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314

Windows Phone is losing some hardware differentiation as Microsoft woos Android manufacturers

A real quick analysis of today’s announcements by Microsoft, specifically in regards to Windows Phone, shows that Microsoft is loosening the belt on their mobile OS. Back when Windows Phone 7 Series was announced at this very event four years ago, Microsoft had set very strict hardware requirements in an effort to keep the user experience consistent and ensure a quality experience.

That’s a very different approach from Android, which has a more ‘anything goes’ method for hardware, resulting in proliferation of Android throughout the mobile market. Apple, of course does the opposite: they only make their own hardware, so there are no manufacturer opportunities.

Let’s look quickly at what Microsoft did today.

  • Removed hardware key requirements, for front facing buttons and camera
  • Added support for more Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets, including the 200, 400 and 400 LTE versions for even lower-cost phones
  • Reference design program through Qualcomm gives manufacturers a scaffold to start their own Windows Phone

What really happened though was Microsoft gave companies like HTC and Samsung a big chunk of freedom. HTC will especially benefit from this move as they simply don’t have the capital to re-design new Windows Phone hardware while battling for Android.

HTC

In essence, if you make an Android phone, you can now just toss the Windows Phone OS on there and sell that device. Sure, you still need 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage, at the very least, but even Android has that as its bottom for low-end hardware.  Microsoft, through Qualcomm and upcoming changes for Windows Phone 8.1, have essentially removed most, if not all, the barriers for companies like Samsung, HTC and even Lenovo.

Want an HTC One? HTC will now be in better position to throw Windows Phone on it, without having to reinvent novel hardware.

That’s really good news. Combined with the announcement of new hardware partners, like LG (who’s returning), Foxconn (an ODM, or original device manufacturer) and Lenovo, Windows Phone now stands a much better chance of being ‘mass produced’.

We can also start officially yearning for a ThinkPhone.

The bad news is that unique things to Windows Phones won’t be required any longer. Those front buttons will be virtual soft keys for some new Windows Phone 8.1 hardware, the camera shutter button won’t be required either. So we’re losing a bit of what made Windows Phone unique.

OEMs can still do all of those things, but they’re just not required to. And because Windows Phone 8.1 can install apps and games to the SD card, manufacturers can leverage that to save costs on internal memory.

Lumia soft buttons

It’s of course too early to tell how well this will pay off. Microsoft has taken a lot of the hardware differentiation out of the equation, moving towards the Android model. But manufacturers still can’t touch the OS. No skinning. No deep level changes. That means the user experience should still be consistent, even as the hardware becomes more… universal.

Microsoft is certainly taking a play out of their Windows PC business here, specifically with how Windows 8.x devices are made and sold. Capitulation? Nope. To my eyes, it looks like Microsoft is confident that the Windows Phone brand and identity are now solidified, with companies like Nokia setting the path.

It’s time to put the boat out to sea and set her free.

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Comments

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Micah Dawson says:

. I don't like this because it just feels so desperate for Microsoft and I don't want my phone to feel like an android recycled device.
Thank goodness for Nokia as I likely will never switch to another OEMs phone.

I remember using android for three years and going from phone to phone and how I had to essentially relearn the layout of buttons because each OEM feels the need to differentiate.....and with windows phones, I went from HTC to multiple nokias and the layout always has been the same. Sigh...

removing the uniqueness and making same crap like samdung shit ,htc ,karbonn.. so crap phones . i think dis will dump microsoft more with further it starts crashing with too much openess . m happy with my lumia 720 and hope nokia phones do come with same camera button and touch keys .. uniqueness stands out not being d same ... just add some things that are useful that users want . well i am confused whats gonna happen .

 

microsoft has tossed d coin lets see its microsoft success or flop ..!!!!!!

 

OsamaAdam98 says:

I don't know why being opened is considered a bad thing, That's actually why Android and Windows PC are very popular.

Micah Dawson says:

Because it is not the method in Which Windows Phone debuted with....Android's has always been that way and it is a Popular hot mess. I've always loved the uniformity windows phone has.

OsamaAdam98 says:

I was pissed with the very closed experience on WP coming from Android, But it's only me.

AznRaven says:

yes... i'm also pissed at how closed the wp is... i'm still annoyed at how nfc does not just work and you have to hit the accept button!!! and you can only set 1 item on nfc... whereas on android... you can set multiple items... 

drokssilva says:

Yeah. Those are reasons I switched back to android.

Posted via the WPC App for Android!

R0bR says:

Right, and look at how long WP has been struggling to gain any considerable market share. I feel the reason MS is now changing their stance is that with the Nokia acquisition they are in a good position to offer that uniqueness and standard build for those that want it, while at the same time they get other partners making Windows Phones.

ScubaDog says:

I certainly won't be wasting my money on regurgitated Android crap.  And I have no problem looking down my nose at those I see with them.

mraiii says:

Yea, this is similar to what Google is doing with the Nexus line. Except MSFT doesnt let OEMs to reskin the software. Nothing wrong with more options as long as MSFT keeps delivering the Windows Phones we expect and love.

a5cent says:

I don't think this is so bad. Lets pick it appart bit by bit:

1)

Allowing OEMs to remove the front facing buttons and the camera key isn't a big deal. If you want those buttons you just buy a device that has them, otherwise you will have on screen equivalents. This is a very minor sacrifice of consistency.

2)

The Snapdragon 200 series of SoCs isn't new at all. They are just rebranded S4s, which is exactly what we have in our current generation devices. For the Snapdragon 400 we'd have to know exactly which ones they have included support for, but they are likely to choose those that make very little difference. For the end user experience this doesn't really make any difference whatsoever..

3)

The reference design doesn't change anything either. It just gives all OEMs a pre-fabricated starting point that they can slap their logo on and sell.

