NEW DELHI: Indian smartphone market is dominated by Android. But, in 2014 this may change. Microsoft is working with Indian phone makers like Lava to launch Windows Phone (WP) devices that will take on the mainstream and low-cost Android phones. The WP devices sold by the local companies are likely to be available in the market in the first half of 2014. They will be powered by Windows Phone 8.1, the next version of Windows Phone.
Vishal Sehgal, co-founder and director of Xolo, a separate entity created by Lava for premium phones, said Microsoft was talking to his company for Windows Phones.
“We will come out with a WP device next year. The plan is to launch with Windows Phone 8.1,” he said.
The Windows Phone 8.1 is likely to fix several important issues like lack of notification centre that have so far kept consumers away from Microsoft’s mobile operating system (OS).
Globally, Microsoft has found very little support from hardware companies for Windows Phone. Only Nokia, which doesn’t make Android phones, is pushing the OS.
Samsung, HTC, Huawei have mostly focused on Android devices instead of their Windows Phone devices.
Microsoft is also talking to Micromax, the second biggest smartphone maker in India after Samsung. However, sources said a Windows Phone device from Micromax wasn’t a certainty at this point of time.
“Talks are on but we need to agree on how we can do that. One of the contentious issues is the licence fee that has to be paid to Microsoft for using Windows Phone.
Android on the other hand is free,” said a Micromax official. “Given the tough competition, margins are low. If we also pay licence fee, it may make the device too costly for consumers”.
Shashin Devsare, executive director of Karbonn, refused to confirm or deny that his company was in talks with Microsoft. But he added Karbonn was a hardware and software agnostic company. “Currently, all our smartphones are powered by Android. But we are talking with other companies and evaluating if their software will help us provide a different experience to consumers,” he said.
According to IDC, Karbonn, Micromax and Lava had a combined share of 32% in the smartphone market in Q3, 2013. In total, local phone companies have a market share of over 50%. In comparison, Nokia, which makes Lumia phones powered by Windows Phone, had a market share of just 5%.
One of the factors that make Android, which according to IDC has a market share of around 90% in India, so successful is its adoption by local phone makers. And one of the reasons behind high adoption of Android is that it is free to use. Local phone companies are asking Microsoft to waive the licence fee if it wants them to use Windows Phone for their devices but so far Microsoft is yet to commit to the free OS.
A Microsoft spokesperson refused to confirm or deny that the company was talking to Indian phone companies. However, sources said the company was interested in strengthening Windows Phone ecosystem and was looking for ways to introduce the OS into more phones, especially in the mainstream and low-end segment.