What's behind Huawei's no-show at the Windows Phone 8 announcement, and Microsoft's waning appetite for the Japanese market?
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are all supporting Windows Phone 8. It's unclear whether the absence of Sprint Nextel from the list of U.S. wireless operators supporting Microsoft has any connections to the company’s takeover by Japan's Softbank.
It’s important to note that Softbank expanded its smartphone market share in Japan by being the first carrier there to champion the iPhone. Softback backed the iPhone in Japan when others there predicted it would flop.
NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest cellular network operator, is known as Microsoft’s staunchest supporter. It has gone so far as promising to offer “added security features for corporate users of tablet computers running on the new Windows 8 operating system,” according to Nikkei. If true, that’s a great boost for Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablets in the enterprise market.
When it comes to Windows Phone 8, however, NTT Docomo is in a tough spot. Despite initial plans to sell Windows Phone 8 handsets this winter in Japan, Microsoft has postponed the release to an unspecified future date.
Microsoft is proceeding as planned with a Windows Phone 8 rollout in November, including the U.S., Europe and China. That has prompted much speculation in the Japanese media as to why Microsoft is stiffing Japan.
Regardless, the Japanese have no one to blame but their own handset manufacturers. Sharp, Fujitsu, NEC, Panasonic, Sony and Kyocera are all potential Windows Phone 8 handset suppliers to NTT Docomo. But the word on the street is that none of the domestic manufacturers has come up with handsets that can compete with other Windows Phone 8 models developed by Nokia, Samsung or HTC.
Truth be told, Microsoft can’t afford to spend resources supporting more Windows Phone 8s beyond the current Japanese models is already supports. Plus, Japan is a much smaller market than China and the U.S. The Japanese wireless market isn’t attractive to Microsoft in terms of return on investment, industry sources said.
Huawei's absence and Microsoft's apparent lack of interest in the Japanese smartphone market highlight the geopolitical and market issues that become even more interesting the more the "experts" ignore them.
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