Conclusion:

MS did not give OEMs access to the source code. They didn't say: "go ahead, add bloatware and skin the UI to your hearts content". I'll leave WP the day that happens. This is nothing at all like that.

It's not the type of change the article (certainly unintentionally) subliminally suggests it is.

mister2d says:

You don't need access to the source code to add bloatware and skins. Unless you think 3rd party developers for the Windows PC have source code access.

a5cent says:

You do on WP. Come back after doing your homework...

Nik Rolls says:

To be fair, Android's hot mess is the software much more than the hardware.

rodneyej says:

⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆his⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆

ScubaDog says:

Wrong.  99% of the hardware is garbage.

Nik Rolls says:

Take a look at Don's comment below. He is absolutely correct. If the hardware is garbage, don't buy it. Or if you don't care about the quality of the hardware, then all power to you.

The thing that won't change is Windows itself. The minimum hardware specs will ensure that it will always look and feel great, and run fast, no matter how bad the rest of the hardware. And because of this consistent factor, it will be obvious that any bad part of the phone is not to do with Windows but to do with the cheap hardware. This is something you can't say about Android, because the OEMs who use crappy hardware also usually make crappy customisations to the software, not to mention the OS still runs slow on its minimun requirements even after Kit Kat. Windows is immune to these factors.

The uniformity remains in the software. The phones could look different physically, it doesnt matter. Some people like camera buttons and external navi keys, while some dont. Stop complaining for no reason. Android is a mess bcs the software is just bloatware mainly from one manufacturer to the next, unless you by a Google Play Edition.

rodneyej says:

⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆his⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆

Nik Rolls says:

Spot on. The great thing is that there are still minimum requirements (enough for Windows to still run as smooth as ever) and OEMs get very little control over the software. Android's Achilles' Heel is that it runs badly on its minimum requirements (even with Kit Kat), and OEMs who make bad hardware often also make bad software on the phones.

Whereas with Windows, because it will still run smoothly and consistently it will be obvious to even many laymen that a bad experience on a cheap phone is to do with the hardware and not the OS itself.

The other thing that really started Android downhill was the manufacturer's having to put their graphical front end on everything. Think Touchwiz for Samsung.

This caused two main problems.

1. It made the phones slow as could be.

2. It meant that any updates to your phone had to first go through Android, then through your carrier, and finally through the phone manufacturer to upgrade their front end.

It was a nightmare.  It was Android's biggest mistake in my opinion.

Windows Phone avoids this by not giving the manufacturers the ability to skin their phones. 

I owned a few Android phones - and by the far the best phone was the original Galaxy Nexus.  Why ? Simple. No carrier crap. No phone manufacturer crap.  Just plain ol vanilla Froyo.  It was smooth ,it was fast, and it was efficient.  Probably the only Android phone I actually miss having.

The other advantage of this not mentioned - if they 'recycle' Android phones to use with Windows (I'll take a Motorola Droid Maxx with kevlar backing and water resistant circuit board please!) then they would be able to avoid the wait by the FCC for approving new devices.

Honestly, I'll get flamed for this piece - but hardware should be independent of software. If I want to put Windows 8 on my Macbook pro - I should be able to. If I want to put WP8 on a HTC One - I should be able to.  We pay for the phones, the hardware is ours.  What software we run on our phones should be our choice.

 

Nik Rolls says:

I don't think they had to put their own UI on, but they were grasping at any way to differentiate. But yes, totally agree with you.

Open phones, that sounds very interesting. I think that's almost what Microsoft is going for (and maybe they would have if it were logistically possible to self-install an OS, or perhaps they will do it in the future). These latest changes sound like Microsoft is bringing what works -- and works well -- from the declining PC market to the mobile market. And I think it might just work. Power to the consumer.

ortizang says:

That's actually the only way Microsoft can catch up with android and people must understand that this is business!

ScubaDog says:

It's preposterous for anyone to think Microsoft has a snowball's chance at catching up to Android.  There are too many stupid people around buying them and the cheap, garbage hardware.  Microsoft needs to just focus on making their third place a stronger third place.

khipara says:

Third place is only good enough if each of the other two have only 33.333% market share.

rodneyej says:

Just look at it like this.... Those manufactures weren't going to make any WP devices, let alone one with a Camera button.... Look at the big picture!

ScubaDog says:

And you actually believe they will now?  That's hilarious.

rodneyej says:

I hope so.. We'll just have to wait and see...
........................
Oh, and I saw your rant on the Blog... Seriously, it's not that big of a deal, dude... Are you going to be ok? :-D

alexisking says:

agreed rodney, this is a long play that will finally focus on something that we have all been saying ... android is a poorly optimized system whereas WP is smooth as silk.  The second people pick up identical devices running the two OS's it will become crystal clear how much better WP performs.

rodneyej says:

That would be awesome...

Chill you dont have to buy it but if they make it then at least we will be able to get apps quicker

Westoncreg says:

I guess this doesn't really suprize me beside the low end chip sets being added, we knew there were going to be virtual keys in the latest update and as for the camera button anyone remember the Nokia Lumia 505 with 7.8?

CheekyTaurus says:

There is desperation and then there is an acknowledgement of a reality. I believe this is the latter and I am in complete agreement with Daniel's analysis. Windows Phone will never be more than a niche OS if Microsoft doesn't bring other OEMs into the fold, period. It simply cannot survive the long haul with just Nokia-made (and soon to be Microsoft made) hardware.

This is the highest barrier for OEMs, aside from the actual cost of the OS license, and it means they can now produce phones side-by-side with their Android counterparts without the high costs associated with designing specific hardware for WP.

