Microsoft’s plans to launch a partner programme for resellers come amid growing excitement about Windows Phone 8.
The first devices, the Windows Phone 8X and 8S by HTC and the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, went on sale earlier this month. Samsung will swiftly follow suit with its Ativ S, which will hit the market in the coming weeks.
Operators and distributors are hopeful the launch could bring a much needed competitor to the b2b sphere, which has been dominated by BlackBerry and Apple. Martin Stiven, VP for business at EE, said one of the attractive features of Windows Phone 8 was its compatibility with other Microsoft products such as Office and Outlook. He said the ability to send messages, join web conferences or make calls using the Lync unified communications platform will help ‘boost productivity and efficiencies’.
Stiven said: ‘Windows 8 is available on the Nokia 920, one of EE’s latest 4G smartphones. We’ve seen a positive response to this device and in line with expectations we’ve already connected thousands of customers to our new 4G plans.’
Vodafone said it worked with Microsoft for the past two years as a development partner for its Windows 8 laptops and tablets and Windows Phones. It said it expects the operating system to lead to an increase in demand for tablets. A spokesperson said: ‘SMEs are driving a lot of the adoption of tablets within enterprise.’
Micro-P, which distributes Windows Phone handsets, has been holding a number of roundtable events with Microsoft as it looks to educate its base about the operating system’s potential. Simon Woodman, Micro-P Mobile sales director, said he had seen demand ‘explode’ for these devices since the latest version of the operating system launched. He said: ‘We feel Microsoft is 100% more engaged. We have had more meetings about what we want to do and they are very receptive to ideas and opportunities.'
He said he felt there were ‘huge opportunities’ for the enterprise space for Windows Phone 8: ‘We’ve seen sales across the spectrum from between 4,000 to 6,000 devices to one of our big customers, to small and medium businesses buying five.’
Mainline’s head of strategic business development Gail Hollinshead said while BlackBerry will remain an important player in the b2b space along with the iPhone, price will be a key plank in the potential success of Windows Phone 8. She said: ‘We will see a growth of people who were on low-end handsets but are now moving up to Windows Phone 8.’
However, Andrew Peat, 20:20 Mobile marketing and purchasing director, struck a note of caution. It counts Research in Motion among its partners and he said that demand is still apparent for its devices. He said: ‘What we have found with the b2b market is that they are very happy with BlackBerry. We try to sell Android into that area as well as iOS. But despite the company’s well-publicised problems, b2b companies are very reluctant to step away from BlackBerry.’
He said excitement is around the same level as when Windows Phone 7 was launched in late 2011, which did not translate strongly into sales. He added: ‘For me WP8 is an evolution, rather than anything revolutionary. But I do think it will pick up share. There’s a need for another b2b operating system but Microsoft will have to do more marketing than it is at the minute.’ Microsoft will hope its partner programme helps build this share.