Microsoft Planning New Business-Focused ‘Superphones’ for 2012

Microsoft is preparing a new generation of Window Phone “superphones” for 2012, according to the tech website WMPowerUser.

Leaked documents claiming to show Microsoft's smartphone roadmap for the coming year reveal that the company plans to storm ahead with new versions of its Windows Phone software and powerful new Apollo superphones. Photo: iStockphoto.com

The introduction of such ‘Superphones’ in 2012 is expected to set the scene for the next major battle of the smartphone wars, with the Apple iPhone 5 and new advanced Android-based smartphones also in the works.

Although there is no exact definition for the ‘superphone’ term, they are generally expected to include very high-def touchscreens, more powerful multi-core processors based on ARM’s forthcoming A15 architecture, fast LTE connectivity, Near Field Communication (NFC) and etc.

According to the documents obtained by Windows-centric blog WMPoweruser.com, Microsoft said it would introduce ‘superphones’ in the 4th quarter of 2012. The new hardware will come alongside a new version of its mobile operating system, dubbed “Apollo.”

The current version of Windows Mobile, “Mango”, released in October, was generally well-received by reviewers. Microsoft was late to properly join the smartphone wars, however, and sales have been slow so far, despite the introduction of Nokia’s first flagship Windows Phone handset, the Lumia 800.

Microsoft is also planning the launch of two new mobile operating systems for 2012, one a less feature-rich OS designed for downstream handsets and the other a more advanced piece of mobile software set to accompany new “superphones.”

The fairly simple memo details a roadmap for the Windows Phone OS that began with WP7 launched in 2010, and followed the Mango update released earlier this fall.

The next step forward will reportedly occur in the second quarter of 2012, when Microsoft will release Tango, a pared down OS designed for “products with the best prices” in mind. The move would be a departure from other major OS makers that continue to move their offerings upstream.

The fourth step detailed in the memo is the real headline-maker, an OS named Apollo that will help support Microsoft’s “superphone” business. The mobile operating system is scheduled to be introduced in the fourth quarter of 2012, at which time Microsoft will increase its overall volume of handset production and begin marketing more toward businesses, presumably looking to fill the void left by struggling RIM.

The report caps off an interesting 2011 for Microsoft’s Windows Phone unit, which made headlines several times this year, highlighted particularly by its Nokia partnership and its massive Mango update. Unfortunately for the software giant, not much has come from either announcement, at least not yet.

Recent figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech show Windows Phone has only around a 1.3 per cent share of the market. Nokia committed to making only Windows Phone devices early in 2011, but has said it will only begin to fully exploit the partnership when Apollo is released.

“We made the decision to go to Windows Phone when Mango was pretty much done, so we were able to impact some elements of it but you’ll really see the fruits of what we can do with Microsoft when the Apollo version of Windows Phone comes out,” spokesman Niklas Savander said in October.

News that major updates to Windows Phone at the cutting edge of the market are almost a year away has disappointed some devotees and prompted concerns that Microsoft could fall further behind Apple and Google in the meantime. Both are expected to push their handsets into the superphone era earlier in 2012.

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