New devices running Windows Phone 7.8 will arrive in emerging markets even after WP8 launches
Windows Phone 7.8 may stick around, and even power new phone hardware, long after Windows Phone 8 arrives on the market. That’s what the (in)famous sources in the Taiwan-based handset supply chain have told DigiTimes today. Keeping in mind that these sources have been wrong (a lot) before, let’s have a grain of salt nearby for this one – just in case.
Still, it makes some sense.
Microsoft unveiled the first details about its upcoming Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system a couple of days ago. One of the things we found out back then was that existing Windows Phones would not get updated to the new version. Microsoft cited hardware constraints, but not many Windows Phone fans were happy about the decision regardless.
Existing Windows Phones won’t be completely left out, though. Windows Phone 7.8 will come as an update to those devices running version 7.5 now, and it will have one of the main new consumer-oriented features seen in WP8: the new start screen. There could be more WP8-like things packed in there by the time it arrives, we just don’t know for sure yet.
In the meantime, it has emerged that Microsoft’s preferred chipset for Windows Phone 8 will be Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Plus, which is the newest such platform to come out of the famous company. Understandably, it’s probably the most expensive too.
So new Windows Phones running version 7.8 of the software will be headed to emerging markets. These will be low-end and lower-midrange devices, built using older hardware in order to be cheaper and thus more appealing to prospective customers with cash problems. And they could be Microsoft’s way to try and fight off the Android invasion at the lower price points of the mobile market.
Yet, with apps developed for WP8 simply not working on WP7.x versions of the OS, it’s unlikely that this strategy will last for long. People in the emerging markets do have access to the Internet and can read. This has been quite conclusively proven immediately after Nokia’s ‘Burning Platforms’ announcement in February of last year. Whereas the company was expecting Symbian smartphone sales to slowly wind down following that, they simply crashed. Because the Internet meant that despite Nokia’s heavy marketing of Symbian phones in some emerging markets, people knew they would be buying into a dying platform. And they just chose not to.
This exact same thing may happen to any new hardware being launched running Windows Phone 7.8. With absolutely no major updates ever coming to that platform, those phones will have to be dirt cheap to make anyone buy them. Especially in emerging markets, where people switch phones less often than in developed markets (because of the costs), and hence the ‘future-proofing’ of said phones should be even more important.