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Windows Phone is losing some hardware differentiation as Microsoft woos Android manufacturers

A real quick analysis of today’s announcements by Microsoft, specifically in regards to Windows Phone, shows that Microsoft is loosening the belt on their mobile OS. Back when Windows Phone 7 Series was announced at this very event four years ago, Microsoft had set very strict hardware requirements in an effort to keep the user experience consistent and ensure a quality experience.

That’s a very different approach from Android, which has a more ‘anything goes’ method for hardware, resulting in proliferation of Android throughout the mobile market. Apple, of course does the opposite: they only make their own hardware, so there are no manufacturer opportunities.

Let’s look quickly at what Microsoft did today.

  • Removed hardware key requirements, for front facing buttons and camera
  • Added support for more Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets, including the 200, 400 and 400 LTE versions for even lower-cost phones
  • Reference design program through Qualcomm gives manufacturers a scaffold to start their own Windows Phone

What really happened though was Microsoft gave companies like HTC and Samsung a big chunk of freedom. HTC will especially benefit from this move as they simply don’t have the capital to re-design new Windows Phone hardware while battling for Android.

In essence, if you make an Android phone, you can now just toss the Windows Phone OS on there and sell that device. Sure, you still need 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage, at the very least, but even Android has that as its bottom for low-end hardware.  Microsoft, through Qualcomm and upcoming changes for Windows Phone 8.1, have essentially removed most, if not all, the barriers for companies like Samsung, HTC and even Lenovo.

Want an HTC One? HTC will now be in better position to throw Windows Phone on it, without having to reinvent novel hardware.

That’s really good news. Combined with the announcement of new hardware partners, like LG (who’s returning), Foxconn (an ODM, or original device manufacturer) and Lenovo, Windows Phone now stands a much better chance of being ‘mass produced’.

We can also start officially yearning for a ThinkPhone.

The bad news is that unique things to Windows Phones won’t be required any longer. Those front buttons will be virtual soft keys for some new Windows Phone 8.1 hardware, the camera shutter button won’t be required either. So we’re losing a bit of what made Windows Phone unique.

OEMs can still do all of those things, but they’re just not required to. And because Windows Phone 8.1 can install apps and games to the SD card, manufacturers can leverage that to save costs on internal memory.

Lumia soft buttons

It’s of course too early to tell how well this will pay off. Microsoft has taken a lot of the hardware differentiation out of the equation, moving towards the Android model. But manufacturers still can’t touch the OS. No skinning. No deep level changes. That means the user experience should still be consistent, even as the hardware becomes more… universal.

Microsoft is certainly taking a play out of their Windows PC business here, specifically with how Windows 8.x devices are made and sold. Capitulation? Nope. To my eyes, it looks like Microsoft is confident that the Windows Phone brand and identity are now solidified, with companies like Nokia setting the path.

It’s time to put the boat out to sea and set her free.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

