. Apple is also at a disadvantage when it comes to market share for overall computing, where Microsoft has it beat by nearly 80 percent. Microsoft’s advantage in the computing industry as a whole may help them attract developers more familiar with its software, which could lead to its own promising app store.
Though AT&T boasts “talk and text” features on its 3G network, not even the powerful iPhone can run multiple apps at the same time. If Microsoft’s new phones offer multitasking support, they will have a leg-up on the iPhone while competing head-to-head with the Android. With a focus social networking, multitasking is a must. Microsoft may not be able to claim itself as the only brand to offer multitasking, but it would definitely give them boost to be equal with their competitors.
Currently, there is no single phone that attracts younger users in the same way BlackBerry and iPhone attract professionals and twentysomethings. Microsoft’s phones may not be cutting edge, but they could be excellent starter phones for younger users who may continue to purchase Microsoft-branded phones as they get older. The software giant may be instituting a marketing strategy similar to one Bill Gates led in mid 90s, when he gave computers and software to high schools, colleges and universities in order to train students on a Microsoft OS. The thinking: when students bought their own computer, they would buy one with Microsoft software. If it worked once, it just might work again.
Monday’s event will certainly reveal more about Project Pink and features the phones will have. With rumors of a Verizon iPhone and the already announced HTC Evo on Sprint’s 4G network, and the iPhone 4.0 announcement this Thursday, Microsoft is coming into the mobile phone market at a highly competitive time. If it can find ways to edge out its competitors by offering a compelling, differentiated product, Microsoft will have a good chance at regaining market share and becoming an industry leader in the mobile phone market.