Now, Microsoft needs to drop the license fee all together and let (hope) the OEM hardware floodgates open up.

rodan01 says:

People who don't like on screen buttons or "android hardware" please buy the Microsoft (ex Nokia) phones.

Everything is drama in wpcentral.

peachy001 says:

Deal.... I prefer off screen buttons.

Thank you for being intelligent. The logic of most people are beyond reprehension

kjordan_29 says:

Exactly. Vote with your dollars. If you like a certain feature, buy that phone. If not, buy another phone. It's really simple.

I agree with you microsoft is thinkng ahead and some poeple just cant see it

Spicymikey says:

Agree it's an acknowledgement of reality.  But the reality is that its time to get desperate.   So it's both in a way and there's nothing wrong with that.  

I wish MS had done this sort of stuff 2 years ago but at least they are beginning to act more in sync with the reality of the situation - meaning MS does not control or dictate standards anymore.   It's really all good news.  It believe it will produce a better product and a stronger Microsoft.  

ScubaDog says:

It MIGHT produce a stronger Microsoft, but it will be the end of Windows Phone.

Spicymikey says:

That might be swinging too far the other way.  As long as their is a Microsoft, they will have their own handheld OS version.   They are a software company!  They are not going to depend on another software company to provide their solution for a significant segment of the industry.  That's just not going to happen.

However, they have to acknowledge that they missed the boat.  The first round is over and they lost.  So what we are seeing is probably them simply accepting that and starting to take a longer term view of this. 

Clearly Google now controls the handheld segment.  They will own it for probably the next 5, maybe 10, years.   Beyond that, it's anyones guess. 

Keep in mind folks that they don't need to be #1 in the segment to be successful.  This is not a game of winner-takes-all.  They just need to be relevant and maintain brand recognition in this segment and stay alert for the next battle, and opportunity to advance..

It's not defeat.  it's surviving to fight another day.   It's smart.

This is something Apple never learned.  They are isolationists.  They succeed inspite of themselves, not because of it.  If it wasn't for Job's brilliance, their business model would be hard to make successful.  In fact, it almost drove them BK in the 90's until Jobs came back, with his brilliance, and saved them again.   Unfortunately, for them, the cavalray won't be coming over the hill this time. 

So, I wouldn't be worried about Microsoft and our Windows Phone.  it's here to stay.  I'd be more worried about iPhone!   Apple doesn't have the product depth that Microsoft has.  I think its very possible they are going to be in serious trouble in 5+ years if WP can advance to #2 in the USA by then. 

Nik Rolls says:

Nicely put! Personally I wouldn't say that Windows Phone 'missed the boat' but yes, they did get bronze in the first race. That's still a placing, but a way back. But yes, I get annoyed when people (especially respected analysts) say that it's dying because of it. As you say, it's sticking around and waiting for the right opportunity to leapfrog iOS.

Beyond that, who knows? It doesn't need to be first, it just needs to remain profitable and relevant. I don't care what the market share is as long as it is still good at the things it's good at; that's why I chose it after all.

Micah Dawson says:

I see Daniel's analysis more so as taking a more positive spin out something that is potentially negative. Simply because windows phone is begining to lose unique things that made fans out of the OS in the first place. Then you have the fact that they may be rumored to bring Android apps to windows phone(or that rumor of a dual booting Windows Phone/Android phone....gross btw) and if things like that start happening what are we going to say

"Well, Windows Phone is going to be a niche OS unless they start doing things the android way..."
This is essentially saying that Microsoft can't be unique and differentiate itself without adopting Google's method of doing things.

It's precisely why this whole Nokia X thing does not make any sense really as people say that it will somehow encourage X owners to eventually migrate to windows phone(Um what....lmao)?  I am not saying Daniel is wrong in his opinion and to a degree  I do agree with Daniel(Don't kill me HAHA) but at the same time, I do feel people are simply not paying attention to any negative aspects this could have....and then once sales still don't pick up, what will the excuse be then?

 

Residing says:

Good points, Micah.  Although I've never been interested in the aesthetic of Samsung or HTC devices, this change won't change my decision which is, I will never purchase their devices, or recommend them.

I  can safely say that Microsoft is on thin ice when it comes to my future purchases of WP devices.  I will be purchasing Nokia Lumias, not sure about 'Microsoft' Lumias though especially if Microsoft doesn't continue in the spirit of their original hardware design requirements. 

 

If all devices are going to be looking like Android devices going forward (and let's be honest, aside from the hardware buttons on the side, there really is no aesthetic distinction between Samsung or HTC WP vs. Android devices, anyway), there really is no need for me to bother with WP. 

 

I really don't understand why 'some' people want to see a 'sea of same' devices out there for their chosen OS.  Even if I were an Android fan, I would never purchase a Samsung Galaxy as practically everyone and their mother and pets own one.

 

OsamaAdam98 says:

Cause more devices means more market share (in most cases) and more market share means more interest means more app support.

brmiller1976 says:

If the cost of mass adoption by the major OEMs like LG, Samsung, HTC and Lenovo is a few angry Nokia fans lamenting their already-dead proprietary handset business and going to Apple, that's frankly a small price to pay.  Sorry.

Residing says:

Frankly, I really don't see mass adoption by other OEMs despite Microsoft making this announcement.  Will be interesting to see how it plays out, though.

brmiller1976 says:

It will make adoption a snap.  For example, if LG can sell 10% more phones by making a WP variant of an existing Android handset, they'll do it.

 

They wouldn't have necessarily put effort into creating a "classic" Windows Phone if its volume up-front would have been only 10% of, say, the G2, since the "classic" device requires all sorts of differences.  Now, they can just take the G2, install WP on it, and VOILA -- high-end Windows Phone!

