It’s shaping up to be a rough Mobile World Congress for Microsoft, with little new expected on either the hardware or software front for Windows Phone.
The Barcelona event will see the debut of dozens of new Android phones, said sources, but it is unlikely that there will be launches of any new Windows Phone models.
Microsoft has a media event planned for Sunday, but it isn’t expected to go into detail on the next version of Windows Phone and is likely to talk only in broad strokes about the future of its phone effort.
Instead, it is saving the full public debut of Windows Phone 8.1 for its own Build developer event in April in San Francisco.
And neither Nokia nor Microsoft’s other Windows Phone partners are expected to introduce new models at the event either, according to sources. That said, Nokia did launch one model last week, the Lumia Icon for Verizon.
Given all the attention on the annual phone gathering in Spain, which starts next week, will this lack of a shiny new product be a problem for the software giant?
Sources at the company have said getting things right in mobile is a top priority for Microsoft as longtime exec Satya Nadella takes over as CEO.
It will be a big job. Even with a stepped-up effort from Microsoft, Windows Phone has remained in a distant third place to Android and the iPhone, accounting for only single-digit percentages of the market in most countries, and just over three percent in the U.S. market.
That said, sales were up significantly year over year, as Windows Phone grew off its relatively small market share.
That’s why a stall in new models threatens to undermine the progress that Nokia and Microsoft have made, especially as Samsung and others introduce a myriad of new flagship phones.
Meanwhile, Nokia, which is in the process of being acquired by Microsoft, is actually expected to use Mobile World Congress to introduce a low-end phone based on Android.
As reported last year, the Asha-on-Linux AOL effort uses the open source parts of Android at its core, swapping in its own Windows Phone-like user interface and replacing Google’s services with a combination of ones from Microsoft and Nokia. Codenamed Normandy, the effort has proceeded despite the planned Microsoft deal, although it remains to be seen how big a role the project will play once the deal closes.
And, in what could be even more rough news for Windows Phone, leaked benchmarks (since deleted) appeared to show Normandy devices outperforming the Lumia 1020 in a browser performance test.
Both Microsoft and Nokia declined to comment on plans for MWC.