Four things Microsoft needs to do now to boost Windows Phone

The hard work starts now that its Nokia acquisition has been closed

Now that Microsoft has finally closed its acquisition of Nokia's devices and services business the company needs to accelerate efforts to attract more developers, help cut the cost of smartphones running Windows Phone and make sure its new employees feel welcome.

Windows Phone may be the third largest smartphone OS, but its worldwide market share was only about 4 percent last year. Here are four things Microsoft needs to do to improve the platform's fortunes:

Attract more developers

Windows Phone is still trailing iOS and Android when it comes to app availability. The gap has become smaller, but it's still very much a problem, especially in the high-end sector.

To get developers to create more apps, Microsoft has come up with a concept called universal apps. With the Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 updates, developers can build applications that run with little or no modification on PCs, tablets and smartphones, and soon on Xboxes, as well.

Making it easier for developers to create apps is a step in the right direction. But nothing will get developers to take note as much as increasing sales.

Lower the cost of Windows Phones

The smartphone market is going through major changes as the primary driver for growth in the years ahead will be low-cost devices. Microsoft has been slow to make the changes necessary for the cost of Windows Phone-based smartphones to drop below US$100 without a contract.

However, earlier this year Microsoft announced support for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 200 and 400 processors, which open the door for cheaper devices. The sooner phones that are powered by the Snapdragon 200 start shipping, the better. Also, it wouldn't hurt if Microsoft added, for example, Mediatek's processors to increase the competition.

Decide what to do with all its OSes

Now that Nokia's devices are part of Microsoft, the company's mobile devices run six OSes: Windows, Windows RT, Windows Phone, Android on the Nokia X smartphones and the proprietary platforms on Nokia's Asha feature phones and its cheapest mobile phones.

Until Microsoft can lower the cost of Windows Phone-based devices, getting rid of the three platforms Nokia has used beyond Windows Phone makes little sense. But coming up with a reason why Microsoft would want to continue to develop Windows RT, as well, is difficult.

Get along with new employees

A challenge with any acquisition, especially when buying a company from another country, is to get along without too many major culture clashes that make smart employees want to leave. But to turn the Nokia acquisition into a success without losing momentum, everyone has to work together.

The Lumia team should fit in most easily, because it has already collaborated with Microsoft. Getting Nokia employees that have worked on the X, Asha and mobile phones onboard could turn out to be trickier. But they are also important as Microsoft has a lot to gain from offering products at all price ranges.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Tags mobile applicationsconsumer electronicsMicrosoftMobile OSesNokiasmartphonesmobileWindows Phone

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