The release of the HTC M8 for Windows triggers a new turning point in the ongoing evolution of Windows Phone, which is still facing an uphill battle in the eco-system space, but given the rate of upgrade which can be as fast as one year, Microsoft has made clear that it won’t give up on the mobile space simply because it is too important to ignore.
I have long argued that Windows Phones have historically been a low priority for handset vendors because the volume is relatively low, especially in the high-end. Windows Phones have been known to do very well in the mid-range, or even low-end markets because the OS can run very smoothly on low-end hardware, a feat that can be difficult for Android.
On the other end, handset makers believed that only Android allowed for both “differentiation” and mass-market volumes, so they poured all their hardware design efforts in that particular segment. Also, it was very hard for handset makers to justify building a high-end device in a low-volume segment – this is a typical “chicken and egg” thing. This deprived the Windows Phone platform from getting high-end designs, even if part of the overall user base liked the Windows Phone interface and Microsoft services.
But at Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm and Microsoft have announced that they have worked together to ensure that handset makers could now run Windows Phone on any handset design built upon recent Qualcomm processors, and since they hold a huge market share, this created a lot of potential for Windows Phone, and made the WP economics much better.
Everyone involved will tell you that it’s still “a lot of hard work” to build a Windows Phone version, but the bottom-line is that it now makes economic sense to do so, thus lifting one of the two major blockage that prevented Windows Phone from getting “true” high-end hardware.
Today, HTC is the first major handset maker to propose the exact same design on both Android and Windows Phone (read our HTC One M8 for Android Review). This is a win for Windows Phone users because despite having Nokia build great phones, it is clear that Nokia’s design language can’t address the whole gamut out there. With the HTC One M8, Microsoft users can get an excellent industrial design and camera user experience which was once only accessible to Android users.
I’ll be posting a full review of the phone soon, but so far, the overall user experience is excellent, and it will give Nokia/Microsoft a run for their money.
Now it remains to be seen if more handset makers will join HTC in re-purposing high-end smartphones to the Windows Phone platform, but it would be nice for Windows users if they could opt for a Galaxy Note 4, S5 or LG G3 run under Windows.
Many handset makers fear that “messing” with their top branded phones is dangerous, but in my opinion, HTC is taking the right approach by branding its phone “HTC One for Windows”. It’s clear, simple and they get to leverage the brand that people know and love. Creating yet another name for a Windows line of product is counterproductive and creates a self-defeating cycle.
Should Samsung and LG build Galaxy S5 for Windows and LG G3 for Windows? From a user standpoint, absolutely. But most likely, they will take a sit back and watch how HTC “for Windows” performs first.