Telefonica backs Windows Phone to target iOS, Android duopoly

Summary:The mobile phone giant is waking up to the fact that the Android and iOS bubble may pop, and it needs a fallback plan. Given a choice between Windows Phone and BlackBerry...

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Image: CNET

Telefonica on Wednesday announced it is throwing its weight behind Windows Phone 8 as part of an enhanced marketing effort, in a bid to raise sales of its moderately performing range of devices.

The mobile phone and cellular giant said in a note that for an initial period of one year, it will boost its device marketing support with the help of Microsoft in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile.

First thing to think about here is "why." Telefonica gave a reason, but it's as hollow as Swiss cheese.

The reason is, quoting the press release, to "improve the current balance of mobile operating platforms on the market" by "encouraging it to be more diverse and less of a duopoly."

Ouch. One might think that's a kick in the ribs for Apple and Google, but there is method to this madness. 

Windows Phone sales are chugging along gently, albeit without leaving much of a dent in the market. Latest research from Kantar Worldpanel suggests Microsoft's share in the mobile space has grown to 8.4 percent of the U.K. market, thanks to an uptick in Nokia sales. IDC concurs, with the platform taking the third-place slot in Western Europe, with a market share of 6 percent . Meanwhile, sales have grown in the U.S. from 3.8 percent in 2012 to 5.6 percent this year.

So that's reason number one.

Also in the note, Telefonica said it plans to offer its clients enterprise-class business features, including Office 365 and SharePoint, as well as SkyDrive and Xbox, in a bid to increase distribution of Windows Phone 8 devices. The mobile phone giant will work closer with Samsung, HTC, and Nokia to bring its devices to the market as quickly as possible.

Do you see what's going on here? There are a lot of moving cogs, but it seems to be a working relationship between Telefonica and Microsoft that is beneficial to both.

Microsoft has found a partner willing to enter into a win-win pact. Telefonica wants to diversify its range of smartphone sales, and Microsoft wants to increase sales of its Windows Phone platform for not only sales but to spread its love for Metro — which spans desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile and now consoles — across the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to plug its business features in order to gain momentum in a space it has typically seen great success in its desktop and software divisions. It's a pitch to both consumers and business users, while at the same time plugging the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.

Telefonica sees Windows Phone 8 as being a contender in taking on the two top platforms in the market space.

Eventually the Android and iOS bubble will pop. We've heard plenty about Android's fragmentation problem , which restricts its place in the enterprise, and the innovation "problem" that Apple faces, amid claims of iPhone fatigue . It's about time a third place opened up, and the stresslines are beginning to show. Telefonica has already thrown its weight behind Firefox OS for smartphones  even at this early stage, so it's clear the company is looking for a duopoly get-out clause.

And that's reason number two.

If Telefonica and others — and they will have to sooner rather than later — pick a third-place runner in the mobile marathon, for now it's either going to be Windows Phone or BlackBerry.

Yeah. I'll say no more. 

Topics: Windows Phone

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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