Residing, I currently own a 1520 and a Titan. I can understand why you are a Nokian bcs since the age of 16 my first phone was the 8850, (bought a Siemens SL45 just for the mp3) then a 7210 , then the 7650, the 9210, 7280, N73, N96, E71 before switching to the Titan. I waited for a Lumia with the Snapdragon 800 (I love to game). then came along the 1520 (glorious for gaming). Dont listen to Micah he isnt making any sense.

People like WP for its uniform and speedy OS. The same functionality throughout the whole system and the fact that it integrates well into the MS ecosystem. A lack of a camera button or navi keys isnt going to do anything to destroy our experiece. Micah needs to go buy an iPhone and just STFU. Imagine if all PCs had the same form factor and looks, the same design and arrangement of buttons and ports in every way...

Oh thats right, stick to Apple then Micah, now get off this forum before infecting more people with your pandemic stupidity.

rodneyej says:

Where's tha logic in this....

Dawson, please tell me what brought users to WP in the first place? A camera buttons and navigation buttons on the screen? Mate you probably never owned a WP. The uniformity remains in the software. The phones could look different physically, it doesnt matter. Some people like camera buttons and external navi keys, while some dont. Stop complaining for no reason. Android is a mess bcs the software is just bloatware mainly from one manufacturer to the next, unless you buy a Google Play Edition.

Residing says:

Well, I can answer that first question for you:  Nokia :)

 

Really, all Micah, myself and others are simply saying is that we'd like for Microsoft to continue the 'Letter and Spirit' of Windows Phone - physical buttons, no OEM 'skinning', etc.  Obviously, Microsoft feels as though they need to make changes with WP, as well as with Windows (lowering prices); but since things are changing, our future purchases of other OSes may change as well.  That is all.

The spirit of WP is the slick UX. Nobody else has it but every Android/Apple user loves it. I am not kidding the socialite girls I know just call it the future phone (that was about a year ago though). Nobody remembers WP for its camera button, the spirit isnt in the Navi keys, ITS ALL ABOUT THE UX :)

Micah Dawson says:

Lmao I've owned nothing but windows phone the past year and a half except my brief stupidity with an HTC one

LucasLumia says:

Microsoft should at least maintain the license fee for high cost devices. Just as they do with Windows. HTC can afford licenses for the HTC One for example, Motorola (now Lenovo) can't afford that for a 100 dollar phone.

I wonder how the license will affect the smartphones. If the HTC One 2 launched both for android and Windows would the price be the same for both? Would both version have camera buttons, the Windows one or none? There's a lot to wonder about this. Would it be the same or will there be any differences. Is there going to be dual-boot phones like the dual-boot tablets?

andy21andy says:

Totally agree. If you want to compete with Android you have to give OEM'S the same treatment. They should have made it a free license fee from the beginning

khipara says:

Yes totally agree with that. Drop the licence fee. Make money on the store and on bing.

cannon#WP says:

This isn't desperation, this is smart business. You don't see Google going with Motorola only, so why would MS go Nokia only? Personally I'd MUCH rather have recycled Android hardware like the One, the GS4 or the LG G2 than this 920 I'm using so this is great news for me.

Micah Dawson says:

That's not even a good example since Google doesn't NEED to go with Solely Motorola. The whole android methodology has been anyone can make android and butcher it to whatever degreet to go with. Windows Phone debut with a more uniform hardware experience..and is now essentially losing what made it unique jus to try and take on the big dogs and in reality, the main issue windows phone has is not the hardware...it is simply the lack of apps.

I don't want recycled android crap(Even if it is the amazing HTC ONE) simply because I prefer a manufacturer who actually takes the time to make something unique vs tossing me their leftovers. I always amuse myself with people who get excited about getting Last years hardware(Galaxy S4) as this years new windows phone :P

peachy001 says:

By doing this though, MS is allowing the S5 to launch on Android and WP. I think this is a smart move.

Micah Dawson says:

The galaxy S5? Really? I seriously doubt Samsung will be allowign their latest crap run Windows phone :P It'll likely be the Samsung Galaxy S4 just like the ativ was the galaxy S3 :P

peachy001 says:

Yes, really. If all they have to do is tweak the software, then why not? Previously they had to faff about with actual hardware changes. If these current alterations to the WP OS mean that the manufacturer has less to do, then happy days. Personally, I have not got a lot of time for Samsung phones, I will likely stay Nokia.

Residing says:

^This.  Besides, the original complaint by the OEMs wasn't so much the hardware button requirements, but the fact that they couldn't 'skin' the WP OS like they were able to with Android.

peachy001 says:

Well I hop MS gives no ground on allowing others to tinker with their own skins. Let the manufacturers differentiate by the same way Nokia has, superior support and features. No bloatware please.

TechAbstract says:

This is good news. Microsoft needs the OEMs to gain marketshare. The software experience will still stay consistent.

cannon#WP says:

It's an apples to apples example as MS doesn't need to go solely with the Nokia division they just bought but users here continually suggest it. What makes WP unique isn't the hardware, it's the OS and the experience using it. Also, always remember that Nokia takes time to make something unique because they were contracted to do so 2 years ago, not out of the pureness of their hearts. I only mention recycled android hardware because given the choice, I'd go with that over Nokia, but of course I'd definitely prefer to have the GS5, One 2014 and G Pro 2 with the WP OS.

Micah Dawson says:

Considering Nokia is the only one who actually has done anything with Windows Phone(despite a Titan like Samsung having such power to do so if they wished...Which by the way, I am surprised that Samsung never tried to use its power to ever try and control the windows phone market.) yeah I can see why it is a smarter ideal for microsoft to go solely with Nokia....

