Microsoft plans major overseas Windows Phone push for second half

LAS VEGAS--Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) expects to release Windows Phone 7 in several major international markets in the second half of the year as part of an effort to scale up the nascent smartphone platform, a senior Windows Phone executive said.

Windows Phone 7 devices from LG, Samsung and HTC went on sale in Europe and the Asia Pacific region Oct. 21 and in the United States and Canada Nov. 8. Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Windows Phone, told FierceWireless that Microsoft will add language support for simplified Chinese, Russian, Portuguese for Brazil, Japanese and Korean in the second half of the year, as it expands the reach of the platform.

Sullivan explained that the company is still in "phase one" of its launch, and that it is critical for the company to deliver a strong lineup of devices as it seeks to reinvent its mobile identity. Sullivan said the response to the phones has been "absolutely fantastic," and noted that nine out of 10 AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) customers who have bought Windows Phone devices said they would recommend the phone to someone else. Sullivan conceded Microsoft's initial launch covered only a few markets. "We were more focused on quality," he said. "We know over time we'll be able to scale."

Indeed, the company, as it had indicated earlier, confirmed this week that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will launch Windows Phone devices in the first half of the year; currently only AT&T and T-Mobile USA offer the phones in the U.S.

Both of those carriers have invested heavily in Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform. But Sullivan contended that Microsoft can be successful in mobile even without switching customers from other platforms. He said the burgeoning smartphone market represents a large opportunity for Microsoft, particularly among first-time smartphone buyers.

Still, Microsoft faces an uphill battle against Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS. While declining to discuss the status of OEM partnership negotiations, Sullivan said Microsoft has long-standing ties with a number of mobile partners, and that Microsoft is continuing to cultivate those relationships. However, it may take some work. Stephen Sneeden, product marketing manager at Sony Ericsson, a longtime Windows Mobile supporter, told FierceWireless that his company is firmly focused on Android at the moment.

Microsoft did have some bright spots to point out this week. The company said it will release an update in the coming months that will add cut-and-paste functionality and improved application performance when loading and switching apps. Microsoft also said it has 5,500 apps in its Windows Phone Marketplace and that around 100 are added each day. "If you compare over the last three or four years the establishment of new smartphone platforms, the path that we're on compares very favorably," Sullivan said.

For more:
- see this Seattle Times article
- see this PC Magazine article
- complete CES coverage

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