Microsoft faces challenge selling Mango benefits

Introduction of deeper integration between different communication apps in Microsoft's latest mobile OS update potentially beneficial, but analyst reckons Redmond will have tough job conveying message to consumers.

Microsoft's unveiling of a major update for its Windows Phone 7 operating system (OS) introduces deeper integration, among other new features, between various communication apps that is not seen on other platforms. However, an analyst thinks the software giant will face a tough time marketing its platform as the most desirable one for consumers to be on.

According to Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum, the platform update--codenamed Mango--will provide a worthwhile upgrade for both existing and new users of Windows Phone devices once it is rolled out this fall, as projected by Redmond. For example, new features such as Groups and Threads have been touted to deliver a deeper level of integration between different communication apps on the mobile devices than "users are so far accustomed to", Cripps said in a media statement Wednesday.

However, this integration might prove a tough sell to consumers, the analyst noted. "Integration is a tough concept to sell to consumers even if they may benefit enormously once they have adopted it. Cracking this conundrum may well be key to Windows Phone's future success," he said.

An earlier report highlighted that the Mango update would include 500 new features such as a version of Internet Explorer 9 for the phone, and a program called Local Scout, which offers search results based on a user's location to recommend nearby restaurants, shopping and activities. "We set out to make the smartphone smarter and easier," Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's mobile communications business, said in the report.

Microsoft also announced earlier that ZTE, Fujitsu and Acer had joined other handset makers such as HTC, LG Electronics and Samsung to produce Windows Phone 7 devices.

On these partnerships, Cripps said Chinese handset maker ZTE, in particular, can be expected to take advantage of the "more achievable" hardware specifications allowed by Microsoft. The three new phonemakers would also be able to tap carriers' "desire for low-cost alternatives to Android-based smartphones," he added.

However, the Ovum analyst pointed out that Mango still lacks the potential for customizations and brand differentiation that some manufacturers look for.

"With Nokia likely to dominate Windows Phone shipments once that relationship is fully up and running, this lack may need addressing if other high-end OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are to stay onboard," Cripps suggested.