314 Comments
  • . I don't like this because it just feels so desperate for Microsoft and I don't want my phone to feel like an android recycled device.
    Thank goodness for Nokia as I likely will never switch to another OEMs phone. I remember using android for three years and going from phone to phone and how I had to essentially relearn the layout of buttons because each OEM feels the need to differentiate.....and with windows phones, I went from HTC to multiple nokias and the layout always has been the same. Sigh...
  • +1
  • removing the uniqueness and making same crap like samdung shit ,htc ,karbonn.. so crap phones . i think dis will dump microsoft more with further it starts crashing with too much openess . m happy with my lumia 720 and hope nokia phones do come with same camera button and touch keys .. uniqueness stands out not being d same ... just add some things that are useful that users want . well i am confused whats gonna happen .   microsoft has tossed d coin lets see its microsoft success or flop ..!!!!!!  
  • I don't know why being opened is considered a bad thing, That's actually why Android and Windows PC are very popular.
  • Because it is not the method in Which Windows Phone debuted with....Android's has always been that way and it is a Popular hot mess. I've always loved the uniformity windows phone has.
  • I was pissed with the very closed experience on WP coming from Android, But it's only me.
  • yes... i'm also pissed at how closed the wp is... i'm still annoyed at how nfc does not just work and you have to hit the accept button!!! and you can only set 1 item on nfc... whereas on android... you can set multiple items... 
  • Yeah. Those are reasons I switched back to android. Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • Right, and look at how long WP has been struggling to gain any considerable market share. I feel the reason MS is now changing their stance is that with the Nokia acquisition they are in a good position to offer that uniqueness and standard build for those that want it, while at the same time they get other partners making Windows Phones.
  • I certainly won't be wasting my money on regurgitated Android crap.  And I have no problem looking down my nose at those I see with them.
  • Yea, this is similar to what Google is doing with the Nexus line. Except MSFT doesnt let OEMs to reskin the software. Nothing wrong with more options as long as MSFT keeps delivering the Windows Phones we expect and love.
  • I don't think this is so bad. Lets pick it appart bit by bit: 1) Allowing OEMs to remove the front facing buttons and the camera key isn't a big deal. If you want those buttons you just buy a device that has them, otherwise you will have on screen equivalents. This is a very minor sacrifice of consistency. 2) The Snapdragon 200 series of SoCs isn't new at all. They are just rebranded S4s, which is exactly what we have in our current generation devices. For the Snapdragon 400 we'd have to know exactly which ones they have included support for, but they are likely to choose those that make very little difference. For the end user experience this doesn't really make any difference whatsoever.. 3) The reference design doesn't change anything either. It just gives all OEMs a pre-fabricated starting point that they can slap their logo on and sell. Conclusion: MS did not give OEMs access to the source code. They didn't say: "go ahead, add bloatware and skin the UI to your hearts content". I'll leave WP the day that happens. This is nothing at all like that. It's not the type of change the article (certainly unintentionally) subliminally suggests it is.
  • You don't need access to the source code to add bloatware and skins. Unless you think 3rd party developers for the Windows PC have source code access.
  • You do on WP. Come back after doing your homework...
  • Thank you.
  • To be fair, Android's hot mess is the software much more than the hardware.
  • ⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆his⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆
  • Wrong.  99% of the hardware is garbage.
  • Take a look at Don's comment below. He is absolutely correct. If the hardware is garbage, don't buy it. Or if you don't care about the quality of the hardware, then all power to you. The thing that won't change is Windows itself. The minimum hardware specs will ensure that it will always look and feel great, and run fast, no matter how bad the rest of the hardware. And because of this consistent factor, it will be obvious that any bad part of the phone is not to do with Windows but to do with the cheap hardware. This is something you can't say about Android, because the OEMs who use crappy hardware also usually make crappy customisations to the software, not to mention the OS still runs slow on its minimun requirements even after Kit Kat. Windows is immune to these factors.
  • The uniformity remains in the software. The phones could look different physically, it doesnt matter. Some people like camera buttons and external navi keys, while some dont. Stop complaining for no reason. Android is a mess bcs the software is just bloatware mainly from one manufacturer to the next, unless you by a Google Play Edition.
  • ⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆his⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆
  • Spot on. The great thing is that there are still minimum requirements (enough for Windows to still run as smooth as ever) and OEMs get very little control over the software. Android's Achilles' Heel is that it runs badly on its minimum requirements (even with Kit Kat), and OEMs who make bad hardware often also make bad software on the phones. Whereas with Windows, because it will still run smoothly and consistently it will be obvious to even many laymen that a bad experience on a cheap phone is to do with the hardware and not the OS itself.
