LONDON, Oct. 22, 2002 — At a packed celebration in London’s Old Billingsgate Market, Microsoft today announced the worldwide availability of the Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone software. The new Smartphone-based handsets will be available in the United Kingdom on Oct. 28, and in the United States by mid-2003. Samsung also announced it has selected the Smartphone to power its next-generation handsets.
The announcement and launch has capped a significant development effort and close collaboration between Microsoft and many of the wireless industry’s leading participants. Few are happier to see this day arrive than Juha Christensen , corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Devices group.
Christensen has called the Smartphone launch the most significant product launch he’s been part of, which considering his track record is quite a statement. Early in his career, Christensen was a vice president at Psion when that company launched the world’s first handheld computer. Later, he co-founded Symbian Ltd., the joint software venture by mobile giants Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and others. Two years ago, he joined Microsoft to oversee initiatives including Smartphone and Pocket PC.
PressPass spoke with Christensen to learn more about what corporate and consumer users can expect from Smartphones, why Microsoft has bet big on it, and why these small devices loom so large in this technology veteran’s mind.
PressPass: You’re clearly excited about Smartphone. Why?
Christensen: Smartphone represents the perfect marriage of smart software and small, stylish handsets. First of all, it’s just a great phone. It has a long battery life, and people should get two solid days of heavy use before needing to recharge it. The one-handed operation and small stylish size and shape make it easy to use. It’s also got several must-have features, including a hardware dial pad, caller ID, and conference calling.
Then Smartphone goes beyond being a great phone: it’s a great communications device. Smartphone users can chose for themselves how they want to communicate — voice, e-mail, instant messaging or SMS — it’s all there. Users can also access information and services at any time.
Smartphone makes multi-tasking between these different mediums seamless with an intuitive interface that redefines the model phone. It provides the best phone-based Outlook companion to manage contacts, calendar and tasks while mobile. Its high-resolution color screen and ability to play digital media and mobile games make it an outstanding mobile device for work or play. And it offers a full range of personalization options, such as ring tones, color schemes and home screens, mobile access to the Internet, and new mobile services.
PressPass: But there are a lot of mobile phones out there. Does the market really need a platform for new ones?
Christensen: That question comes up a lot with customers, so we’ve given it some thought. And we’ve designed Smartphone to do what no other mobile phone does: bridge the two worlds — the business and personal worlds — in which virtually all of us live. There are times during the business day when most of us find ourselves taking care of personal chores, like ordering a movie or sports tickets for after work. And there are times during our personal hours when we find ourselves responding to e-mails or needing to access corporate resources to finish a project.
The lines between personal time and business time have blurred. People need a single mobile phone that’s as superb a consumer and entertainment device as it is a tool for business communication and collaboration. No other phone offers that and that’s what makes Smartphone special. I mentioned some of its consumer-side features earlier. On the business side, besides being a great companion for Outlook, there are a growing number of software developers producing industry-specific software add-ons for Smartphone. This is part of our new Mobile Workplace initiative, and includes solutions for banking, healthcare and others. The ability to add robust business applications sets Smartphone apart from other mobile phones.
Smartphone is also unique in being the one phone you won’t want to discard after a year or two because something newer is available. This phone will grow with you as your needs change and as new functionality becomes available. The universe of developers creating software for Smartphone is awesome and virtually guarantees that you’ll never run out of ways to use it.
And finally, Smartphone is about one-third smaller and lighter than its main competition. This is one sleek, sexy phone.
PressPass: Given all this, whom do you envision as the target audience for Smartphone?
Christensen: The quick answer is anyone who uses both a mobile phone and some sort of system to organize personal information — Outlook, electronic organizer or PDA. We believe that the phone will be very attractive because of its rich communication, mobile data and entertainment capabilities. Outlook users will be able to synchronize their e-mail, Calendar and Contacts over the air without having to connect the phone to a desktop. Since it’s an open, Windows-based development platform, manufacturers and developers can quickly and easily add applications and services to the product that meet the needs of other users and niche markets.
PressPass: Obviously, you want Smartphone to be a big seller. Is that how you’ll measure the impact of Smartphone on the market?
Christensen: Sales are certainly important, but we expect Smartphone will have a more significant and longer-lasting impact on the market by serving as a lightening rod for the development of a rich, new ecosystem in mobile communications and collaboration. All types of market participants will be encouraged and motivated by Smartphone’s success.
Software developers will see it as validation of the market for innovative software solutions, and they’ll develop those solutions even more quickly. Enterprises will see that the mobile devices they’ve been looking for are here, with good security and at low cost, and they’ll step up their adoptions. Mobile operators will see Smartphone as the way to move away from their traditional, core dependency on voice as the only application on which they make money, and they’ll expand their revenue streams to include games, e-mail, and line-of-business solutions. Other participants in the market ecosystem — including systems integrators, distributors, and retailers — will be similarly encouraged to expand their presence.
PressPass: You mention a lot of participants in the market. How have they reacted to Smartphone?
Christensen: We’ve been working very closely with all types of market participants — especially with the mobile operators and handset makers who are essential to the market — both to ensure Smartphone’s success, and to ensure their success with Smartphone. Mobile operators, for example, own the customer relationship. They’re the experts at segmenting their customers, getting to those segments, bringing together the right devices, services and distribution channels, and so on. They’re at the hub of the ecosystem.
So we’ve developed in-depth relationships with the top mobile operators. We have dedicated personnel at Microsoft for each of these relationships. And we’ve created new programs, like our Mobile2Market program, to help get new applications out to the operators and their customers as effectively as possible.
I’m delighted to say that the mobile operators have responded enthusiastically. Mobile operators planning to ship Smartphone-based handsets are a who’s-who of the industry, companies like AT & T Wireless in the U.S., Orange here in Europe and more.
PressPass: What about handsets?
Christensen: On the handset side, Samsung, one of the world’s leading handset makers, will use Smartphone to power their next-generation handsets. Samsung’s commitment is a wonderful endorsement for Smartphone right out of the gate, and virtually assures the product’s worldwide availability. We’re also working with Compal, HTC — the hardware manufacturer of the Compaq iPAQ — Sendo, and TCL.
PressPass: You’ve been in — and central to — the mobile device market for a long time. What does this launch mean to you personally?
Christensen: My dream for a long time has been to see the launch of a small, inexpensive device that can handle e-mail and applications as seamlessly as it handles voice. That day is finally here. This is the biggest point in my career.