updated 06:10 pm EST, Fri February 26, 2010
Win Mobile 6 to get a second legacy version
The continuation of Windows Mobile 6, Windows Phone Classic, will have an extra low-end version kept alive for the developing world, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed today. Labeled Windows Phone Starter Edition, it will mimic the role of Windows 7 Home Basic and Starter by giving certain countries a less advanced, less demanding but cheaper OS. It should support most common cell network types, including China's TD-SCDMA, and will have the option of coming with or without Office.
The company is unwilling to give ZDNet pricing or the names of companies making Windows Phone Starter devices, but multiple partners are lined up to launch the first examples sometime this year. It's suspected, but not confirmed, that Windows Phone 7 will eventually receive a similar treatment once it's superceded by a newer release.
Microsoft has already said that Windows Phone Classic and now Starter will exist primarily to keep supporting legacy customers, particularly in Asia and regions where Windows Mobile 6 has a longstanding footprint. Keeping the aging OS around may also help it bring about its Fone+ project to aid poorer communities. Windows Phone 7 cuts off support for most all Windows Mobile 6 apps and requires much more expensive hardware.
However, the release may also serve a practical competitive advantage. The company faces a major threat from Android, which is sometimes free to license and can run on low-end hardware; it used a similar tactic with Windows XP Home and now Windows 7 Starter to price its OS low enough that it would crowd out free versions of Linux. Pushing an inexpensive smartphone platform could similarly help against closed but still budget-oriented smartphones like the $99 iPhone 3G.