[This story is running in the print edition of The Seattle Times Oct. 29, 2012.]
Microsoft has been launching new products on a fast-and-furious schedule in recent days: Windows 8, Surface, Xbox Music and SmartGlass.
It’s not over yet.
On Monday in San Francisco, Microsoft has the launch event for Windows Phone 8, the latest version of the company’s 2-year-old smartphone platform.
It’s Microsoft’s newest attempt to regain a foothold in the smartphone market — something it’s struggled mightily to do, with a worldwide market share that falls below 4 percent.
It’s also another big step in Microsoft’s creation of an entire devices-and-services ecosystem.
“Within a few days of each other, Microsoft is launching a new tablet platform, a new PC platform, a new phone platform,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with research firm Gartner. “We’re hearing, almost for the first time, how Windows Phone is part of that Microsoft ecosystem.”
In that ecosystem, devices are designed to work well with each other, with the devices — a Windows Phone 8 handset, say — connecting the user to a whole host of Microsoft services, from Office to SkyDrive to Xbox.
But promoting the ecosystem concept is only part of what Microsoft needs to do to gain market share for its smartphone platform, analysts say.
It also needs to get the message across to consumers about what makes the phones different and better; have more carriers on board; get the carriers to promote the phones; and get down to details in training carriers’ and retail store staff about the platform’s features.
“This is going to be a question of not only broad brush strokes but also fine ones and how well Microsoft and its partners can execute,” said Gartenberg.
It’s not as though those points are unknown to Microsoft and its partners.
Back in April, when Nokia launched the Lumia 800, the then-flagship Windows Phone, Microsoft and AT&T promised a big promotional push.
But market share is still low. Microsoft’s smartphone platforms (which include both Windows Phone and the outdated Windows Mobile) dipped to 3.6 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers for the three months ended in August, according to research firm comScore.
Worldwide, Microsoft’s smartphone platforms gained year over year, but its share is still minuscule, ranging from about 2.7 to 3.5 percent for the second quarter, according to various research firms’ estimates.
[Continue reading the story here.]