  • The other thing that really started Android downhill was the manufacturer's having to put their graphical front end on everything. Think Touchwiz for Samsung. This caused two main problems. 1. It made the phones slow as could be. 2. It meant that any updates to your phone had to first go through Android, then through your carrier, and finally through the phone manufacturer to upgrade their front end. It was a nightmare.  It was Android's biggest mistake in my opinion. Windows Phone avoids this by not giving the manufacturers the ability to skin their phones.  I owned a few Android phones - and by the far the best phone was the original Galaxy Nexus.  Why ? Simple. No carrier crap. No phone manufacturer crap.  Just plain ol vanilla Froyo.  It was smooth ,it was fast, and it was efficient.  Probably the only Android phone I actually miss having. The other advantage of this not mentioned - if they 'recycle' Android phones to use with Windows (I'll take a Motorola Droid Maxx with kevlar backing and water resistant circuit board please!) then they would be able to avoid the wait by the FCC for approving new devices. Honestly, I'll get flamed for this piece - but hardware should be independent of software. If I want to put Windows 8 on my Macbook pro - I should be able to. If I want to put WP8 on a HTC One - I should be able to.  We pay for the phones, the hardware is ours.  What software we run on our phones should be our choice.  
  • I don't think they had to put their own UI on, but they were grasping at any way to differentiate. But yes, totally agree with you. Open phones, that sounds very interesting. I think that's almost what Microsoft is going for (and maybe they would have if it were logistically possible to self-install an OS, or perhaps they will do it in the future). These latest changes sound like Microsoft is bringing what works -- and works well -- from the declining PC market to the mobile market. And I think it might just work. Power to the consumer.
  • That's actually the only way Microsoft can catch up with android and people must understand that this is business!
  • It's preposterous for anyone to think Microsoft has a snowball's chance at catching up to Android.  There are too many stupid people around buying them and the cheap, garbage hardware.  Microsoft needs to just focus on making their third place a stronger third place.
  • Third place is only good enough if each of the other two have only 33.333% market share.
  • Just look at it like this.... Those manufactures weren't going to make any WP devices, let alone one with a Camera button.... Look at the big picture!
  • And you actually believe they will now?  That's hilarious.
  • I hope so.. We'll just have to wait and see...
    ........................
    Oh, and I saw your rant on the Blog... Seriously, it's not that big of a deal, dude... Are you going to be ok? :-D
  • agreed rodney, this is a long play that will finally focus on something that we have all been saying ... android is a poorly optimized system whereas WP is smooth as silk.  The second people pick up identical devices running the two OS's it will become crystal clear how much better WP performs.
  • That would be awesome...
  • Chill you dont have to buy it but if they make it then at least we will be able to get apps quicker
  • I guess this doesn't really suprize me beside the low end chip sets being added, we knew there were going to be virtual keys in the latest update and as for the camera button anyone remember the Nokia Lumia 505 with 7.8?
  • There is desperation and then there is an acknowledgement of a reality. I believe this is the latter and I am in complete agreement with Daniel's analysis. Windows Phone will never be more than a niche OS if Microsoft doesn't bring other OEMs into the fold, period. It simply cannot survive the long haul with just Nokia-made (and soon to be Microsoft made) hardware. This is the highest barrier for OEMs, aside from the actual cost of the OS license, and it means they can now produce phones side-by-side with their Android counterparts without the high costs associated with designing specific hardware for WP. Now, Microsoft needs to drop the license fee all together and let (hope) the OEM hardware floodgates open up.
  • People who don't like on screen buttons or "android hardware" please buy the Microsoft (ex Nokia) phones. Everything is drama in wpcentral.
  • Deal.... I prefer off screen buttons.
  • You are so right
  • Thank you for being intelligent. The logic of most people are beyond reprehension
  • Exactly. Vote with your dollars. If you like a certain feature, buy that phone. If not, buy another phone. It's really simple.
  • I agree with you microsoft is thinkng ahead and some poeple just cant see it
  • Agree it's an acknowledgement of reality.  But the reality is that its time to get desperate.   So it's both in a way and there's nothing wrong with that.   I wish MS had done this sort of stuff 2 years ago but at least they are beginning to act more in sync with the reality of the situation - meaning MS does not control or dictate standards anymore.   It's really all good news.  It believe it will produce a better product and a stronger Microsoft.  
  • It MIGHT produce a stronger Microsoft, but it will be the end of Windows Phone.
