Scaling Windows Phone, evolving Windows 8

A lot of you folks know me as “the Windows Phone guy.” Over the past five years I’ve been co-managing the Windows Phone product team on a mission to make Windows Phone a delightful and successful platform. Recently my job changed to focus not just on Windows Phone but also on the user experience of Windows 8 and future versions of Windows. Today Nick Parker and I had a chance to talk to media and analysts from around the world attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona—we shared some updates about Windows and Windows Phone, and we announced a new phase in our plan to continue growing and scaling Windows Phone globally.

Windows Phone: Growth in the last year

Let’s start with Windows Phone.

We’ve experienced steady growth in recent years due to our “highly personal” approach to the smartphone experience and the amazing devices we’ve seen from our hardware partners HTC, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung. Together we’ve solidified our spot among the top three operating systems and celebrated some impressive milestones:

  • Recognized as the fastest growing OS with 91% year-over-year growth in 2013 (IDC, February 2014)
  • More than 10% share across Europe—which is more than double compared with last year. (Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, January 2014)
  • Most important to me, we’ve seen high customer satisfaction data—a fact that even our competitors have acknowledged!
  • Reached critical mass in the Windows Phone Store (now over 240,000 apps) and are still growing – fast – with an average of 500 apps added each day. We’ve had key additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint—and today, we announced Facebook Messenger will be available in the coming weeks.

This past year was especially busy as we delivered three updates to the Windows Phone platform—we continued building the platform out for scale (via new chipsets, new carrier/country support, and more screen sizes) and we enabled some great scenarios for customers (e.g. the Nokia Lumia 41 MP camera and advanced camera features).

New Windows Phone Hardware Partners

Broadly speaking, our partners overall are the engine of growth for Windows. In addition to our great partners HTC, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung, today in Barcelona we announced we’re now working with nine new Windows Phone partners, including: Foxconn, Gionee, JSR, Karbonn, Lava (Xolo), Lenovo,LG, Longcheer and ZTE. Collectively, Windows Phone partners make up an impressive 56 percent of the global smartphone market, according to IDC.

This is exciting news for phone buyers around the world. With seven of the top 10 global OEMs—in addition to some of the leading brands in China, India and Taiwan— now collaborating with Windows Phone, you can expect to see an incredible new range of devices across screen sizes and price points. And of course we’re committed to delivering this device diversity without compromising the consistent, designed-around-you Windows Phone experience our users have grown to love.

Some of these partners are names that might not be familiar to you, but they’re leading the global expansion in the smartphone category. They bring competitive products to market because of their knowledge of the local markets, channels and consumers. They are important partners that will help broaden availability of Windows Phones to new and emerging markets.

New Windows Phone Hardware Support

Getting a wider range of device builders to create Windows Phones required us to enable even more hardware flexibility and to make the engineering process of building a Windows Phone even easier. Thus we also announced:

  • We are adding support for Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 and 400 series chipsets, with options that support all major cellular technologies, including LTE (TDD/FDD), HSPA+, EVDO and TD-SCMA. We will also support soft keys and dual SIM where our partners want it for their devices. One nice benefit of these additions is that many hardware vendors will be able to use the same hardware for both Android and Windows Phone devices.
  • To streamline the process of building a Windows Phone device, today we launched the Windows Hardware Partner Portal so that all our hardware partners will have direct access to the tools and content needed to build and market their Windows Phone devices efficiently and cost-effectively.

We also are working closely with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. to help manufacturers anywhere in the world quickly and easily broaden their portfolio by building Windows Phone devices through the well-established Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) program. Making it easier for manufacturers to take advantage of reference design options is an important step for Windows Phone. ABI Research notes a major smartphone industry shift towards reference designs since they speed time to market, and estimates that more than 400 million reference design smartphones will be shipped in 2014.

Evolving Windows 8

As part of my “new job,” I talked as well about Windows on tablets and PCs, and what to expect from us in the near future.

We are committed to making Windows the best place for our partners to build great devices. Today that means different screen sizes, input methods, connectivity needs, and usage scenarios. Above all, we want that experience to feel natural for our customers. We want it to be familiar and tailored to the device. We want your stuff to be there no matter where you are, ready for whatever you need, and we want it to run beautifully on hardware made by partners around the world.

With Windows 8, there’s no doubt that we made a big bet and took a first step toward that future. We bet on touch and on mobility in a big way, and included a fresh take on what a touch-based interface could be for customers. We believe deeply in this direction and the future will continue to build on Windows 8.

We shipped Windows 8.1 in under a year in response to customer and partner feedback, and we’ll continue to refine and improve Windows to deliver a productive and delightful experience for all users on all devices. And, you’ll see us continue on a more rapid release cadence where we deliver ongoing value to all your Windows devices.

Over the next few months, we’ll continue to deliver innovation and progression with an update to Windows 8.1, coming this spring. We’re especially excited about several things I want to preview with you here.

  • We’ll enable our partners to build lower cost hardware for a great Windows experience at highly competitive price points.
  • We are making improvements to the user interface that will naturally bridge touch and desktop, especially for our mouse and keyboard users. We have a number of targeted UI improvements that keep our highly satisfying touch experience intact, but that make the UI more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard. Don’t worry, we still LOVE and BELIEVE IN touch… but you’ll like how much more smooth and convenient these changes make mouse and keyboard use!
  • We are enhancing support for enterprise customers via a few tweaks, particularly including features that greatly improve IE8 compatibility in Internet Explorer 11, which is especially critical for web-based line of business applications. Additionally, we’re extending mobile device management capabilities and making deployment easier.

More news still to come

Speaking of our enterprise customers, we are also hard at work on delivering a compelling new update for Windows Phone that will add key features for consumers, as well as a big investment in enterprise customer capabilities, including VPN, S/MIME support, enterprise Wi-Fi, extended mobile device management and certificate management. Along with a host of great developer and consumer value, we expect to deliver this to customers this spring with new phones following as we move into summer.

2013 was an exciting and busy year chock full of big changes in our industry and at Microsoft. I’m really excited about seeing what the new and hot technologies are as Mobile World Congress opens tomorrow, and even more excited about the work we’ll be able to deliver for customers, partners and developers over the next several months. Stay tuned!