Microsoft Offering Windows Phone For Free To Indian Hardware Manufacturers

Microsoft’s Windows Phone has been doing well over the past few months. It has overtaken BlackBerry OS and is currently the third most popular smartphone platform on the planet. The only problem is, this third place is actually a very distant third place thanks to the absolute dominance that Google’s Android holds over the smartphones arena today. If that wasn’t all, Windows Phone also has the daunting task of competing with Apple’s much praised iOS based iPhones, which currently ranks second. All this leads us to the conclusion that Windows Phone still a tiny blip on the radar when it comes to overall global smartphones market share.

In a move to change that, Microsoft seems to have taken up an interesting strategy. If a report by Indian newspaper Economic Times is to be believed, Microsoft would be offering Windows Phone for free to Indian low cost handset manufacturers Lava and Karbonn. This is an unprecedented move by Microsoft because currently, even Microsoft’s staunchest ally and soon to be subsidiary, Nokia pays Microsoft hefty licensing money in order to use the Operating System on their hardware – to the tune of $20 to $30 per device. The fact that Microsoft is willing to forgo its licensing fee in order to gain traction in India is seen as a desperate move by the Redmond based firm to stay relevant in India.

Windows Phone and Nokia did have some success in India when they launched the Lumia 520 in the country. The low cost handset did exceptionally well in India. Nokia followed it up with an upgraded Lumia 525 a few months ago. Windows Phone currently accounts for less than 10 percent of the smartphones market share in India, according to analytics firm IDC. An analyst from the firm also believes that the waiving of licensing fees by Microsoft would let these small players experiment with Windows Phone and offer their customers an alternative to Google’s Android platform – which is already free to use.

The news comes close on the heels of an announcement by Microsoft during the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona last month where the company announced that both Lava and Karbonn have joined the Windows Phone fray. Both these companies are famous for their low cost Android powered offerings in the highly volatile low cost smartphones market in India which is booming.

Lava Mobiles has in the past had made headline news when it was amongst the first mobile phone makers to come up with Intel powered Android smartphones. Looks like Microsoft too wants its share of the low cost smartphones pie, and desperately so.

The Economic Times adds that Microsoft was in talks with both Lava and Karbonn Mobiles since last year. The deal however went through only after Microsoft agreed to forgo its licensing fees. At this point, no other Windows Phone hardware partner gets the Operating System for free, the paper adds.

Microsoft has not commented yet on these developments.

Do you think this strategy by Microsoft will pay off?