Though phones based on Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system have been available for some time, the real test - whether the initiative ultimately will sink or swim - finally is here. Put simply, 2012 will be make or break for Windows Phone.
So far, sales have been sluggish. Hope springs eternal, however, and Redmond can take some comfort at what folks are saying before and at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is held annually in Las Vegas in early January and invariably plays a role in setting the tech agenda for the year.
The New York Times chose to preview CES with a positive - even a bit effusive - feature on the software. The paper laid out the basics: The initial Windows Phone (at that point, Windows Phone 7) devices didn't give anyone a reason to abandon Android for Apple. The company last year struck a deal with Nokia for the Finnish company to use the OS in its phones. That deal and updates to the OS have provided something of a reset for Microsoft. The Times' Nick Wingfield put it this way:
While the likes of Apple have captured our imaginations with nifty products like the iPhone, Microsoft has produced a long list of flops, from smart wristwatches to the Zune music player to the Kin phones. Steve Jobs used to deride Microsoft for a lack of originality. In his opinion, the company didn't bring "much culture" to its products. With Windows Phone, though, Microsoft is finally getting some buzz.
NewsFactor reports on the introduction of the Nokia Lumia 900 and the HTC Titan II at CES. The big deal is that the phones run on AT&T's Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. The devices run on Mango, which is the updated version of Windows Phone. The story offers a rundown of the specs for the devices and points out that new phones from other vendors stole some of the limelight at the convention.
The bottom line is that the fluid state of the mobile sector, both in the consumer and enterprise worlds, creates a good deal of opportunity. All Things D reports on some aggressive estimates from Morgan Stanley. The firm said that combined HTC and Nokia Windows Phone unit sales could reach 43 million units this year and 74 million in 2013. Other vendors also will using the OS, so those numbers - if realized - position Microsoft for some big numbers.
A lot is at stake for Microsoft. Obviously, the enterprise world has changed drastically since the company's heyday. Whether it will carve out a niche in the roiling world of mobility - perhaps supplanting BlackBerrry and Research In Motion in the third slot - is unclear. In any case, the fate of Windows Phone will be one of the most interesting and important stories of 2012.