ZTE's CEO: Windows smartphones set for comeback next year

ZTE's CEO: Windows smartphones set for comeback next year

Summary: Executives from Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, and ZTE all assert that Google's pending purchase of Motorola Mobility won't hurt the Android ecosystem.

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility, Wi-Fi

SAN FRANCISCO -- Lower-end smartphones -- especially from Android, are expected to proliferate in the next couple of years, but not all mobile OEMs are counting out featurephones just yet.

Lixin Cheng, CEO of ZTE's U.S. division, argued during a panel discussion at Open Mobile World on Thursday that while 30 to 40 percent of all new mobile phone shipments are smartphones, that means that 60 to 70 percent are staying on the featurephone side of the spectrum.

LG Electronics senior vice president Alex Jin Sung Choi noted that there is a potential market opportunity for featurephones because of an obvious reason: the cost. Featurephones typically cost between $20 and $50.

Furthermore, Choi pointed out all of the added costs when buying a smartphone. Sure, the contracts and taxes provide the way to a heavily-subsized and advanced device, but those costs add up significantly over time.

Cheng also remarked that many mobile carriers still want to keep that segment going and are doing so with attractive calling plans.

Yet, Kevin Packingham, a senior vice president at Samsung, posited that most customers are willing to step up to price points if they see the value in them.

"For a lot of people, that's the social networking experience," said Packingham, reiterating that now the technology matches up with what the consumer sees value in.

Nevertheless, Packingham said that the featurephone still meets needs in emering markets.

"In the future, there could be low-feature (smartphone) devices that work on five to six apps very well," Packingham predicted, "But it will be some time before people know what those apps are."

The major differentiators at this point, Cheng posited, are the hardware and the cost.

"When we go back to 2G days, we also talked about smartphones," Cheng said. "The smartphone today could be the featurephone tomorrow."

Sony Ericsson chief technology officer Dr. Jan Uddenfeldt rebuffed these ideas, arguing that "in [developing] countries, people are running their business out of their phone. The more they can do with their phones, they more propserous their business will actually be."

"We left the featurephones behind us," said Uddenfeldt, explaining that 90 percent of Sony Ericsson shipments are now smartphones. "We're an all Android company now."

Speaking of Android, all of the panelists were quick to agree that Google's pending acquistion of Motorola Mobility is not going to harm the Android ecosystem but rather benefit it.

Uddenfelt said that it doesn't change Sony Ericsson's stance, while Choi said that it didn't pose a threat.

Packingham went so far as to say that the proposed merger "really benefits all of us" because developers will have better access to the "metal of these devices."

It's not that Samsung will have access, Packingham clarified, but developers are enabled to have new ways to leverage the hardware.

Although there was accord on the fact that Android and iOS are the two leading mobile operating systems of the moment, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and 8 definitely got a round of support as well.

"I do believe the industry needs another operating system to keep competition healthy," Cheng said.

But while he affirmed that ZTE is committed to both Windows and Android, Cheng predicted, "I think next year you will see Windows will come back strongly."


Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Wi-Fi

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  • RE: ZTE's CEO: Windows smartphones set for comeback next year

    While nothing in this article is really about Microsoft except the last line, and I'm sure the title is just to catch eyes...I'll bite and say this, a "come back" for Windows phones implies that Windows smart phones were ever there to begin with. They were outsold by iPhone and Android now, before that it was Blackberry putting the hurt on them, before that Nokia. Really, the last time Microsoft had a marketable device was when Windows CE was competing with Palm. That said, I guess they've made a good first attempt, which I think is more impressive and accurate than calling it a comeback.
    • And yet WP7 is being talked up while Blackberry

      was only brought up by you, never mentioned in the article.

      That could just be the first to fall to WP7 in the future?
      William Farrell
  • Maybe so...

    Microsoft has managed to leverage more income from Android than its own mobile efforts. They killed a much more interesting tablet project that would have been much more "unique" than Android manufacturer's early efforts...albeit, the Android tablets are getting better very, very quickly.

    But riding the coat tails of iOS and Android will bear fruit and they could become a strong 4th player, possibly even eclipse Blackberry with Samsung, HTC and such subsidizing R&D and fattening the coffers of the mobility division in Redmond. Really Microsoft's biggest threat is, well, Microsoft...If they can't adapt to the new mobile IT ecosystems it will mean doom.

    The other key factor (and more to the point of this article) is what will hardware vendors offer to differentiate the Windows phone? Google regularly sets the bar with its "reference" devices in the Nexus line and Apple is clearly a design and interface leader...things that Blackberry is (apparently? Hopefully?) waking up to just recently.

    While people said the HD2 was a wonderful Windows phone (and it was) its more common to find them for sale on Craigslist with some form of Android. And the LEO platform was/is suspiciously EVO-ish so I argue that there was precious little to set them apart--thus leading to the "porting" of Andorid ROMs being successful on that wonderful (once apon a time) halo phone for Windows Mobile.

    For Windows to succeed in mobility the handset makers are going to have to (chuckle) "think different"
  • RE: ZTE's CEO: Windows smartphones set for comeback next year

    I'm sure they will be "back" next year. To sit on the shelves with this years models. Who would trust MS with something as important as basic communications?
    • RE: ZTE's CEO: Windows smartphones set for comeback next year

      @timspublic1@... Oh yeah! "Everyone, don't worry, Windows 8 and the partnership with Nokia will solve EVERYTHING! We've got this nailed! No problems whatsoever! Just like we did with all of the other versions of Windows mobile! The future is a world with Windows on every phone and tablet!" The messages from Redmond these days are becoming almost comical!
      • RE: ZTE's CEO: Windows smartphones set for comeback next year

        @Bobzilla2011 Scratch that. They are comical! Ballmer should be on tour.
  • There Is No Limit To How Cheap An Android Device Can Be

    Android is the only platform that covers both high-end and low-end devices. And there is no limit to how low it can go at the low end, as vendors like Huawei and ZTE are already proving. Nobody will care about "featurephones" any more, when a "smartphone" can do it all, and then some, for the same price.<br><br>Even Microsoft has realized it must cut its margins on Windows Phone in order to compete at the low-end. Trouble is, unlike Google, it has no other model for making money than charging the handset makers for copies of the OS. So cutting prices means Microsoft loses money. Therefore it will always be handicapped on the cheaper devices, which is where a lot of future growth is likely to be.