Microsoft has spent the past few months getting their ducks in a row for an official Windows Phone launch in China, and now it seems that the time has finally come. According to press invitations that have begun to make their way around the Chinese tech community, the latest version of Windows Phone (Refresh/Tango/whatever you want to call it) is set to debut in Beijing on March 21.
As far as hardware goes, Chinese customers will have a respectable selection to choose from right out of the gate. The HTC Triumph (better known as the Titan around these parts) has been on pre-order in Beijing for over a week now, and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop revealed earlier this week that the Finnish company would have three Lumia handsets ready to launch in China by March 28.
Elop declined to reveal exactly what those devices will be, but it’s likely that one of them will be a CDMA-friendly variant of the Lumia 610, the budget smartphone Nokia debuted at this year’s Mobile World Congress. A China-spec Lumia 800 and the Lumia 719C are also said to be part of Nokia’s launch lineup, though we’ll have to wait and see if these reports pan out. Really, the 610 (or something like it) could be the big winner here — if it’s priced just right, it may be able to make some inroads in an Android-saturated low-end market.
As significant as this launch is though, it’s the long game that Microsoft really has to worry about. Building momentum in China isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation, especially with Android and iOS enjoying such popularity. Microsoft has some of the WP ecosystem in place already — developers can submit apps though the AppHub, for example — but driving sales and garnering buy-in from local developers will take time.
That said though, Microsoft still has other locales to keep their eyes on, especially considering their close working relationship with Nokia. Despite their domestic troubles over the years, Nokia still enjoys tremendous popularity in international markets — India’s mobile market in particular is dominated by Nokia devices, though many of them are either feature phones or Symbian-powered. Still, as Eric Schmidt pointed out at MWC, smartphones will continue to become more accessible as prices drop and infrastructures expand, so there should be plenty of Microsoft and Windows Phone to grow as time rolls on.