Microsoft announced it is back in the mobile market – and means business in Africa.
The company yesterday launched its much-anticipated Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system in South Africa, hailing it as a “fresh start for the smartphone” and promising a new user experience that will shake up the marketplace.
Nazeer Suliman, the consumer and online lead for Microsoft South Africa, said: “The new phone is critical to Microsoft’s efforts to make new gains in the huge smartphone market, which despite the success of the iPhone and Android, is still relatively untapped globally. It also represents a new approach towards integrating products and services from across the company into the phone to create a richer experience and greater productivity.”
He added: “The goal for Windows Phone 7 is an ambitious one: to deliver a phone that integrates the things people really want to do and puts those things right in front of them.
“Windows Phone 7 breaks the current smartphone convention to help people quickly and easily find and consume data, information and services from the Web and applications. People want one device they can access their work e-mail on and then put in their bag and go to the party, and they want it to be easy to use. That is exactly what we are delivering.”
The phones are expected to be available to the general public by early December on most of the major mobile networks. Initially two HTC models will be available – the HTC 7 Mozart and the HTC 7 Trophy (which will be exclusive to Vodacom) – and they will be joined by models from Samsung and LG early in the new year.
“We see Windows Phone 7 as an entirely fresh mobile experience. The range of phones reflect HTC’s strength in design and innovation, and will offer tremendous value for local mobile customers,” said Quinton Leigh, managing director of Leaf, HTC’s representative in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mapula Bodibe, MTN’s general manager for consumer marketing, said the Windows 7 Phone was a welcome addition to the operator’s smartphone line-up.
“A significant number of South African consumers are tech-savvy and early adopters of technology, with the support of our world-class internet network, this phone is certain to make a few waves in a marketplace that has been dominated by several other players,” said Bodibe.
The Windows 7 phone helps users get more done in fewer steps, thanks to a unique ‘hub and tile’ interface. The tiles offer people quick and easy access to their most valuable information as well as real-time updates from the web such as news, appointments or friends’ status. Users can also create their own tiles from whatever content they choose, such as web sites, photos and music.
The phone features ‘hubs’ for categories such as people, music and video, photos and Office. These hubs are never more than a few screens away, no matter how deep the user navigates within the phone.
The people hub, for example, pulls in Facebook status updates from friends as well as providing the more obvious contact information and phone numbers. Users can take actions like responding to updates or sending a text message right from the people hub, rather than having to find and launch a particular app.
“We think people want to get updates from their social networks, they want to get contact information, they want to get e-mails from a variety of different places, they want to share music — but they want control over it,” said Suliman.
As people use their phones, they’ll discover lots of thoughtfully designed features and perks. Holding down the camera shutter button, for example, lets the user take a picture even if the phone is locked – as Suliman says, “unlocking your phone can sometimes mean the difference between missing the moment or not.”
The phones also come with a mobile version of Internet Explorer and include support for editing Microsoft Office documents. They also have strong social media integration, with Facebook photos, music and contacts are pulled into the phone and distributed appropriately.
Microsoft now playing catch up to Apple and Android based phones in Africa. The hurdle will be high to overcome since Microsoft was in the first place reluctant to embrace open source unlike Google and Apple. Google as of late has really been on the offensive in introducing its products.