Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer said that the software giant's Windows Phone 8 platform is the happy medium between the uncontrolled ecosystem on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and the tightly controlled ecosystem of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. Ballmer's comments come as Microsoft ramps up advertising for its Windows Phone and Windows 8 platforms.
Speaking Wednesday at a tech industry event where he was interviewed by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Ballmer said that Microsoft is positioning itself as a differentiated offering, and one that wireless carriers say they want.
"The ecosystem for Android is a little bit wild," Ballmer said, according to AllThingsD, noting that the open-source Android suffers from more malware and compatibility issues than other platforms. On the other hand, he said, Apple's iOS ecosystem is highly controlled but also very expensive, noting that an iPhone in Russia can cost $1,000. "How do you get quality not at a premium price with not quite as controlled an ecosystem?"
Microsoft is in the middle of those two poles, Ballmer said. "That's kind of the best of both worlds, and that's available to us," he said.
Further, the Microsoft chief said carriers are begging for an alternative. "On the high end, they have Apple and Samsung and a sea at the low-end," he said, according to CNET. "We have a customer set that wants an alternative, and it's a different opportunity strategically...the product has to be great. Windows 8 is the most personal smart phone. When you whip out your phone, you want to see the things that matter to you."
Ballmer acknowledged that Microsoft has a steep hill to climb. According to new numbers from research firm Gartner, Android grabbed 72.4 percent of the global smartphone market in the third quarter, iOS nabbed 13.9 percent and Microsoft captured just 2.4 percent. "There is unmet need from operators and, from a consumer perspective, a lot of room for innovation," he said. "The challenge is to get 10 percent of the smartphone market, and then 15 percent, and then 20 percent. We aren't trying to get to 60 percent overnight."
AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) have launched their new Windows Phone 8 devices, primarily from Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and HTC, though Verizon will also launch the Samsung Ativ Odyssey in December. In addition to the carriers' marketing, Microsoft is launching its own marketing for the phone platform.
Microsoft said that it is launching its first Windows Phone 8 TV ads this week featuring actress Jessica Alba and singer Gwen Stefani, with more ads coming featuring comedian Andy Samberg and pro football quarterback Cam Newton. The company said the ads "are designed to show how personal Windows Phone is while showcasing the features that make it so different."
Microsoft said it is taking a local approach to marketing in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, highlighting relevant personalities and apps. The company will also heavily market Windows Phone through online, social media, custom TV spots, out of home and print advertising. Microsoft said it is working directly with carriers and OEMs to train retail sales representatives to highlight Windows phone more than in the past.
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