Windows Mobile makes strides in Asia

Asia already accounts for 46 percent of Microsoft's global mobile OS business, as it continues its push into the region

Asia continues to be the biggest driver of Microsoft's mobile business.

Chris Sorensen, Microsoft's Asia-Pacific, Greater China and Japan lead product manager for its mobile communications business division, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia: "Mobile phones are critical markers of social status and identity in Asia, more so than in Europe and America. Everything about the phone is a very visible marker of the type of person you are."

According to Sorensen, Asia makes up the most significant portion of Microsoft's mobile business — 46 percent of the software maker's global mobile market. In comparison, the region covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa counts for 37 percent, with the Americas trailing at 17 percent.

In 2008, Microsoft plans to open 35 new concept stores in China to promote its mobile operating system (OS), Windows Mobile.

Micrsoft has made steady progress in Japan, an insular market that has typically been difficult for foreign vendors to penetrate. Microsoft today has 12 different phones using its OS in Japan, compared to just one phone in 2005, Sorensen said.

Globally, over 11 million Windows Mobile phone licences were sold in Microsoft's financial year 2007 which ended June — double the number sold in the corresponding period the previous year. This number is expected to double with "over 20 million licences next year", said Sorensen.

On the emergence of Google's upcoming phone OS, Sorensen said Microsoft's game plan "should not be changed", because he does not expect Android to encroach upon the business mobile market — where Microsoft is "focused".

"The industry is growing so fast that it can support several different business models. More competitors entering the market also raise awareness of what a phone can do," said Sorensen.

Microsoft believes that what has worked for its mobile OS is its dominance in the PC industry.

Sorensen said: "People are used to [applications like] Windows Media Player, Office and Outlook. The mobile OS industry is about bringing the same features to Windows Mobile. The power comes from the familiarity of a similar experience."