I'd much rather an Apple approach to things(Which makes excellent hardware and a uniform experience for owners of their devices) vs the Google/android approach. Going all in with Nokia we'd likely see phones straight from Microsoft with even better designs and even could see faster updates.

brmiller1976 says:

I'd much rather an Apple approach to things

I've noticed.  I'd rather have a successful mass-market Windows-desktop-style success than a small, proprietary, overpriced ecosystem with a shrinking marketshare and stagnant hardware innovation.

andy21andy says:

I agree with cannon 100%.

Elvis7 says:

+1 ! I love the physical/capacitive keys, especially the camera button, I can have my phone ready for a pic as I'm pulling it out! I seriously hope samy or Nokia do not go the button less route, it would turn me away from windows phones...ewww :(

cannon#WP says:

Nokia already is, their next flagship is rumored to only have virtual buttons.

OMG55 says:

And you would go buttonless with another platform? What would that accomplish, as even on another platform you wouldn't have a button. People here always say choice and competition is good, but as soon as Microsoft opens the up to allow WP to truly compete, people like you begin to complain about the very thing people have been crying for. You and I might like physical buttons, but others don't. It increase sales is to give options

Micah Dawson says:

The buttonless approach doesn't bother me as much as I'd hope they don't start trying to remove the camera buttons on Nokia Phones. I can'timagine using my 1520 or using a phone like 1020(and future sucessors) and getting amazing pics using the onscreen button. I'd hope they'd have the common sense NOT to remove them on Nokia phones.

This⤴...I don't care if the capacitive buttons on the front go away...means virtually no bezel and screen all way to the edges...which would make my 1520 smaller with the same screen or same size with a larger screen...but, don't touch my hard camera button! I hate touching the screen to take a picture...it makes it more difficult to get a good picture and doesn't feel natural!

andy21andy says:

Elvis7, WP OS could potentially add a quick camera button on the lock.screen like iOS has

Nabkawe5 says:

Think of all those shitty Android devices sitting there on dusty shelves repurposed by thier respective OEMs enjoying a decent lag free experience

OsamaAdam98 says:

Yeah it's bad giving the world more lag free experience, Gross.

erzhik says:

Desperate times call for desperate measures. They needed this to stay relevant. And there is no more Nokia.

Cellus13 says:

But they are desperate. With Nokia about to do whatever they are with Normandy so I guess this is what they have to do.

It's just a good business decision, but it doesn't mean the Nokia's of the world cease to exist.

stokkolm says:

Second to last paragraph says:

It’s of course too early to tell how well this will pay off. Microsoft has taken a lot of the hardware differentiation out of the equation, moving towards the Android model. But manufacturers still can’t touch the OS. No skinning. No deep level changes. That means the user experience should still be consistent, even as the hardware becomes more… universal.

So, no need to worry about OEM's differentiating themselves too much on the software side of things. 

igzkap says:

I wouldnt be to worried about this this is mainly for allowing manufacturers to use the same hw for different OSes not for changing of WP it could be nice to have an option to buy a new flagship andtoid device but with WP on iy

I fail to see how having 9+ OEMs now is worse than just having Nokia (mainly). Sure, we will lose a bit of personality, but isn't it better that we get say 25% market share than we have those special WP details? Honestly I'd rather be part of a strong WP market where all important apps will get tier 1 support instead of being treated like the bastard childs of mobility.

I think this is a great thing, and don't forget, this is exactly how Windows rose to domination. Google copied the strategy and that's the ONLY reason why they dominate mobile with Android. The OEM method is the BEST way to ensure a flood of devices that will inevitably provoke great market share expansion: the more devices, and cheap ones at that, that you can find out there, the exponentially more people that will give WP a chance. That is not bad for you, you'll still get awesome devices like my 920 that have all the special WP design/personality features, but doors will be open to a LOT more people.
 

TLDR - Microsoft had success through OEM strategy with Windows. Then Google did the same with equal results. Now MS is applying its own strategy to mobile. Success is pretty much guaranteed.

trmnrs says:

Xabier, you definitely changed my opinion on the matter. At first I was really biased about the situation, but it makes sense to have the options for OEMs so we can catch up with the rest of the market. I really don't mind having on-screen buttons (I prefer capacitive, but it's not the end of the world), but the option for a dedicated camera button is a bit much. I'm just hoping most OEMs only use this for budget devices and we keep the option on high-end ones.

Yeah, the whole rationale behind on-screen buttons is to save money on making the actual buttons and instead just use the screen. Thus, such a strategy is for cheap phones only, though there's nothing prohibiting an OEM from making a great high-end phone with on-screen buttons jut because it fits their style and design choice better - see the recent Nexus 4/5. I agree that seeing the camera button would be awful, but this probably won't happen in higher end devices. Even if I'd like to see such a button in the low end devices too, if the trade off is making the 5xx and 6xx lines a good deal cheaper then that's a great trade off to make, since it'll open the doors to many more customers who want to buy a cheaper WP. As usual, the experience would go up in quality as it does in rank and price, so your 7xx and 9xx lines and above would surely have these details present in hardware. 

Taking out the requirement for the dedicated camera button? Now why would they do that? In my opinion, I think it's stupid NOT to have a camera button (iPhone). Anyways, I definitely agree that they should stop trying to copy Android.

Not sure you have much to worry about. Nokia will stay the same. Other manufacturers will differentiate to stand out. This is good news because it gives other manufacturers greater incentive to create Windows Phone hardware. I can imagine a number of marketing departments leaping for joy at this news. Personally I want a Galaxy Note with Windows Phone and accompanying stylus. Now I might be able to have my cake and eat it too one day.

