In a joint press conference held this morning, Microsoft, Fujitsu-Toshiba and KDDI unveiled [J] the Fujitsu-Toshiba IS12T smartphone, the world’s very first Windows Phone Mango handset hitting Japan this September only on the KDDI AU mobile network. The phone features a 3.7″ LED display, 1 Ghz Qualcomm MSM8655 CPU, 32GB internal memory, 13.2 Megapixel Camera and is both water and dust proof. While not necessarily revolutionary by hardware standards, the Fujitsu-Toshiba IS12T is the very first smartphone in the world to feature Microsofts latest Windows Phone 7.5 Update (codenamed Mango). Samsung, Acer, and other major smartphone manufacturers also intend to release Mango smartphones late this year / early next year.
As competition and sales heat up between the iPhone and Android market and total smartphone sales skyrocketing Microsoft is no doubt eager to enter this previously isolated and domestic mobile market. Within the past two years we have see the smartphone transform from an eccentricity of the feature phone dominated mobile market into the top-selling mobile phone category with more than 10 million iPhones and Android handsets in the market.
This exclusivity contract should further benifit KDDI who has been late to joining the smartphone boom, first with Softbank essentially becoming an Apple retail chain with the iPhone (and iPad), and Docomo making a delayed but powerful push with the Samsung Galaxy and the currently ongoing advertising for the Samsung Galaxy II. While there is by no means anything to directly indicate that the Windows Phone could be successful, it will certainly help differentiate the KDDI brand which is still perceived as the cheapest of the three major mobile networks.
This announcement of Microsofts big push with Fujitsu-Hitachi also comes just weeks after Nokia announced they would completely withdraw from Japan. After years of fighting an uphill battle against the feature phone market, Nokia had diminished their offerings to the Vertu series, a luxury mobile phone aimed at high-end consumers. If the Windows phone catches fire the way Android has in Japan, Nokia may have a means and opportunity to give it, yet again, another go.
To help lower the conversion costs for Japanese consumers seeking to move to the Windows Phone, Microsoft has also announced [J] a partnership with Gree to pre-install their social gaming platform into phone. Partnering with these key services will reduce barriers to entry for Japanese who might potentially be interested in the platform. As the new Mango platform offers Internet Explorer 9 with HTML5 compatibility, there should not be any issue running Gree games with their new Flash to HTML5 converter tool provided to developers.