Call it the battle of the big visions. Each of the three major contenders in today’s fast changing techworld has completely and radically different visions of the future of tech devices. Of course, all these visions are quite plainly self-serving. Take Google’s vision for example. It envisions a world where everything is connected to the Internet through free operating systems that are made or championed by Google. This vision puts the consumer in the backyard of Google. Google sees itself as the intermediary layer between consumers and what the internet has to offer. So, it is perfectly okay with giving away operating systems, browsers or any other pieces of software just to get the consumer where Google can monetize it which is on the internet. Apple’s vision, on the other hand, is about devices. It’s a hardware-based vision where the consumer taps into the broad array of computing choices made possible by a wide variety of applications made by developers which cater to Apple’s hardware specifications. In this vision, users use Apple devices like the iPhone, the iPad and iPods to access content. This is obviously very self-serving because the user interacts through a hardware portal created by Apple. Finally, Microsoft’s vision is one where the user interacts with the internet and other users all over the world through a wide variety of devices. The only catch is they have to all go through Microsoft’s operating system, whether they are accessing the internet through a phone, a tablet, a laptop or desktop. Everything has to go through a device that runs the Microsoft Windows operating system. Even the most cursory reading of the big visions listed above will quickly lead one to conclude that these visions could not co-exist for the long haul. One or two of these have to give way and one vision will dominate five to ten years from now.
We’re currently caught up in a battle of visions. The recent partnerships revealed by Apple, most recently with Facebook, are a step towards furthering its hardware-based vision. Also, Google’s recent move in terms of moving as many applications to the internet as possible is consistent with its big vision. No wonder then that Microsoft revealed last Wednesday the latest version of its operating system for smartphones, Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 embodies Microsoft’s key vision through and through. It shares a key Windows kernel that will allow it to interface with Windows 8. Windows 8 is the upcoming ‘magnum opus’ from Microsoft. It is an operating system that Microsoft hopes will further cement its tight grip on the global operating systems market. By tying Windows Phone 8 to Windows 8, it seeks to leverage a lot of strengths it sees Windows 8 will generate in the future to help its flagging smartphone product line.
Simply put, things aren’t looking good for Microsoft in the smartphone space. While its partnership with Nokia resulted in the Lumia line of smartphones and has boosted Windows phone global shipments to 3.3 million units during this year’s first quarter, this is too little too late.
The smartphone market is growing at such a fast pace that even this 3.3 million shipping unit figure only amounts to 2.3% marketshare of the global smartphone market. This is down from the 2.6% share Microsoft Windows Phone had the year before. The stakes are high. More and more manufacturers are piling on to the Android bandwagon as Research in Motion’s Blackberry and Nokia continue to hemorrhage marketshare. As we’ve reported earlier, the two biggest winners are Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android smartphone operating system. Microsoft cannot be faulted with releasing Windows Phone 8. It needs to beef up its smartphone operating system offerings. Looking under the hood of this phone OS, it carries a lot of value. It has a lot to recommend. It will enable new types of hardware. It appeals to developers to both build applications not just for Windows Phone 8 but also for Windows 8. Since it shares the same kernel, the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, it would be easier to put applications from Windows phones to other devices running Windows 8 and vice versa. Since this OS is such a major revamp of its previous iteration, current phone handsets running earlier versions of Windows Phone will not be upgradable to the latest version of Windows Phone. Other beefy features for this OS are:
1) multi-core chipset support. It can support up to 64 cores. That’s a huge amount of computing power;
2) Support for 720-pixel and WXGA resolutions,
3) micro SD card support, which is a very welcome addition since previous Microsoft-based smartphones did not support this device, and built in Windows Explorer 10, with faster Java-script processing and full support for HTML 5.
Early indications point to handsets running this operating system to be able to play some very cool games with wicked graphics. In terms of financial information security, NFC support is also built in to Windows Phone 8. Overall, Windows Phone 8 has a lot of features that should give smartphone consumers reasons to consider this smartphone operating system, whether these reasons are compelling enough in the face of increasingly lower prices for Android-based phones. We shall soon see as Windows Phones enter the market and compete head-to-head with Android phones and iPhones.