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June 24, 2005

Inside Microsoft's Secret Plan To Own The Smart Phone Market

Courtesy of EE Times

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — The chief of Microsoft's mobile and embedded division is promising something that seems counterintuitive: a complex suite of features in a smart phone that's cheap and easy to use and in so doing take the lead in the smartphone market within three years.

To date, Microsoft is well known for delivering on the first item, but not necessarily the second two, which is why some users have shunned Microsoft's mobile version of Windows and preferred operating systems from the likes of PalmSource Inc. and Symbian Ltd.

Zhang Ya-qin is on a crusade to change that. As the head guru of the software giant's Mobile and Embedded Devices division, he has been working closely with hardware makers in Asia to deliver customized smart phones to the market. Microsoft's close relationship with Taiwan's High Tech Computer is the cornerstone of that effort, producing phones that have been picked up by telecom operators in dozens of countries.

Zhang hopes to emulate his division's success in the handheld computing sector, where it dethroned PalmSource as the dominant OS after about five years in the market. The next milestone is clawing its way to the front of the smartphone pack. Zhang reckons Microsoft can do it within the next three years, but that could be a tough sell, given that Symbian currently has 76 percent of the smart mobile device market, compared to 7.6 percent for Microsoft, according to market researcher Canalys.

Still, Zhang believes a few recent developments bode well for Microsoft.

"The operator has become a lot more prescriptive, in terms of the kinds of service they want to provide, and the industry is moving more from voice-centric models to a more data-centric service model, so we need more software and services, more capabilities, in terms of multimedia, video communications, push to talk and connectivity to your corporate network," he said.

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Page 2: Better than Blackberry, Microsoft claims

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