Your comments are interesting, but, I look at it differently. Microsoft's not moving to the Android model, they're moving to the Windows x86/RT model! You can change hardware, you can add apps, but you can't significantly modify the user interface. It'll remain faster and more secure than Android, it'll remain more versatile than iOS, and it'll therefore remain perfect for me.

gar216 says:

A few months ago, I heard that this was a possibility. I wasn't a big fan because quite frankly, I'm a fan of the required buttons and hardware. After thinking about things, I don't hate it as much. The Apple model (loose) that WP originally took didn't work out. I like the idea of getting the OS onto as many devices as possible. The windows virtual keys will still have to be in the same places because they will be part of the OS and not an OEM skin. As far as the camera shutter button. I personally love it and wouldn't buy a phone without one, but I also only use it as a camera shortcut. I prefer the on screen camera button. Long story short, I understand why Microsoft is allowing the changes. I currently buy the Lumia line of phones and don't see Microsoft changing them. There is also the chance with allowing some more freedom, an OEM may step up and think outside the box and come up with a WP design that becomes the new norm.

Hadi Moloodi says:

exactly feel the same

mjyumping says:

Nice article, though a bit sad about one thing, and thats front buttons will not be required anymore.... Also for the camera button uniqueness.....

spinzeroWL says:

Personally, I find the front buttons annoying. They do not switch off in dark conditions - meaning that when I am watching Netflix etc, I have three bright lights to the right of the screen. I'm happy for them to be removed...

Dadstar0410 says:

Think about it this way: Android doesn't require hardware buttons or a dedicated camera button, yet all Xperia phones have a dedicated camera button, and all Samsung phones have hardware buttons. Sony chooses to use a camera button because its phones are camera phones. And Samsung sticks with what people like. Nokia's phones are camera phones, so the camera button will not go away.

Lumia 8x says:

Tell that to HTC, Motorola, lg, zte, huwei phones without camera button

I would drop my 920 in a heartbeat for a ThinkPhone....i love my ThinkPad T410!

Devmer11 says:

No doubt the Think Brand is wonderful got two ThinkPads and a ThinkCentre adding a Thinkphone would be awesome

andy21andy says:

I would drop my 1020 for an HTC one 2 with WP OS any day

Is it really going to be called the HTC one 2? I think that's one of the dumbest sounding names ever. What's next, Xbox one 2?

andy21andy says:

Lol just a guess. It'll probably be called HTC one again

I guess so, since apparantly that's allowed. What comes after the iPad 2? The iPad.

sumton says:

if its going to bring more hardware partners let it be... as for me i'll be sticking to microsoft Lumia or whatever the name will be

This is good news imo.. This is one less wall for OEM's to complain about.

theefman says:

Hold on to your 920's & 1020's, the last, best Windows Phones before everything becomes clones of androids!

Micah Dawson says:

Agreed :P
This may be the first time i keep a phone longer than a few months if we're beginning to adopt an Android methodology and getting android rehashes :P

juanitoriv says:

My 8X is still the sh!t though too!!! Actually all 3.

kurotsuki says:

Sorry ... Only have 520 here. So I guess I just switching device whenever I need to (and have budget to do so :P).

Residing says:

Totally agree with you, theefman.  I'll be getting my Lumia 1020 within the next 10 days (although, I almost bought one last night); I hope it isn't the last great and distinctive Nokia Lumia tto be released, but if so, I'll use it until it dies!

slap0rama says:

Microsoft will still make the Lumias so obviously you can just get a new Microsoft phone.

cannon#WP says:

I think it's a great move. More OEMs at more price points and hopefully more prepaid devices would be excellent. About them using the PC model, I think that the dev program into get early updates is a play on the Windows Update system and they may start to leverage it to get updates out to users without going thru carriers first. I could even see them renaming the app "Windows Phone Update" and releasing it to everybody.

Speaking of skinning, Tom Warren tweeted some time back that the start screen background would come as something similar to skinery....

EspHack says:

i personally dont like buttons, the N9 was my dream phone for a while, nokia should make a 4.5-5.5 inch lumia N9 this time using metal instead of plastic, what a solid phone/brick would it be (:

abhishake620 says:

From where are you ... I ask because the smiley is the opposite way.... Just curious..

jlynnm350z says:

(:. He just made his own. Im from mars. (;

Winnabe says:

Maybe he's left-handed.

rockstarzzz says:

Nokia wont make any phones after 5 weeks.

kurotsuki says:

Same here. The capacitive buttons always accidentally tapped whenever I play games. That sucks :3

Smg-Uk says:

Seems like a good idea to me there's been a lack of windows phones lately and I for one would like a new high end HTC WP even if it is just a One.

Paul May says:

I will never buy another HTC device after being burned twice by the titan and titan 2 with constant problems. I hope you had a better experience.

Smg-Uk says:

Well I had the HTC Mozart / Trophy / 8X and all were nice solid built phones and no problems definitely prefer HTC Metal Body Phones over Samsung Plastic

Ticomfreak says:

Had no problems with my Titan and HD7S...

andy21andy says:

I'd love an HTC one with WP as well. :) the aluminum body screams quality. The Nokia Phones are lacking that high-end feel (the icon is close with its aluminum (I think) sides but not quite)

deloa84 says:

Yes HTC One is such a beautiful phone. I had an HTC Radar as my first Windows Phone and it also is for the most part all aluminum. I handed it down to my little bro and it still works to this day. Never gave me any issues. I did get an 8X for my mom, another beautiful phone, but that one did seem to give my mom issues. Not sure why. But yeah HTC IMO knows how to make a nice phone. Hopefully they continue making great phones.

andy21andy says:

Hopefully with what seems smaller competition on WP, they will not be in such economic problems

01mggt says:

I kind of agree. I wish they would at least keep the shutter key requirement. Its such a great benefit I think. And yeah, there is some decent looking android hardware out there, but designs like Nokia has given us and even the 8x will likely not be seen near as much. But I'm on Verizon so they tend to dictate alot of what I get to use any way lol. At least skinning and things like that are still locked away and all apps even carrier must be able to be uninstalled!

