Microsoft (s msft) faces a tough assignment in trying to get back in the smartphone game. Nokia’s (s nok) Symbian maintains a massive presence in overseas markets, while Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone and Google’s (s goog) Android have gained tremendous momentum in the superphone era. And Windows Mobile will only continue to lose ground in advance of the debut of Windows Phone later this year thanks to the fact that the two platforms will be incompatible.
But there’s no shortage of players hoping that Redmond can breathe new life into its mobile business. The following are just a few of the entities with a vested interest in seeing Windows Phone succeed:
- Corporate IT departments — Business users are increasingly turning to consumer-friendly smartphones like the iPhone and forcing IT staffers to support their new gadgets. But the emergence of a phone that offers both Microsoft’s seamless integration with Exchange Server and consumer-friendly features and applications would go a long way toward making life easier for IT workers.
- HTC — The Taiwan-based handset manufacturer is fully aboard the Android bandwagon, but hitching your wagon to a single OS is a dangerous strategy for a mobile OEM. So the longtime Windows Mobile supplier is one of the launch partners for Windows Phone and vows to develop an “HTC Hub” for the platform.
- Motorola (s mot) — Although it joined the Android crowd late last year in a big way, releasing both the Cliq and the Droid, as Om noted in January, Motorola was left out in the cold when HTC was tapped to produce Google’s flagship device. The struggling company will continue to churn out Android handsets, but Windows Phone has caught its eye. Look for increasing interest — and maybe a hardware commitment — out of Motorola as the OS nears its launch later this year.
- Application developers — Microsoft is wooing developers by forcing manufacturers to comply with strict guidelines regarding screen sizes, buttons and features. That will make it easier for developers to deploy apps across a range of Windows Phone gadgets without having to tweak each app for each handset. And longtime Windows Mobile developers are sure to be pleased by a platform that combines high-tech entertainment features with Microsoft’s business-focused technology.
- Gamers — Integrating Windows Phone with Xbox and Windows is an interesting move for a company whose mobile strategy has long focused on the enterprise. But it’s also a strategy that could finally push mobile gaming beyond casual, pick-up-and-play titles and toward more immersive, console-type experiences.
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