BARCELONA — Feb. 27, 2012 — Microsoft is returning to Mobile World Congress this year to issue a challenge: Windows Phone is simply faster than other smartphones, and the company is putting its money where its mouth is.
Microsoft is devoting most of its presence at this year’s trade show to its €100 “Smoked by Windows Phone” challenge, an international version of the campaign introduced at CES. Attendees are being invited to pit their smartphone against Windows Phone to complete everyday tasks such as uploading a photo to Facebook, texting a friend, or checking email. If the challenger’s phone is faster, they win €100. If they lose, they must pose for the cameras with a sign that reads “My Phone Just Got Smoked by Windows Phone.”
The challenge is a playful yet prominent display of Microsoft’s increasing confidence in Windows Phone, which was unveiled two years ago at Mobile World Congress, said Greg Sullivan, senior marketing manager for Windows Phone.
Skype for Windows Phone will support the features that Skype’s users already know and love, including Skype-to-Skype audio and video calling, affordable calls to landlines and mobile with Skype Credit, and IM.
“This year’s Mobile World Congress really represents the culmination of the journey we’ve been on over the past two years,” he said. “After announcing the new approach we decided to take with smartphones, we’re now shining a light on how that different approach results in a phone that is simply faster than the competition.”
Two announcements made in Barcelona help fan that feeling of momentum, he said. The first involved an eagerly anticipated addition: Skype for Windows Phone. A beta version is available for download now, (click or copy the address into your browser) with the full-featured version due later this year.
The company also unveiled plans to bring its smartphones to host a new of countries by expanding hardware and language support. A new line of low-cost phones, which use cheaper “system-on-a-chip” processers and reduced memory, will bring a high-end smartphone experience to more affordable devices – while still running nearly all the applications available in the Windows Phone Marketplace.
Sullivan said the announcements in Barcelona will strengthen the tailwinds behind Windows Phone, which include rave reviews, award-winning devices, and more than 65,000 apps and counting in its Marketplace. “2012 is a big year for the Windows family, and it really starts right now with Windows Phone.”
Skype Comes to Windows Phone
New Nokia Lumia 610 provides a younger audience with the perfect introduction to the rich social, Web and entertainment experience of Windows Phone.
With the Skype beta app, Windows Phone offers a trial of one of the last “must-have” apps, Sullivan said. The beta app has features that Skype’s 200 million average monthly connected users are already familiar with, including Skype-to-Skype audio and video calling, affordable calls to landlines and mobile with Skype Credit, and IM.
Rick Osterloh, vice president of products and design at Skype, said he is excited about connecting Skype’s users with the Windows Phone experience.
“I think it’s really important to take advantage of the new technologies and innovations that are happening in the Windows Phone ecosystem and connect them with Skype’s cross-platform communications network,” he said. “Now a whole big class of users is unlocked with this application, and it allows for a new form of communication from Windows Phone into the Skype network.”
The Skype team took full advantage of Windows Phone’s Metro design while building the app, Osterloh said. Users will see its simplicity in how the app pivots around two key content areas: contacts and messages, where recent calls, IMs, and voice mails will be grouped together.
“Metro is very simple, very easy to use, and very intuitive, and we fully embraced the model. Skype looks great with Metro and delivers a clean and consistent experience on all Windows Phone 7.5 devices,” he said.
“We look forward to getting feedback on the beta, which offers the core Skype user experience,” Osterloh said. “And of course we’ll keep investing in the full-featured version and working with the Windows Phone team to make sure Skype and Windows Phone work great together on new devices as they come to market.”
Going Global at Mobile World Congress
The Orbit is the latest offering from China’s ZTE and will be available in the second quarter of this year.
Microsoft’s support for a new series of lower-cost hardware opens the door to new markets worldwide such as China, Sullivan said. The company recently enabled Windows Phone Marketplace in Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines, and in the coming week will bring it to 23 additional countries: Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.
“We’re broadening and expanding the range of prices that we support so you’ll be able to buy even more affordable phones, in more languages and countries and on more kinds of networks throughout the world,” he said.
Microsoft’s partners are helping deliver on that vision. Earlier at MWC, Nokia introduced a fourth member to the Lumia family, the 610, and announced that it will bring its entire Lumia line to China. Based on a lower-cost chip and a smaller memory configuration, the 610 will be the most affordable phone in the Lumia line. China’s ZTE also announced a lower-cost smartphone, the Orbit.
The Windows Phone engineering team worked hard to deliver a great experience on these low-cost phones. Nearly all of the current apps in the Marketplace will work on these new phones, Sullivan said. Those apps that do need more power will be flagged in the Marketplace so a user with one of the lower-cost phones with less memory won’t unknowingly download an app that won’t run well.
“These phones will deliver on the idea that even if you didn’t pay a lot for your smartphone, you shouldn’t have to settle for a phone that doesn’t do what the one in the commercial did,” he said.
By bringing existing Windows Phones into new markets, and supporting a wider range of price points, Microsoft is increasing the addressable Windows Phone audience by 60 percent, Sullivan said.
“I think it’s easy to see why we’re so bullish on 2012 and why we expect it to be a big year for Windows Phone, as we know it will be for the whole Windows family.”