Getting serious about the alternative
There is undeniable momentum behind Microsoft's WP7 mobile platform - both on its own merits, such as the Mango update and the impending Nokia launch, and due to the ongoing challenges faced by Android.
A month ago we wrote ‘NokiaSoft grows stronger by the day', and that trend has continued in the intervening weeks. Last week was especially challenging for the Google platform, with Amazon launching an Android-based tablet which circumvents all the Google products and services that normally come with an Android device.
On top of that Samsung decided to cut a deal with Microsoft over Android patents, apparently lacking faith in Google's ability to resolve the matter. Both events added to the picture of Android as a troubled platform, especially since Google is probably going to have to hand over several billion dollars to Oracle for infringing Java patents. You can read a good summary of last week's events from the point of view of a VC here.
Part of the Samsung announcement was a nebulous vow by Samsung to: "...open a new chapter of collaboration beginning with our Windows Phone Mango launch this fall." Microsoft is cleverly applying both stick and carrot to its WP7 OEM partners to incentivise them to put more effort into its own platform than Android.
Apart from Samsung, the other big swing-voter is HTC, and it's starting to make increasingly pro WP7 noises. Mobiledia reported an HTC statement last week that said WP7 phones now represent 30 percent of its sales. This seems remarkable, bordering on implausible, to us but regardless of the accuracy of this figure, for HTC to make such a statement speaks volumes by itself.
"We believe that Windows Phone 7 will eventually be better than other platforms and will give Android a run for its money," said HTC's manager in Singapore, Melvin Chua, in the Mobiledia piece.
Of course Apple has been the chief antagonist of Android OEMs, and we're sure the team in Cupertino will be enjoying the irony of the fact that it's probably contributing to the success of its oldest and most bitter rival by driving the likes of HTC into the arms of Microsoft. On top of that a report surfaced over the weekend that some HTC Android phones may have major security vulnerabilities.
HTC made it clear to us some time ago that, regardless of Nokia's special place in Microsoft's mobile affections WP7 remains an important strategic option for it. There are signs that the Taiwanese smartphone specialist is increasingly ready to exercise that option.