Praveen Pai, chief information officer (CIO), Symphony Teleca, is among the first few to have chosen Windows 8-based smartphones for their senior management team.
For Pai, it was the inter-operability and the seamless sync with the Windows environment that made him take the decision. “We started to seriously think about another enterprise-level smartphone when Blackberry services went down for 48 hours a few years back. Though you had a plethora of smartphone devices in the market, the majority did not suit the enterprise application,” says Pai.
Symphony Teleca has already added 100 Windows 7.5-based smartphones into its IT environment and plans to expand this to 500 management employees in the next six months. A significant number of these phones will be on Windows 8.
Pai is in good company. C N Ram, CIO, Essar Group, is also seriously considering using Windows 8 within the group. “Given the extent of Windows implementation that enterprises have, using Windows 8 for mobiles is a natural choice. Also, there will be ease of use due to backward compatibility and other issues,” he says. Essar Group has over 7,000 Blackberry users. But both Ram and Pai admit that adoption at the enterprise level will take some time.
Till then, Microsoft’s challenge will be to ensure that it has created enough buzz for its devices in the consumer segment. Vineet Durani, India-Director-Windows Phone Business Group, Microsoft, hopes that partners such as Nokia, HTC and Samsung will create with their launches from early this year.
“While enterprises see the device fitting into their IT set-up, the acceptance of the devices has to be driven by the consumer segment. We feel that we need to have a spectrum of fancier-looking devices into the market,” says Durani.
Microsoft has kicked off a campaign to make the consumers aware of the options available in the market. “We are waiting for Nokia’s launch of 920 and 820 Lumia smartphones. Moreover, we have been showing all these phones – Samsung, HTC and Nokia – in the consumer environment. You will see a lot of activity from our end at consumer touch points like malls, and college campuses in the next few weeks,” adds Durani.
To be able to woo the retail customer, Microsoft has added about 125,000 applications on to its store, with almost 300 apps being added on a daily basis.
Durani agrees that the acceptance of Windows 8 has not matched the hype that it created. But he says that with new gadgets hitting the market in 2013, the trend can quickly change, especially in a market like India where every player will have to have an array of devices to great traction and reach a certain scale.
“From an enterprise point, Windows 8 now becomes an alternative for Blackberry. In the consumer segment, however, the ride will be tougher. A lot of consumers are using Android, as there is variety available at different price points, hence Windows 8 might not appeal to the masses,” says Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst, Gartner.
Analysts say Microsoft will not target the entry-level smartphone user, where the price points are generally below Rs 10,000. The focus of Microsoft is more on capturing the market that is shifting from a features-driven phone to smartphone. And Durani is banking on markets such as India, where smartphone penetration is about 12 per cent of the total mobile base.
But some like Faisal Kawoosa, senior manager Telecoms and Semiconductor & Electronics Practices at CyberMedia Research, say that Windows 8 will grow its market share exponentially. “Microsoft’s decision to work with multiple vendors will pay off as each OEM will bring in two to three devices catering to a certain price level. While I do not see Windows grabbing exponential market space, they might manage to corner at least 10 per cent of the market share,” he adds.
What is making Microsoft more aggressive is the declining share of Blackberry. According to CyberMedia’s third quarter CY2012 smartphone market share ranking, Android holds 65 per cent, followed by Symbian at 14 per cent, Blackberry 9.4 per cent, Bada 4.8 per cent, Windows 4.6 per cent and iOS 2.4 per cent. “What will work in favour of Microsoft is also the fact that Symbian is no more the smartphone platform for Nokia,” adds Kawoosa.
If one goes by international media reports, Windows 8 has not been a great success in the PC market this festive season. While WinBeta, a Microsoft-centric, community-based website, mentions that Microsoft sold 40 million Windows 8 licences in the first month of its release, sales so far have not matched the hype.
The main problem, analysts say, is that for many, it will mean a complete hardware shift, especially in a country like India where a majority of enterprises still use Windows XP.
Although Windows phone platform uptick has been slow, it will account for 13 per cent of the smartphone market globally in 2017 with the assistance of Nokia, estimates IT and telecom analyst firm Ovum. The company is focusing on some of the features such as Skydrive Cloud services that will sync across platforms,
Another interesting piece of data that is making Durani bullish is that people using Windows phone (7.5) use 90-95 per cent of applications, compared to 40 per cent on Apple’s iOS and 55 per cent on Android. “In other words, though people buy smartphones, they still use them for messages, and voice calls.”