It takes more than a sleek operating system to make a successful smartphone. Even though Microsoft on Tuesday announced that the Windows Phone update called Mango will bring 500 improvements to the mobile OS, some analysts are concerned that the company didn't show any new smartphones to ship in the fall with Mango installed.
At an event in New York, Microsoft named three new hardware manufacturers, Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE, that will produce Mango-based smartphones that will ship in the fall. Windows Phone 7 currently runs on phones made by HTC, Samsung and LG, and Microsoft announced a partnership with phone manufacturer Nokia in February
Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's mobile communications group, said Mango is already running on Nokia phones in the lab.
But that news wasn't enough for analysts who noted that an operating system update is just one piece of a smartphone's success. The other pieces include a large group of partners to manufacture the phones, plus wireless service providers and app developers.
"It was disappointing there were no hard device announcements and instead we heard they would come out with phones in the fall," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC. "I would have loved to see a summertime launch."
Getting an update on new hardware earlier would help Windows Phone adoptions, which have been slow, Llamas and others noted. "The name of the game [in smartphones] is volume and distribution," he said. "I would like to know what Microsoft is doing between now and the fall."
Llamas generally liked the communications, applications and Internet improvements announced for Mango, although he said many were "smaller, incremental changes" and some haven't been fully described. Two improvements that Llamas liked in the software are the ability to group together contact information and the fact that Microsoft's Bing search engine is deeply integrated into Windows Phone.
Still, Llamas added, "when you are buying a smartphone, you are buying the experience and the ecosystem."
Ross Rubin, an analyst at NPD, said Windows Phone 7 has been an operating system "that's behind others and has to make up ground," so it was important for Microsoft to focus on Mango at the Tuesday event. But he, too, stressed the need for Microsoft to discuss plans for new hardware.
"It was certainly a positive move adding more hardware manufacturers to the mix, and Nokia will be a high-volume partner, [but] we're going to have to see the kinds of finished products that companies ultimately offer to consumers and how different they are from Android and iPhone," said Rubin. "We need to see stronger carrier support for Windows Phone in the U.S., and we also need to see where the combination of software and hardware work together in a compelling case for Windows Phone handsets."
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