Few years back, mobile phones were used by us just for the sole purpose of communication. The communication first took place with voice calls then extended to short messaging services (160 characters) of text, then to Multimedia messaging, then to simple data transfer using WAP.
Now however with the advent of smartphones, communication features in mobile phones became over shadowed by Applications, User Experience, etc,. People however never stopped using mobile phones as their means of communication. In the current mobile ecosystem, considering Apple’s iOS, Google’s( Oh, Oracle’s) Android 😉 , RIM’s Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, Windows Phone stands out in the crowd with its communication features and it will truly differentiate from others in future as well.
Microsoft is geared up to uniquely positioned itself as the phone OS best designed for communication . How will Microsoft achieve that? Here is the answer in single line,
Windows Live Messenger + Skype + Facebook + Lync + Voice Call + SMS
Windows Live Messenger:
They own Windows Live Messenger, the largest IM service in the world with over 300 million users. Windows Live Messenger is already integrated in Windows Phone Mango. Users can swipe between SMS and Messenger to communicate with people in Windows Phone’s Messaging hub. The beauty is that, if you are chatting with someone through Messenger, and if he/she goes offline, you can simply touch a button to continue your conversation through SMS. No other platform can have such deep access to Windows Live Messenger.
Microsoft earlier this year announced the acquisition of Skype. The deal is still under approval from European Union whereas its already approved in USA. Skype is the largest VOIP provider and known for its video chat capabilities. Skype has partnerships with carriers and allows users to call any mobile number or landline around the world through its Skype client for less money compared to traditional carrier international calls. Skype has a loyal user base of about 120 million in number. Again, integrating Skype in Windows Phone will happen with next release of Windows Phone (hope so). Ability to make a call or video call to another person right from contact card will be the expected scenario. There should be no Skype client in Windows Phone, instead all its features must be built into OS. Skype recently revealed that they have similar plans. Lets hope it happens soon. Since Microsoft owns Skype, no other platform can have access to Skype, other than Official and 3rd party client apps.
Microsoft friended Facebook, with the smart investment of $240 million 4 years ago. That investment has become invaluable to Microsoft these days. Facebook has become secret weapon for Microsoft in the battle against Google in Search with Social Search features. Facebook is the largest social network in world with more than 750 million users. Many people have started using Facebook as their primary communication platform, and its hard to ignore because all your friends are there in Facebook chit chatting with everyone. Windows Phone has Facebook chat built right into the messaging hub providing similar experience as with Windows Live Messenger. Still there are lots of room for improvement for Facebook integration in Windows Phone such as unified messaging support, video chat,etc. Still it at least has text chat integrated into OS where Google won’t be able to integrate Facebook chat into Android as they own their own Gtalk service and much hyped rival social network product Google+. Even when it comes to relationship between Apple and Facebook, it is bad. Apple wasnt able to integrate Facebook in its music social network Ping. The talks between the companies fell apart and I guess that won’t happen in future as well. Facebookâ€™s 750 million users presents a huge opportunity for Microsoft!
Microsoft Lync, previously known as Office Communication Server is an enterprise collaboration suite. It includes chat, voice chat, video chat, screen sharing, white board collaboration, etc,. Lync is one of the fastest growing products in Microsoft’s history. To put that in a perspective Microsoft said Lync is the "Kinect of Enterprise". More than 60% of the Forbes magazine’s top companies has deployed Lync already. Microsoft has already announced and even demoed the Lync client for Windows Phone Mango that’s coming this fall. But Lync will/should be integrated into OS just like Facebook and Windows Live Messenger. This could be a deal maker for Enterprise users who would prefer native OS integration to a client app in other platforms. Again, Google and Apple can’t have access to Lync other than client apps for their platforms.
Voice Call + SMS:
Only this space is almost equally open to all the ecosystems. Still, Microsoft along with Nokia, its premier hardware partner and other OEMs have strong relationship with carriers around the world. That should enable any voice call and SMS related stuff features in Windows Phones more than Apple. Android’s model is similar to that of Windows Phones, so it won’t make much difference between them.
One could argue that Apple has FaceTime, iMessage,etc. or RIM has BBM, etc. which Windows Phone lacks from. However Windows Phone is the best placed to pull in and unify services already used by hundreds of millions of users, and it is this ability to work with others that’s the biggest advantage Microsoft has over Apple.
My final thought is that Microsoft with its communication properties and relationships can make Windows Phone a Killer Communication platform.