TechBizJP says:

Well said. But at least give the OEM other look and make windows phone UI be be different to one another.

Devmer11 says:

No I don't want no junk touchwhiz crap on windows phone no need to head down that path

jlynnm350z says:

Buckle up, here we go

kurotsuki says:

No. Don't. Removing the hardware buttons is doable. But don't change the OS. It will have the mess like what Android currently has. So no. I (as developer) don't need OEM customized UI. I don't want to buy yet another test devices just because of customized UI thing.

andy21andy says:

I think having the WP OS stay consistent on all OEMs is a great plan. It differentiates from androids platform where anyone can make their own customizations. And it also makes it easier for customers (new and old) know they have the same experience on any WP.

deloa84 says:

Technically you can customize your "start" screen with tiles and such that matter to you the most, and so, when you look at 2 Windows Phones, even if they are exactly the same, the "start" screen will look different and customized to their own user. I think that should be enough in a way to personalize a WP. I am sure we all have different opinions or ideas of what customization is or looks like but my point is no 2 WP's will look the same.

Warbler says:

That's a very smart move from Microsoft. I just hope it doesn't lowers the quality of WP smartphones.

mjrtoo says:

That's the entire idea, so yeah...

Iain_S says:

its a very smart move, they can offer cheaper phones in emerging markets especially china and india. you will still get your nice lumias from ms. HTC and samsung will be able to make their new high end devices run wp without having to make a completly different phone for wp and andriod. it will be interesting what lenevo brings to the table.

andy21andy says:

And you already know Samsung will release their galaxies in the future on WP. Those guys don't judge OS's, they are out there to dominate everything and will release any kind of shape and size of a phone

MrDaedra says:

Agreed. Don't want WP to run on laggy processors and have no hardware buttons.

cannon#WP says:

It won't, regardless of hardware key freedom, there's still minimum specs every OEM has to follow. A lot of you guys seem to forget this.

+google+ why do people do this this isn't google+

avigyan says:

Microsoft has just been using Nokia over the years and now that the OS has attained a more stable position, courtesy Nokia to a large extent, they have bought a part of the company as well as allowed other stupid OEMs to make crap phones running WP8 for their own profit.

Kevin Rush says:

Re: avigyan, I don't see this as any different than having the choice of buying a cheap crappy computer running Windows, a midrange computer, or a high end computer running Windows. Certainly, the cheap one won't use all the features of the OS and not as well as the more expensive ones, but someone sells and buys the low end models for some purpose.
Buyer Beware.

AccentAE86 says:

Just as long as someone still makes front cap buttons and camera button, I'll be fine.

kurotsuki says:

Microsoft will still do it. At least the camera button, specially on PureViews devices ^^a

I love HTC designs. Besides the way Android hardware on high end phones goes, there will be impressive specs

heat 33330 says:

Why can't people understand that specs aren't everything?

I know specs aren't everything, but with better specs less lag. Also I like the designs HTC comes up with.

TechFreak1 says:

@heat3330, Some people cant look beyond numbers :p.

Edit: @bradley, yes and no it is about optimisation as poorly optimised software will be still be laggy on high end hardware. The 520 is a true example on what you get with optimised software on low end hardware compared to gms android prior to the kitkat update.

juanitoriv says:

Agreed. The L521 is a neat little device. L525 is supposed to be that much better. This is why a Lotus Elise has the performance it does. A 4 cylinder engine that can run with V12s. Its optimized to do so.

andy21andy says:

Specs are everything. I hate looking at pixels on my phone :)

kurotsuki says:

Specs aren't everything. I agree on that. But specs also aren't nothing. Better specs always bring better performance. Optimized or not, this rule still applied.
And don't forget that optimization has hardware limitations. Let's take 520 for example. While the UX is fairly smooth for day to day basis (as I use it everyday), it still cannot play games that require 1GB RAM.
So, while we might not need the topnotch specs, decent mid-high specs still act as one of big factors to choses smartphones.

Kevin Rush says:

Re: heat, tech,
Certainly spec numbers are not "everything", but they are an indicator of something. I am hoping in the future we have higher spec Windows Phones that truly multitask and have twice as many "Live" Live Tiles that all update twice as often. (A differentiating feature.) Maybe also a streaming live news feed with a streaming live financial tickertape and ... If we can do more than today, tomorrow, with less. Then I'm all for it, but I'll still be checking out the numbers and comparing features and costs. I think we'll see a pattern develop.

Best Wishes, No Worries.

Diamondx_8 says:

If it comes down to losing some differentiation or losing the entire battle with WP going down for the ten count, I will take this new approach.  I don't think all OEMs will take away the uniqueness so I can support this new and feel it is a good development.  I want Microsoft to do anything that guanrantees the long term survival of the OS.  I would hate to see it go away and have to choose between Apple or Android.  Time will tell.  

eddlang says:

This is a necessary evil. It might look desperate at first but IMO it’s a logical move to encourage OEMs to release WP devices, knowing they could design and engineer one device and it’ll work with two different OSes.

Driving down manufacturing costs is one of the most, if not the most important factor in this business, or any business for that matter.

juanitoriv says:

Its not so much the manufacturing costs, but the time and money spent for R&D.

vk1971 says:

They do whatever it takes to survive and prosper. So, our passion is their money. I don't blame them.

I just want consistency and reliability 

 

OMG55 says:

That's why the OS is off limits, only hardware can be modified or changed

Because only hardware is affected the consistency and reliability will be the same. The minimum specs are those of the 520 (top selling WP8) but brings very high end specs of say a Note 3

CobaltDragon says:

I think this is good. There really wasn't anything that unique to those few features...they've all existed on android devices for years...just making them required doesn't add anything to the platform...if anything it makes for less differentiation between WP devices, giving WP device creators less to change up to make their device different from other WPs.

