Microsoft launches Windows 10 smartphones in Middle East as it targets business users

Microsoft is hoping its long-awaited Windows 10 smartphones will gain traction among corporate and enterprise users in the Middle East and help the company to shore up its dwindling market share in the mobile space, even as analysts remain unconvinced.

On Tuesday, the company announced the regional launch of its Lumia 950 and 950 XL smartphones, the first mobile devices to run on the recently introduced software platform.

The company is hoping that the handsets will appeal in particular to business users fully invested in Windows 10 across their devices, who will be attracted by the ability to use services such as Microsoft Word and One Note across mobile, tablets and PCs.

“We designed Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL for people who want the most productive smartphones running the most productive operating system,” said Mohammed Arif, Windows business group lead for Microsoft Gulf.

Analysts, though, are sceptical about the impact of the new handsets outside of a very narrow enterprise segment.

“They’re very solid devices from a hardware and technology perspective, but I can’t see them changing Microsoft’s market share much,” said Roberta Cozza, a research director with industry analysts Gartner.

“The competing ecosystems from Apple and Android will continue to be the main area of focus for developers, resulting in a richer ecosystem for consumers than what Microsoft can deliver.”

Even in the more profitable enterprise segment, Microsoft may struggle to make significant inroads, given the comparative lack of apps available.

“Even business users want a phone that they can use in their personal lives outside work, and there’s still not enough apps available in the Windows Store to really interest users,” she said.

Key new features of the devices include Continuum, which enables users to use their phone like a PC by connecting it to a monitor via a separate docking device, and Microsoft Hello, a sign-in system based on iris recognition.

The devices go on sale on Thursday. The Lumia 950, which sports a 5.2-inch display, will retail for Dh2,099, while the 5.7-inch Lumia 950 XL will sell for Dh2,349.

Windows Phone accounted for just 1.6 per cent of total smartphone shipments in the third quarter of the year, according to IDC. Microsoft restructured its mobile devices business in July, writing off US$7.6 billion worth of its 2013 acquisition of Nokia and laying off 7,800 staff.

Microsoft also unveiled the latest versions of its Surface Pro 4, which will go on sale from Dh3,395 on Thursday.

However there was no sign of Microsoft’s highly anticipated Surface Book hybrid laptop tablet device, unveiled by the company in October. The company has not yet announced a sale date for the UAE.

In tablet space it seems, Microsoft has a reason to be cheerful. According to a report from the 1010data Ecom Insights Panel, Microsoft came out ahead of Apple in online tablet sales in the US for the month of October.

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