Microsoft Goes for Chinese Markets with New Windows Phones

By Steve Anderson March 21, 2012

While we've already seen how popular the iPhone has proven to be in China, not to mention the wild proliferation of Android-based devices there, but one thing we haven't seen near so much of is a Windows Phone presence. Of course, the reason we haven't seen so much of that is because Windows Phone hasn't been in China yet. And, no longer looking to ignore the massive Chinese marketplace, Microsoft is showing off its newest Windows Phone 7.5 system specifically for the Chinese market.

Not only is Microsoft bringing the operating system to China, by way of handsets from Nokia and HTC, but they're also looking to get in touch with Samsung and ZTE to get their handsets to offer the operating system as well by the end of the year, in a move that will likely give Apple cause for concern.

Windows Phone 7.5 is including a variety of China-specific features for ease of use, including simplified Chinese characters and apps for China-specific microblogging and social networking sites, as sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China. There are also another 2,000 apps that are Chinese-language apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, a pretty fair number given that there are only, at last report, 70,000 apps in the entire Windows Phone Marketplace to begin with.

Microsoft is no doubt desperately looking to gain ground in both the Chinese smartphone market and the wider market in general, given that they only hold about 2.8 percent of the Chinese market and just 1.5 percent of the entire smartphone market itself. Meanwhile, Apple holds better than six times that number at 19 percent, and Android is currently the global king of smartphones at 49.5 percent. But that's actually expected to change by estimates from Canalys, as they expect Microsoft's global reach to explode, reaching up to 12 percent by the end of 2013.

It's not like there's not plenty of demand for smartphones, in China and in the rest of the world alike. Hong Kong Apple Stores recently used a lottery system to handle product launches so as to cut down on the scalpers. And I don't know if you've seen some of the phones coming out of China itself, but they definitely have some unique features. I once saw a Chinese phone with a reversible lower half where one side was a Blackberry-style QWERTY array and the other side was a gamepad. I've seen Chinese phones with built-in analog televisions, complete with collapsible antennae built into the phones.

There's a lot of room in the Chinese market yet, so it's good to see Microsoft go for their shot at a stake in it. Indeed, there's plenty of room yet in the global smartphone market, and more competition generally yields better products and better prices on same. Hopefully, by the time it's all said and done, we'll be seeing some truly great products come out of this, and it won't cost an arm and a leg and a two year contract to get them.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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