I agree with the article - this allows oems to come on board easier. Some people want the latest hot device and couldn't care less about the rest - the htc one is screaming out for wp8. It may not have done too well on android, but it would be on a par with the best Nokia has to offer. Barring Nokia, what else does wp have, device wise? Sure, the 8x and the ativ but, really, devices like the icon and the 1020 are the flagships, and the1520, of course - they are just the norm for android (discounting the specialised 1020).

The htc one would be a great phone, on wp, and just imagine the Samsung gs5 coming sooner rather than later (though the Sammy google deal may nix that...)

Either way, this can only be good for wp8 - Sony z1 et al are great.

For me personally ... I lobe Nokia like i love blackberry :)

Give me the 1020 update!!!!! Lol

jlynnm350z says:

I lobe nokia to

Kevin Rush says:

Me "two", I mean three.

MrDiamondJ says:

More choice is good. Making things easier for manufacturers is also good. I like it.

glassadam says:

Personally, I never used the camera button anyway. Well, I used it to launch the app, but not to take photos-- too much camera shake on my 920.

mjrtoo says:

Hmmm...sounds like user error to me.

glassadam says:

Nope, not at all. There's simply less shake from just touching the screen then pushing down the camera button, at least on the 920, in my experience. Maybe on newer versions the button is better, I dont know. Sometimes the shake isn't there if I'm trying to be super steady, but with a screen tap I don't have to try at all, it's just steadier. But thanks for the snarky assumption that I'm some kind of idiot who can't press a button or something.

Robinsonmac says:

I 1000% agree!!! I only use the dedicated camera button to open the camera app. 

ruddevil says:

This is going to be the one that kills Android. Once those OEMs put in WP on their mid and low-end Android phones, WP would simply perform better for its stability and smooth user experience.

Someday in the future, I am seeing OEMs would produce new handsets running WP initially before launching their clones running Android.

addicusbrown says:

Exactly. In the beginning the manufacturers are adding WP to Android phones. Not long after they are adding Android to WP phones. Love how the OS remains locked down to keep the user experience universal throughout.

topleya says:

I love real buttons and camera button, so this sucks a lot

andy21andy says:

I don't like the camera button. A lot of times when I put my phone in my pocket I will accidentally turn the camera button and the phone will be on for a while

Kevin Rush says:

Re: topleya,
It's not a new requirement for all phones. Just buy the phone with the features you want.

HoosierDaddy says:

Yes. If only someone else but you liked them and future WP phone makers were allowed to have real buttons..........Wait a minute.

mango.lover says:

At this point I also don't care. We need market share, and we need it NOW!

Residing says:

Who is 'we'?  Are you Microsoft?

Kevin Rush says:

Re: Residing, Figuratively speaking, join the team. Everyone welcome.

siddhant_96 says:

Yeah...one should not lose its uniqueness no matter what they have to deal with! With the screen off....no one could differentiate between a windows phone or an android!!! That's sad! :(

andy21andy says:

They still have a choice to put the WP buttons..

Jay Bennett says:

Overall this is good news, although I hope most manufacturers realise that the dedicated camera button is actually a key feature that many of us love. Launching directly to camera from lock screen with that button is still one of the best features that kept going from the WP7 days

kullkid92x says:

Yeah, i just care about the camera button lol

gives me very quick access to point n shoot. Though i tap the screen to capture

lubbalots says:

Not worried about other OEMs. Just concerned with MS's purchase of Nokia's device division as to will I, oops, we lose the quality updates and innovation we're accustomed too? For example glance for Nokia phones. How about the camera? I'm getting worried. Just can't fathom the idea MS screwing up and screwing.

cannon#WP says:

If you want innovation, then this is a great move. Competition breeds innovation. Having more OEMs jockeying for WP dominance pushes them to innovate to differentiate. It really depends on MS and the cost of the OS license fee. Since android was "free" that allowed OEMs to take chances while $8 a device for WP forces OEMs to go the safe route.

lubbalots says:

No OEM can innovate camera phone better than Nokia. Look at the former lead designer, he left. Once the purchase goes through, just afraid of MS's influence, which may cause the best of Nokia's innovators to leave.

willied says:

I'm hoping most phones still come with the camera button. One of the many things I love about WP.

Dk92 says:

I really don't see this as a bad thing. As long as they're not completely changing the UI, I'm fine with OEMs having a little more freedom.

andy21andy says:

Yea they don't have access to have customized UI's like on android. This is a good thing BC it keeps experience on WP universal

schlubadub says:

I just see this as a huge nightmare for developers. Also, consumers are more likely to miss out on updates if it's left to OEMs to update them... Why update last years model when you've got another 6 new models being pushed out? Hopefully this won't mean they get lower quality hardware, and end up blaming the OS for it.

cannon#WP says:

You mean like AT&T 920s getting the Amber update dead last?

ebradley says:

Yep. The carrier to launch the 920 has kept it anchored.

andy21andy says:

Maybe Microsoft can fix that by allowing the developer preview program be available to all WP.

Karkadann says:

Actually I really don't care, as long as they make sure the user experience will be smooth in any device, from the low to the high-end. I don't want to go through checking specs and benchmarks like crazy to get a device with an acceptable performance.

If they can keep the user experience AND make it easier for more manufacturers to join in, excellent!

mbooks says:

Android has 75+% but mostly I see iPhones. You want the US, have hw restrictions and go for best hardware. Want the rest of the world to be on Windows, this is necessary. There will still be opportunities for top notch hardware for the folks that want it. Thanks to Nokia and some of these changes. I like it!

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