  • That might be swinging too far the other way.  As long as their is a Microsoft, they will have their own handheld OS version.   They are a software company!  They are not going to depend on another software company to provide their solution for a significant segment of the industry.  That's just not going to happen. However, they have to acknowledge that they missed the boat.  The first round is over and they lost.  So what we are seeing is probably them simply accepting that and starting to take a longer term view of this.  Clearly Google now controls the handheld segment.  They will own it for probably the next 5, maybe 10, years.   Beyond that, it's anyones guess.  Keep in mind folks that they don't need to be #1 in the segment to be successful.  This is not a game of winner-takes-all.  They just need to be relevant and maintain brand recognition in this segment and stay alert for the next battle, and opportunity to advance.. It's not defeat.  it's surviving to fight another day.   It's smart. This is something Apple never learned.  They are isolationists.  They succeed inspite of themselves, not because of it.  If it wasn't for Job's brilliance, their business model would be hard to make successful.  In fact, it almost drove them BK in the 90's until Jobs came back, with his brilliance, and saved them again.   Unfortunately, for them, the cavalray won't be coming over the hill this time.  So, I wouldn't be worried about Microsoft and our Windows Phone.  it's here to stay.  I'd be more worried about iPhone!   Apple doesn't have the product depth that Microsoft has.  I think its very possible they are going to be in serious trouble in 5+ years if WP can advance to #2 in the USA by then. 
  • Nicely put! Personally I wouldn't say that Windows Phone 'missed the boat' but yes, they did get bronze in the first race. That's still a placing, but a way back. But yes, I get annoyed when people (especially respected analysts) say that it's dying because of it. As you say, it's sticking around and waiting for the right opportunity to leapfrog iOS. Beyond that, who knows? It doesn't need to be first, it just needs to remain profitable and relevant. I don't care what the market share is as long as it is still good at the things it's good at; that's why I chose it after all.
  • I see Daniel's analysis more so as taking a more positive spin out something that is potentially negative. Simply because windows phone is begining to lose unique things that made fans out of the OS in the first place. Then you have the fact that they may be rumored to bring Android apps to windows phone(or that rumor of a dual booting Windows Phone/Android phone....gross btw) and if things like that start happening what are we going to say "Well, Windows Phone is going to be a niche OS unless they start doing things the android way..."
    This is essentially saying that Microsoft can't be unique and differentiate itself without adopting Google's method of doing things.
    It's precisely why this whole Nokia X thing does not make any sense really as people say that it will somehow encourage X owners to eventually migrate to windows phone(Um what....lmao)?  I am not saying Daniel is wrong in his opinion and to a degree  I do agree with Daniel(Don't kill me HAHA) but at the same time, I do feel people are simply not paying attention to any negative aspects this could have....and then once sales still don't pick up, what will the excuse be then?  
  • Good points, Micah.  Although I've never been interested in the aesthetic of Samsung or HTC devices, this change won't change my decision which is, I will never purchase their devices, or recommend them. I  can safely say that Microsoft is on thin ice when it comes to my future purchases of WP devices.  I will be purchasing Nokia Lumias, not sure about 'Microsoft' Lumias though especially if Microsoft doesn't continue in the spirit of their original hardware design requirements.    If all devices are going to be looking like Android devices going forward (and let's be honest, aside from the hardware buttons on the side, there really is no aesthetic distinction between Samsung or HTC WP vs. Android devices, anyway), there really is no need for me to bother with WP.    I really don't understand why 'some' people want to see a 'sea of same' devices out there for their chosen OS.  Even if I were an Android fan, I would never purchase a Samsung Galaxy as practically everyone and their mother and pets own one.  
  • Cause more devices means more market share (in most cases) and more market share means more interest means more app support.
  • If the cost of mass adoption by the major OEMs like LG, Samsung, HTC and Lenovo is a few angry Nokia fans lamenting their already-dead proprietary handset business and going to Apple, that's frankly a small price to pay.  Sorry.
  • Frankly, I really don't see mass adoption by other OEMs despite Microsoft making this announcement.  Will be interesting to see how it plays out, though.
  • It will make adoption a snap.  For example, if LG can sell 10% more phones by making a WP variant of an existing Android handset, they'll do it.   They wouldn't have necessarily put effort into creating a "classic" Windows Phone if its volume up-front would have been only 10% of, say, the G2, since the "classic" device requires all sorts of differences.  Now, they can just take the G2, install WP on it, and VOILA -- high-end Windows Phone!
