Microsoft hopes the way you can customise the start screen in Windows Phone 8 will lure consumers to its platform.
Microsoft is so far behind Android and iOS in smartphones that it now sees BlackBerry maker RIM as the main initial rival to Windows Phone 8, which it launched in Sydney yesterday.
At the launch, Microsoft unveiled five new smartphones coming to Australia made by HTC, Nokia and Samsung, all of which will run its new Windows Phone 8 operating system. However, analysts say Microsoft has the wrong strategy and has no hope of beating the two market leaders.
Microsoft Australia's Windows Phone business group lead, Megan Howard, admitted in an interview it would be “challenging” to go up against Android and iOS's market share.
Nokia's Lumia 920, left, will be available on Telstra and the 820 on Vodafone and later Optus.
“Yes it is hard," Howard said. "As a marketer it's certainly not easy. ... When you look at the numbers they are challenging. There is no doubt. Are we competing against RIM? Yes we are.
“We see immediately removing RIM from their place from a market share point of view.”
She was “very confident” of Microsoft securing “significant” market share and overtaking Android within the next 24 months, “especially in the phone part of the industry, as we see more and more devices come into the Windows Phone family and we start to see multiple price points”.
HTC's 8X will be available on Telstra and Vodafone.
Nokia's Lumia 820 and 920 smartphones will be available late November and Samsung's ATIV S early December, while no date has been given on when HTC's 8X and 8S will be available.
The launch of Windows Phone 8 comes after Microsoft last week unveiled the desktop and tablet versions of the operating system, centred on a user interface based on “live” tiles.
Microsoft hopes the ability for users to personalise the screen of their smartphone and Windows Phone 8's social features will be what appeals to consumers. “It's the operating system that is personal to you,” said Ben Miller, Windows Phone business lead at Microsoft Australia.
HTC's 8S will be available on Optus and Telstra.
“We want to make sure that people understand that we stand for personalisation. We stand for this being a unique expression of who you are.”
But analysts say it is too late for Microsoft to gain any substantial share in the smartphone market, with one saying Microsoft needed to give users more of an incentive to want to buy a smartphone with its operating system over rivals.
IBRS analyst Joseph Sweeney said he didn't “really see much new” in Windows Phone 8 compared with Windows Phone 7.5. Despite believing it was an innovative smartphone operating system, he said he didn't believe Microsoft could gain much market share from its release.
Samsung's ACTIV S will be available on Optus.
He said the operating system had great integration with productivity tools such as Office 365, but he wasn't sure this would be enough for users to want to switch to it from other platforms.
Telsyte analyst Foad Fadaghi agreed that the launch of Windows Phone 8 might not be enough, saying it was “increasingly difficult” to get consumers to switch smartphone operating systems when they were already locked into one.
Microsoft's smartphone market share is 3.5 per cent, according to IDC, well below Android's 68.1 per cent and iOS's 16.9 per cent.
“Is the growth in the market already so strong for Android - particularly Android - that they will never catch up?” Sweeney asked. “I think it is.”
Fadaghi said more than 50 per cent of smartphone users wanted to buy a phone with the same platform they were on the next time they upgraded.
Sweeney said Microsoft had the wrong Windows strategy overall. “Microsoft continues to believe that you're going to have one user experience across all devices,” he said. “And that's a mistake.”
This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb