Microsoft, a laggard in the lucrative mobile phone operating system market, is betting on a strategy of opening its Windows Phone operating system to app developers in a bid to catch up with Google’s Android, which inhabits over 80% of the world’s smart phones.
Android, the first choice of most app vendors, and Apple’s iOS are popular largely on account of the hundreds of thousands of software applications available to users.
Microsoft is making Windows Phone free for app developers, and also tying up with third party phone vendors, such as Lava, to make Windows Phone available on phones in the sub-Rs 10,000 price band.
“We will make our (Windows) operating system (OS) available free for all devices smaller than nine inches,” said Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft India.
Microsoft has been a traditional opponent of the open source model, but is adapting a strategy that systematically lets out its core platform code in an effort to catch up in a world in which open source and open standards are increasingly the norm.
This is a 180-degree turnaround from the time when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said: “Linux (an open source software) is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” That was in 2001.
Microsoft Windows’ monopoly over the desktop and laptop OS market is under challenge from the cloud. Ballmer’s successor, Satya Nadella, has acknowledged as much. “We live in a mobile first and cloud first world,” he said recently.
“Cloud makes the OS debate irrelevant,” said Pramanik. “Small form devices like mobile phones and tablets are the way forward. In India, our primary strategy will be through mobile.”
Microsoft, which acquired Nokia earlier this year, plans to use its Lumia brand of phones to push its way up the pecking order.
“We are lagging but will catch up. Our operating system does not lack in features and functionality. Now, we are focusing on increasing market share and hope to start seeing results between January and June next year,” said Pramanik.