Peter Becker-Pennrich is a pretty important man, at least for Microsoft. As global director for terminals marketing at the Vodafone Group, he holds decision making powers over a procurement strategy buys between 60 and 70 million handsets each year, spending $8bn.
Therefore when he says Microsoft intends to replace the Windows Phone 7 kernel with a new one from Windows 8, that should be taken rather seriously.
In a very interesting and lengthy interview with Telecoms he is quoted as saying:
â€¦.. if you look at what theyâ€™re doing now, the Windows Phone 8 kernel is completely changing from Windows Phone 7 to be the same as they have for Windows 8 on the PC. Just look at it technically, two or three years into the future, what exactly will be the difference between a PC which happens to be quite flat and has a touch screen compared to a tablet compared to a smaller version of that which is a smartphone?
In the interview he says Vodafone plans to reduce the number of vendors they plan to purchase phones from, down from the 8 they use now, that Apple may have come to the end of its innovation cycle, that smooth integration with the home environment may be the new trend, and that Windows Phone is a welcome balance to Android and iOS.
On that issue he writes:
Letâ€™s return to the present competitive situation now. Nokia and Microsoft have made a high profile return to the smartphone space. Is Vodafone pleased to see them back with Windows Phone?
The duopoly of iOS and Android feels uncomfortable and, if you look below the surface, iOS makes it difficult for us to push our services and differentiation agenda. So competition is always good. But Android is actually much more helpful than WP at the moment if you look at the high level requirements from an operator perspective in terms of commercial flexibility, attractiveness to lots of vendors, the ability to pre-embed things and deeply root things into the OS.
Android does that quite neatly. The only problem is that if Google had a bad day and changed all its policies then thereâ€™s relatively little that the industry could do about it. Thatâ€™s where a lot of the discomfort is coming from. So we need more competition in the smartphone OS space.
Windows Phone is not there yet. They are making genuine efforts for Windows Phone 8 but in Window Phone 7 there is still a lot to be wished for, especially when it comes to offering all those things we need on the enterprise side and the overall flexibility of the OS. Having said that there is benefit in having competition and more players on the market and thatâ€™s why we welcome Nokia and Microsoft back into that space.
So do you think that Microsoft has a strong play in the smartphone space now?
Well, I continue to be confused with Microsoftâ€™s stance. On the one hand they want to provide a fairly rigid, streamlined experience, saying they donâ€™t want to confuse the customer. They want to have a brand recognition for their experienceâ€”they donâ€™t want to be like Android where, in some cases, you canâ€™t distinguish whatâ€™s underneath the skin that the vendors put on top of the OS. But in itself this is of no value for anyone in the ecosystem except for Microsoft.
On the other hand they want to appeal to as many OEMs as possible. But if they want to be restrictive with their experience and at the same time appeal to the OEMs, you just canâ€™t square that. Why would an OEM be interested in taking the platform if they canâ€™t differentiate on top of it?
My long term expectation is that at some point Nokia and Microsoft will become one. Not necessarily from a financial and corporate entity perspective but simply because itâ€™s hard for the likes of Samsung and HTC to really justify any investments into Windows Phone if Nokia is benefiting from much tighter integration with Microsoft and the much bigger bet the company has made on Windows Phone.
Lastly on Nokia he writes:
Do you have a positive outlook on Nokiaâ€™s chances for success with its new offering?
Iâ€™m tentatively optimistic. I donâ€™t believe that success is guaranteed but nor is it all doom and gloom which, you sometimes see in the analyst opinion pieces. Nokia stlll has one of the strongest and largest supply chains in the world. Their economies of scale are still significant. Unlike some of their competitors they do have a quite substantial presence, in all of the markets that we operate in, at least. Itâ€™s really important, if youâ€™re a vendor, that you know how to work the channels and youâ€™ve got enough sales structure in place.
And they do still have brand value, for sureâ€”and a lot of brand recognition. This is a dormant asset because, if they manage to underpin that with more attractive productsâ€”and you could say the Lumia800 is an attractive product compared to what came beforeâ€”then I can see how a lot of these things can be leveraged again, compared to where they were last year. There could be quite a good growth curve for Nokia in the smartphone segment in 2012. Is that going to happen for sure? I donâ€™t knowâ€”but they have a fighting chance and therefore Iâ€™m tentatively optimistic.
The full interview is certainly worth a read, to give an insight into the minds making the decisions on what shows up on the carrier store floors.
Read the full interview here.