The mobile universe is gathering this week in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress industry conference. Microsoft, keeping its powder dry for the launch of Windows 10 later this year, wasn’t expected to make a huge splash at the event. But there was still plenty of news over the weekend and Monday at Barcelona’s mobile Mecca.
Lawsuit aside, Microsoft apps migrate to Samsung. Reporters who tested Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 smartphone couldn’t help but notice an unusual feature: the home screen had a “Microsoft Apps” folder containing links to cloud storage service OneDrive, chat program Skype and OneNote. This comes a month after Microsoft and Samsung settled their patent royalty dispute, which was steaming toward a messy hearing in court.
Of course, Samsung, which primarily builds phones for Google’s Android operating system, isn’t ditching Google. The regular slate of Google apps was pre-loaded onto the phone, too. But an expanded partnership between Microsoft and Samsung shows Redmond has made another partner in its push to make fans of its apps on other devices, as sales of its own Windows Phone lag.
BlackBerry reboots. Microsoft isn’t the only smartphone player trying to stay relevant in part by offering software for devices made by competitors. The Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry, formerly dominant in smartphone building, is increasingly turning to a strategy of writing applications for phones running Android, iOS or Windows. BlackBerry’s messaging app is already available for those platforms. Executives at MWC say apps for BlackBerry’s virtual keyboard and security tools are coming, too, Reuters reports.
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“I intend to continue to build a hardware business” BlackBerry CEO John Chen told reporters, according to Reuters. “But there will be a lot of focus on the software business too.” That dual focus should sound familiar to Microsoft watchers.
New Windows phones (but no iPhone competitor). Sorry, high-end phone fans. Microsoft’s continues to hold back its most powerful hardware until the release of Windows 10 operating system later this year. That means that while Samsung fires back at Apple’s iPhone 6 in Barcelona, Microsoft continues to hammer away at the mid- to low-end of the market. Early Monday, Microsoft introduced the Lumia 640 and a twin with a bigger screen and more powerful camera, the Lumia 640 XL. The phones range in price from 139 euros (about $155) to 219 euros ($245).
Microsoft touts smartphone partners, but results may vary. Microsoft last year dropped the licensing fee it charged manufacturers for copies of Windows for smartphones and small tablets, essentially an invitation for phone builders to choose the operating system instead of Google’s dominant free-to-use Android.
Microsoft on Sunday posted a graphic showing about three dozen phones built by manufacturers across the globe. But that group has had little success selling Windows Phones recently. By researcher ABI’s tally, 10.7 million Windows Phone devices were sold during the fourth quarter of 2014. Microsoft’s own Lumia brand was responsible for selling 10.5 million, or 98 percent, of that total.
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