Microsoft has focused on Windows 8.1 this week at its Build developers conference, but the company has a few sessions on Windows Phone too. Speaking to The Verge on Wednesday, senior Windows Phone product manager Larry Lieberman outlined the company's perspective on Windows Phone 8's progression. "We think we're solidly the third ecosystem right now," says Lieberman. "That's a huge announcement in some respects." In fact Windows Phone overtook BlackBerry in May, but it's still very much a two-horse race with Android and iOS dominating.
Lieberman isn't worried about BlackBerry though. "I don't think they can bring to the table some of the things we have," he says. "The fact like we're delivering across such a different set of price points to such a large audience." These low price points have been a key part of Nokia's influence on the Windows Phone platform, with the pair teaming up to push the OS software down to low-cost devices. Microsoft isn't comfortable in third place though, and Lieberman believes Windows Phone is "growing faster than anyone else right now."
Microsoft opts for shut up and ship approach
The growth is small, but Windows Phone's primary hardware partner, Nokia, is really pushing the pace of devices. The Finnish smartphone maker fleshed out its range fully earlier this year, but the Windows Phone software appears to be held back by Microsoft. This week at Build there's no core platform announcements, or promises of additional features. It's very much shut up and ship, and Lieberman refused to be drawn into a features discussion or talk of a recently leaked handset running an early version of Windows Phone 8.1. Citing the user voices feedback site, Lieberman admitted the company gets a lot of feedback. "We look at that very carefully," he says. When we noted that the lack of notification center is the top feature request on the user voice site, Lieberman said "I'm aware of that," noting that Microsoft is committed to addressing the needs from the user voice site. It wasn't a confirmation of notification center, but it's clear from recent leaks that Microsoft is investigating it.
Microsoft faces the age old problem of still needing devices in the market to attract developers and create a network effect. Liberman quipped "it's chicken and egg, so we need to create the bionic chicken." Given the pace of Windows Phone updates, and the quiet approach, it's possible the firm is building up to a solid release of improvements. For now the ball is very much in Microsoft's court to be as aggressive with Windows Phone as it's demonstrating on the Windows 8.1 side.