  • Residing, I currently own a 1520 and a Titan. I can understand why you are a Nokian bcs since the age of 16 my first phone was the 8850, (bought a Siemens SL45 just for the mp3) then a 7210 , then the 7650, the 9210, 7280, N73, N96, E71 before switching to the Titan. I waited for a Lumia with the Snapdragon 800 (I love to game). then came along the 1520 (glorious for gaming). Dont listen to Micah he isnt making any sense. People like WP for its uniform and speedy OS. The same functionality throughout the whole system and the fact that it integrates well into the MS ecosystem. A lack of a camera button or navi keys isnt going to do anything to destroy our experiece. Micah needs to go buy an iPhone and just STFU. Imagine if all PCs had the same form factor and looks, the same design and arrangement of buttons and ports in every way... Oh thats right, stick to Apple then Micah, now get off this forum before infecting more people with your pandemic stupidity.
  • Where's tha logic in this....
  • Dawson, please tell me what brought users to WP in the first place? A camera buttons and navigation buttons on the screen? Mate you probably never owned a WP. The uniformity remains in the software. The phones could look different physically, it doesnt matter. Some people like camera buttons and external navi keys, while some dont. Stop complaining for no reason. Android is a mess bcs the software is just bloatware mainly from one manufacturer to the next, unless you buy a Google Play Edition.
  • Well, I can answer that first question for you:  Nokia :)   Really, all Micah, myself and others are simply saying is that we'd like for Microsoft to continue the 'Letter and Spirit' of Windows Phone - physical buttons, no OEM 'skinning', etc.  Obviously, Microsoft feels as though they need to make changes with WP, as well as with Windows (lowering prices); but since things are changing, our future purchases of other OSes may change as well.  That is all.
  • The spirit of WP is the slick UX. Nobody else has it but every Android/Apple user loves it. I am not kidding the socialite girls I know just call it the future phone (that was about a year ago though). Nobody remembers WP for its camera button, the spirit isnt in the Navi keys, ITS ALL ABOUT THE UX :)
  • Lmao I've owned nothing but windows phone the past year and a half except my brief stupidity with an HTC one
  • Microsoft should at least maintain the license fee for high cost devices. Just as they do with Windows. HTC can afford licenses for the HTC One for example, Motorola (now Lenovo) can't afford that for a 100 dollar phone. I wonder how the license will affect the smartphones. If the HTC One 2 launched both for android and Windows would the price be the same for both? Would both version have camera buttons, the Windows one or none? There's a lot to wonder about this. Would it be the same or will there be any differences. Is there going to be dual-boot phones like the dual-boot tablets?
  • Totally agree. If you want to compete with Android you have to give OEM'S the same treatment. They should have made it a free license fee from the beginning
  • Yes totally agree with that. Drop the licence fee. Make money on the store and on bing.
  • This isn't desperation, this is smart business. You don't see Google going with Motorola only, so why would MS go Nokia only? Personally I'd MUCH rather have recycled Android hardware like the One, the GS4 or the LG G2 than this 920 I'm using so this is great news for me.
  • That's not even a good example since Google doesn't NEED to go with Solely Motorola. The whole android methodology has been anyone can make android and butcher it to whatever degreet to go with. Windows Phone debut with a more uniform hardware experience..and is now essentially losing what made it unique jus to try and take on the big dogs and in reality, the main issue windows phone has is not the hardware...it is simply the lack of apps. I don't want recycled android crap(Even if it is the amazing HTC ONE) simply because I prefer a manufacturer who actually takes the time to make something unique vs tossing me their leftovers. I always amuse myself with people who get excited about getting Last years hardware(Galaxy S4) as this years new windows phone :P
  • By doing this though, MS is allowing the S5 to launch on Android and WP. I think this is a smart move.
  • The galaxy S5? Really? I seriously doubt Samsung will be allowign their latest crap run Windows phone :P It'll likely be the Samsung Galaxy S4 just like the ativ was the galaxy S3 :P
  • Yes, really. If all they have to do is tweak the software, then why not? Previously they had to faff about with actual hardware changes. If these current alterations to the WP OS mean that the manufacturer has less to do, then happy days. Personally, I have not got a lot of time for Samsung phones, I will likely stay Nokia.
  • ^This.  Besides, the original complaint by the OEMs wasn't so much the hardware button requirements, but the fact that they couldn't 'skin' the WP OS like they were able to with Android.
  • Well I hop MS gives no ground on allowing others to tinker with their own skins. Let the manufacturers differentiate by the same way Nokia has, superior support and features. No bloatware please.
  • This is good news. Microsoft needs the OEMs to gain marketshare. The software experience will still stay consistent.
  • It's an apples to apples example as MS doesn't need to go solely with the Nokia division they just bought but users here continually suggest it. What makes WP unique isn't the hardware, it's the OS and the experience using it. Also, always remember that Nokia takes time to make something unique because they were contracted to do so 2 years ago, not out of the pureness of their hearts. I only mention recycled android hardware because given the choice, I'd go with that over Nokia, but of course I'd definitely prefer to have the GS5, One 2014 and G Pro 2 with the WP OS.
