Talking Windows Phone 7 and Cloud Services with Microsoft’s Vincent Mugambi.
Finally, the long awaited and much enjoyed Christmas Holidays are coming to an end. This is the first time I have fired up this trusty Macbook in a week or so which is amazing going by my “always online” standards. It was nice to be off-grid but the blogging must continue!
I managed to snag yet another interview with Microsoft last week when I spoke to Vincent Mugambi who is in charge of Applications and Developer initiatives in East Africa. Unfortunately, I was unable to do a video interview with Vincent as I did in the last one with Lorraine Maina so I ended up doing an audio interview.
However, in true Murphy’s Law fashion, what can go wrong did go wrong and I lost that file when backing up some data So, much of what is covered is here is from the notes I took (pen and paper still do work rather effectively in capturing key details in a world that has gone incredibly digital).
In a nutshell, Vincent and I had a chat about two key areas where Microsoft has big plans for the coming year. The first is the recently unveiled Microsoft Phone 7 which has yet to come to Kenya as the handsets are not available. The second is that of Microsoft Cloud online services. This is what we covered:
Microsoft Phone 7.
Microsoft Phone 7 smartphones will be in Kenya from around January 2010. The first smartphones to make it here will come from Samsung who now have handsets on practically every mobile OS including Symbian, Android and their own proprietary Bada mobile OS. A big push for Microsoft in East Africa will be to drive local content and applications on Windows Phone 7. Already, 25,000 trial licenses for the Software Development Kit (SDK) have been downloaded in Kenya by Application Developers even before the smartphones have arrived in Kenya.
In particular, Windows Phone 7 has been designed to be tightly integrated with existing Microsoft Applications and Cloud online services in a seamless. A big draw for Application Developers in East Africa is that the platform takes advantage of their existing Microsoft skills in areas such as .NET – porting Applications therefore is a synch.
Globally, over 1.5 Million Windows Phone 7 smartphones have been sold and there are close to 5000 Applications available in the Apps store already. Microsoft intends to create a “local” marketplace for Application Developers in East Africa so that publishing and monetizing Apps will be easy to do.
Windows Phone 7 is essentially a “reboot” of everything Microsoft had done on Mobile to-date that takes cognizance of the rise of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS ala iPhone. Microsoft built Windows Phone 7 from scratch and looked to re-invent the Mobile OS experience to be different and productive.
A big part of the philosophy behind Windows Phone 7 is to get users to “get in and get out” of their smartphones quickly to do the things that need doing. Going by current global reviews of Windows Phone 7 smartphones, it looks like Microsoft has brought a big gun to the Android and iOS gunfight.
Other insights for East Africa from Vincent include that Microsoft plans to leverage the Cloud extensively and work closely with Application Developers to make Windows Phone 7 a major player in the region. They are holding workshops and other events to familiarize the market on Windows Phone 7. They also will be doing strategic partnerships going forward to drive Windows Phone 7 adoption at retail and business level.
According to Vincent, Microsoft clearly recognizes the significance of the mobile space in the region where there over 50 million mobile subscribers – many of whom may only access the internet and other applications via their mobile devices.
Microsoft Cloud Online Services.
Microsoft already has a strong base in the region of Independent Software Vendors (ISV) in East Africa. As a result of the rise of broadband in the region as well as the growth of mobile Internet, many of ISV’s are looking to Microsoft to build their next business opportunities.
More specifically, already, 7 of the East Africa ISV’s are already migrating their Enterprise focussed Applications to the Microsoft Cloud so that they can extend their business models to include Software as a Service (SaaS). This would enable them to make subscription income to supplement their current business.
On the issue of Microsoft VS Open Source, the truth is that this is a long standing issue for the region. Many Application Developers have gone the Open Source route instead of using Microsoft Developer Tools. However, Vincent was adamant that very few Software Development tools have the maturity, support and flexibility of Microsoft.
To this end, Vincent is tasked with engaging the Application Developer community in the region through various forums and initiatives to “bring them on-board” to Microsoft’s value proposition. One of these is the Microsoft Emerging Cup which recently was launched in Kenya. In addition, Microsoft has Enterprise Development Academies and an online .NET Community Group in East Africa. Not surprisingly, they also use social networks to engage Application Developers.
Microsoft’s Cloud online services will serve as a linchpin for East Africa in providing enterprise grade Application hosting and related services. Microsoft has invested significant resources globally to move Customers and Application Developers to the Cloud.
Vincent noted that this area has a great deal of strategic focus for them since improved regional bandwidth has made it a feasible for the market. One key issue is that new regulatory frameworks in the region requires that data of a sensitive nature stays “local” and as such Microsoft stands to gain in the process if it invests in “local” Cloud services.