In an effort to boost its smartphone market share, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) plans to introduce Windows Phones that cost $75 to $100 in Africa this year, according to a Microsoft executive.
Fernando de Sousa, Microsoft's general manager for Africa Initiatives, told Bloomberg that the phones are coming this year but declined to give further details about the phones since the products have not been released to the public.
"It will be a global launch," he said. "Africa will lead in the consumption. Africa is growing smartphone use faster than anywhere in the world." Microsoft is expected to provide more details about its mobile strategy at the upcoming Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, in early March.
Starting last year, Microsoft worked with partners to cut the costs of its Windows Phones to appeal to OEMs, carriers and consumers in emerging markets where Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform is dominant. Microsoft lowered the bill of materials through chipset reference designs via Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and has been enticing OEM partners to create affordable phones by eliminating software licensing fees for the devices.
Handset makers are looking to tap Africa as a growth market as smartphone sales slow in Western markets. Around 20 percent Africans were expected to be online by the end of 2014-- many using mobile phones and tablets--compared with 10 percent in 2010, according to a 2014 report by consultancy Ernst & Young.
Microsoft has launched its 4Afrika Initiative to sell cheap phones in Africa while investing in education and local technology companies. "The key focus is to provide a great customer experience, full access to cloud services with choice and affordability being taken into consideration," de Sousa told Bloomberg.
Microsoft will have to compete with similar efforts from Mozilla and its Firefox OS as well as Google's Android One program. Although it's not currently targeted at Africa, the Android One initiative is expanding beyond India to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The world's first Android One phone was unveiled in September for around $105. Google wants to make sure consumers in emerging markets have access to Android phones with up-to-date software and Google services that can draw advertisers, which is how the search giant makes money on Android devices.
Microsoft sells record 10.5M Lumia phones in Q4, as it works to integrate Nokia
Microsoft shows off Windows 10 for mobile, as Nadella promises a wide range of phones
Microsoft's Nadella: Windows 10 will boost our position in Internet of Things market
Microsoft unveils Lumia 535 without Nokia name, pushes $137 phone for emerging markets
Microsoft scores 50 new device partners after making Windows free for smaller devices