A FEW weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the speaker's dinner for the Thinking Digital Conference and was sat on a table with Steven Bathiche, Microsoft's director of research.
A truly fascinating person, his inquisitive outlook on life drives the development of innovations such as the Microsoft Surface and Kinect technologies.
At the dinner he demonstrated the latest version of Windows Phone 7, which had only been released a few hours earlier. Conversation soon turned to Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype and their partnership with Nokia.
Whilst Steven wasn’t one to give away any company secrets, it did leave me with some interesting thoughts to ponder around their new strategy.
It looks like Microsoft could be lining up a Normandy-scale assault on the mobile market, which has never been seen before. The launch of its highly acclaimed Windows Phone 7 in October 2010 was a fairly small affair, given its bottomless pit of cash, but Microsoft understood they were launching a product that was significantly less capable than industry rivals.
However, it looks like the launch of their new “Mango” update, recent acquisitions and new partnerships will spearhead this initiative. Within the next 18 months, its hardware and software are likely to become the envy of many iPhone and Android users around the world.
One of Microsoft’s biggest challenges has always been finding great hardware. Apple offers the fantastic iPhone and although HTC do produce Windows phones, they are secondary to their Android devices.
Nokia to the rescue! Their phones are prevalent throughout the world, where it’s easier to pick up a Nokia charger than even find an iPhone. Their Symbian operating system has become dated and lacked direction, but Microsoft can harness the technology and experience of their hardware teams. The new devices will be slim and lightweight, but more importantly, the cost of the new phones will be significantly cheaper than rival phones manufactured by HTC, Samsung and Apple.
However, Microsoft understands that even with a mature software and hardware solution, it still needs to build on a network of users. Step in Skype with its 663 million customers worldwide, obliterating Apple’s Face Time and Blackberry’s BBM service.
Microsoft has always had its Windows Live Messenger service, which has been a huge success, but as Skype arrived in the business environment it also provided a professional platform for users to migrate to. With their $8.5bn purchase and deep integration into all Microsoft’s new products, this network will become the backbone for their personal communications solution.
Once you add on the facility to create and edit business documents, integration of X-Box Live and implementation of Nokia’s fantastic Ovi maps service, you can see they will be a force to be reckoned with.
:: Rob Mathieson is managing director of Newcastle web development company AYO Media