Telefonica To Give Windows Phone 8 An Extra Push To Try To Dilute Android, iOS

Microsoft continues to throw money down the Windows Phone well, perhaps buoyed by signs its ongoing marketing and platform support efforts are shifting the needle a few fractions. Today more evidence — presumably — of Ballmer’s money-throwing commitment to make its smartphone OS stick: carrier Telefonica has announced it will be collaborating with Microsoft to “promote and foster sales” of Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft has been shelling out to pay developers to port their apps to WP8, as it plays app catch-up with the rival Android and iOS ecosystems. It’s unclear exactly how much cash Redmond has paid out on this, or on WP8 marketing in general, but it’s currently running a promotion for which developers can get $100 per app submitted up to a maximum of $2,000 each if they submit a stack of apps.

Flagship apps — such as Angry Birds — are likely to have commanded much larger payouts to be ported over of course. WP8’s lowly marketshare means it’s likely not worth such developers’ while to support the platform. Or at least not without the sweetener of a substantial cash incentive.

Meanwhile Instagram, another big name app that still stands aloof of the Windows Phone ecosystem, has apparently been offered millions of dollars to port the app by Microsoft and Nokia. For whatever reason, it’s one app WP8 still lacks however.

Returning to the Telefonica-Microsoft love-in, the pair say this new “enhanced” marketing effort will initially run for a year, and will be targeted at six markets where Telefonica carrier brands operate: namely the U.K., Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. These markets appear to be ones where Microsoft’s OS has already managed to generate a little marketshare momentum. According to earlier Kantar data, for the three-month period ending February 2013, Windows Phone had a 6.7% share in the U.K., 6.8% in Germany and 5.9% in Mexico, for instance.

Telefonica declined to answer questions about how much money — its own and/or Microsoft’s — will be poured into this enhanced marketing effort, saying the information is confidential. The only question it would answer is which Windows Phone device is the biggest seller in most of its markets — and that device is the Nokia Lumia 920. Microsoft also declined to comment further.

It’s possible Microsoft is bankrolling the entire enhanced marketing program itself, although Telefonica says its motivation in helping to promote WP8 is to diversify the devices it offers to consumers and “improve the current balance of mobile operating platforms on the market, encouraging it to be more diverse and less of a duopoly”. For duopoly read: Android and iOS.

Why would a carrier want to encourage more diversity? Surely that just means creating more work and outlay for itself as it has to train its staff to sell different types of phones? There are plenty of reasons. With Android so dominant, power over development and direction of the mobile landscape is increasingly concentrated in Google’s hands. Carriers would obviously prefer they hold more of the cards, so that they can push their own over-the-top services to build the new revenue streams they need to as their traditional moneyspinners (talk and text) continue to decline.

Plus, if most of the phones run the same OS, there’s less incentive for consumers to buy a new device. Pushing customers to switch to something new is arguably a more compelling upgrade sell for carriers to foist on their customers now that smartphone hardware has become so similarly capable. A different OS — and WP8 does certainly look different to the two market leaders — gives them something new to try to pull the punters in. This is especially important in saturated markets like Europe where smartphone penetration (and Android usage) is so high.

Telefonica said it will be working with suppliers and WP8 mobile makers to “ensure the availability of high-quality devices” and “make their commercial offering available throughout the duration of this enhanced marketing effort with Microsoft”.

Smartphone market figures for Q1 released by analyst IDC yesterday named Windows Phone as now the third biggest smartphone OS in Europe, behind Android and OS, with a two percentage point increasing taking its share from 4% in Q1 2012 to 6% in Q1 this year. Despite being third, it is still very far behind, with Android hugely dominant — with a massive 69% share — while Apple’s iOS share shrunk to a fifth (20%).