Microsoft today announced several new devices in the form of the Lumia 830 and 730 smartphones, the Microsoft ScreenShare device and the Nokia Smart Wireless Charger. The comment below may be attributed to Jan Dawson, Chief Analyst at Jackdaw Research. Jan may also be reached for comment at (408) 744-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Microsoft’s first big mobile announcement following the acquisition of Nokia is a reminder that the company is in transition. The mixed branding on the devices announced, somewhat confusingly combining the Nokia and Microsoft names, is a sign of the work still to be done in folding Nokia into Microsoft proper. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s strategy for the mobile business it has acquired is beginning to emerge.
Nokia’s devices had come to represent 95% of the installed base for Windows Phone devices, and as such Microsoft now very much controls the destiny of Windows Phone from both a software and hardware perspective. Nokia’s success in the past year or so has come almost entirely at the low end of the market, with the Lumia 500-series devices outselling all others by quite a margin. The challenge is to achieve the same success at higher price tiers, but Microsoft has wisely chosen to forego attempting to launch a flagship into the current maelstrom of device announcements from almost every other major vendor, including Apple next week. Instead, it’s targeting the “affordable flagship” range with the 830 and 730. Both devices are solid successors to previous entrants at this price point, boosting specs and performance and adding some nifty software features, especially around imaging. Their price points are competitive, continuing one of the best features of the Lumia 500 series devices. But there’s relatively little here to suggest that these phones will be standouts in the market. Microsoft’s past devices and services strategy left some confusion about how it would set its phones apart when it also offered its services on Android and iOS. But it’s now becoming clear that Microsoft won’t so much offer a better Microsoft-centric experience on these devices as use its newly integrated business as a way to bundle in those services at more competitive price points on its own devices. We’ll see more of this in the coming months in both the smartphone and tablet categories.
Of the other two devices Microsoft launched today, the ScreenShare is by far the more important. Google has had huge success with its Chromecast device, and despite the success of the Xbox Microsoft has lacked a mass-market TV device until now. The ScreenShare could become that device, but in its current iteration it has several flaws. Firstly, it’s priced more like the Apple TV than the Chromecast, even though its functionality is very Chromecast-like. Secondly, unlike Apple’s well-publicized AirPlay strategy, there’s been no big push around the Miracast technology from Microsoft either in the context of the Surface or Windows Phone devices. As such, many of those at whom the ScreenShare is aimed won’t even know their devices are capable of working with it. The ScreenShare should have been priced much lower, and ideally should be bundled with Windows Phone and Surface devices for at least a few months to raise awareness and demonstrate the value. At the current price it’s unlikely to be a big seller at all. But this is an important step into the home for Microsoft for the non-console crowd, and it’s hopefully the first of a bigger strategy in this space from the company.