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A Windows twist now to smartphone opera

india Updated: Oct 11, 2009 20:59 IST
Narayan Madhavan
Narayan Madhavan
Hindustan Times
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Okay, I am henceforth going to call this a smartphone soap opera. With smartphones hitting the market by the dozens in newer brands, this is going to be no different from an Ekta Kapoor serial because there will be new handsets every week, like a new television episode. Each will have a new twist. And, like in a soap opera, every episode seems to give the upper hand to a new player.

I get this feeling after Microsoft launched Windows Phones with its latest 6.5 version of its mobile platform last week. Microsoft is certainly bouncing big into this game, though the arena is more complicated than ever before. Dell is reported to be getting into handphones game. I assume the two partners shall meet in a big way in the coming days.

So what gives? It is simple. As I have said, the smartphone is nothing but a personal computer in your hand, connected to the network. Since the “network” in this case is practically the Internet, Microsoft suddenly has the advantage of doing on your handtop what it did with the desktop.

This is a bit like buying a car. There may be a rival brand that looks jazzy and sports great features. But, if you are
comfortable with driving a certain make and also know about its service centres, you may go in for it if it offers similar features and acceptable price points.

Now, imagine I am a Windows desktop user, using Office files like Word or PowerPoint. If a smartphone hits the market that gives me the ease of use of an Outlook e-mail or Word, it makes my learning curve easier. That’s what gives Windows Phones the bounce-back edge.

Hemant Sachdev, joint managing director of the consumer and online business at Microsoft India, also raves about the 200 MB free Web storage with a one-touch “sync” facility that enables you to back up contact numbers and important messages. That makes tremendous sense in a connected world where the anxiety of losing data is critical. The smart thing is that more than the phone, Microsoft is addressing user anxiety better. The flip side is that 200 MB is hardly a significant amount of storage these days.

However, Microsoft also has an applications marketplace to help you buy mobile phone software and content and offers encryption of messages while you upload (a bit like BlackBerry, but not in a common location).

Given that a number of brands including Samsung, Acer, LG, HTC and others are offering these handsets at upwards of Rs. 11,000, the competition is certainly hot. Google’s Android platform-based strategy follows a similar brand-neutral profusion of handsets and Motorola is leading the way with Cliq.

I think Nokia, which has long enjoyed leadership with its Symbian software platform, should be seriously worried about the exploding competition. And buyers should worry about an overload of features and information that will confuse more than enlighten them.

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