Whither Microsoft at Mobile World Congress 2013? Apparently, at an offsite hotel having at least eight partner meetings a day and not throwing a press conference. According to Greg Sullivan, a senior marketing manager at Microsoft, the company's absence from the MWC press conference list this year comes down to a new commitment to "shut up and ship."
"We're not going to do this thing where we announce the next version [of Windows Phone] months and months before it's available," he said. With Windows Phone 8 only a few months old, Microsoft is in the middle of its product cycle.
"Over the course of the next several months, I wouldn't be surprised to see some exciting new devices and more interoperability before we start talking about what [opeating system] is next," he said.
That next operating system update is rumored to be codenamed "Windows Phone Blue," but Sullivan wouldn't comment. He said that current Windows Phone 8 owners have nothing to fear from upgrades, unlike Windows Phone 7 owners who weren't able to update to 8.
"We're going to have an upgrade path going forward," he said.
Sullivan also said that Windows Phone 8 was flexible enough to adopt new hardware components. That was a big problem for Windows Phone 7, which was trapped with a prescribed spec that made its phones look old by midyear after launch.
"Windows Phone 8 can evolve. We have an architecture that enables portability and is fundamentally hardware independent," he said. "As the market evolves and customer requirements demand it, we'll evaluate options."
Is The Glass Half Full?
You can look at Windows Phone 8 sales figures as a glass half full or half empty. According to the latest numbers from IDC, Windows Phone has been making "market-beating progress" and growing its market share. On the other hand, it's only grown its market share from 1.5 percent to 2.6 percent of the smartphone market.
Windows Phone is still in a stronger position than BlackBerry 10 or Firefox OS because "it's part of an ecosystem," Sullivan said. While BlackBerry has some strength in business, it lacks elements like XBox and Office, Sullivan said. Firefox OS so far lacks both a "great user experience" and an overall ecosystem, he said.
Windows Phone will also be able to compete with Firefox OS and Android in the fast-growing, low-cost markets of the developing world because low-cost Windows Phones will outperform rivals, he said. Huawei's new 4Afrika Windows Phone costs around $150; Nokia's new Lumia 520 (above) costs $180.
"The hardware guidance for Windows Phone ensures that even the low-cost Windows Phones deliver great performance," Sullivan said. "You don't make sacrifices on a Windows Phone. If you have an Android phone that's affordable, you don't have the latest software, you can't run a large percentage of the apps and performance is not awesome."