  • Considering Nokia is the only one who actually has done anything with Windows Phone(despite a Titan like Samsung having such power to do so if they wished...Which by the way, I am surprised that Samsung never tried to use its power to ever try and control the windows phone market.) yeah I can see why it is a smarter ideal for microsoft to go solely with Nokia.... I'd much rather an Apple approach to things(Which makes excellent hardware and a uniform experience for owners of their devices) vs the Google/android approach. Going all in with Nokia we'd likely see phones straight from Microsoft with even better designs and even could see faster updates.
  • I'd much rather an Apple approach to things
    I've noticed.  I'd rather have a successful mass-market Windows-desktop-style success than a small, proprietary, overpriced ecosystem with a shrinking marketshare and stagnant hardware innovation.
  • I agree with cannon 100%.
  • +1 ! I love the physical/capacitive keys, especially the camera button, I can have my phone ready for a pic as I'm pulling it out! I seriously hope samy or Nokia do not go the button less route, it would turn me away from windows phones...ewww :(
  • Nokia already is, their next flagship is rumored to only have virtual buttons.
  • And you would go buttonless with another platform? What would that accomplish, as even on another platform you wouldn't have a button. People here always say choice and competition is good, but as soon as Microsoft opens the up to allow WP to truly compete, people like you begin to complain about the very thing people have been crying for. You and I might like physical buttons, but others don't. It increase sales is to give options
  • The buttonless approach doesn't bother me as much as I'd hope they don't start trying to remove the camera buttons on Nokia Phones. I can'timagine using my 1520 or using a phone like 1020(and future sucessors) and getting amazing pics using the onscreen button. I'd hope they'd have the common sense NOT to remove them on Nokia phones.
  • This⤴...I don't care if the capacitive buttons on the front go away...means virtually no bezel and screen all way to the edges...which would make my 1520 smaller with the same screen or same size with a larger screen...but, don't touch my hard camera button! I hate touching the screen to take a picture...it makes it more difficult to get a good picture and doesn't feel natural!
  • Elvis7, WP OS could potentially add a quick camera button on the lock.screen like iOS has
  • Think of all those shitty Android devices sitting there on dusty shelves repurposed by thier respective OEMs enjoying a decent lag free experience
  • Yeah it's bad giving the world more lag free experience, Gross.
  • Desperate times call for desperate measures. They needed this to stay relevant. And there is no more Nokia.
  • But they are desperate. With Nokia about to do whatever they are with Normandy so I guess this is what they have to do.
  • It's just a good business decision, but it doesn't mean the Nokia's of the world cease to exist.
  • Second to last paragraph says:
    It’s of course too early to tell how well this will pay off. Microsoft has taken a lot of the hardware differentiation out of the equation, moving towards the Android model. But manufacturers still can’t touch the OS. No skinning. No deep level changes. That means the user experience should still be consistent, even as the hardware becomes more… universal.
    So, no need to worry about OEM's differentiating themselves too much on the software side of things. 
  • I wouldnt be to worried about this this is mainly for allowing manufacturers to use the same hw for different OSes not for changing of WP it could be nice to have an option to buy a new flagship andtoid device but with WP on iy
  • I fail to see how having 9+ OEMs now is worse than just having Nokia (mainly). Sure, we will lose a bit of personality, but isn't it better that we get say 25% market share than we have those special WP details? Honestly I'd rather be part of a strong WP market where all important apps will get tier 1 support instead of being treated like the bastard childs of mobility. I think this is a great thing, and don't forget, this is exactly how Windows rose to domination. Google copied the strategy and that's the ONLY reason why they dominate mobile with Android. The OEM method is the BEST way to ensure a flood of devices that will inevitably provoke great market share expansion: the more devices, and cheap ones at that, that you can find out there, the exponentially more people that will give WP a chance. That is not bad for you, you'll still get awesome devices like my 920 that have all the special WP design/personality features, but doors will be open to a LOT more people.
      TLDR - Microsoft had success through OEM strategy with Windows. Then Google did the same with equal results. Now MS is applying its own strategy to mobile. Success is pretty much guaranteed.
  • Xabier, you definitely changed my opinion on the matter. At first I was really biased about the situation, but it makes sense to have the options for OEMs so we can catch up with the rest of the market. I really don't mind having on-screen buttons (I prefer capacitive, but it's not the end of the world), but the option for a dedicated camera button is a bit much. I'm just hoping most OEMs only use this for budget devices and we keep the option on high-end ones.
  • Yeah, the whole rationale behind on-screen buttons is to save money on making the actual buttons and instead just use the screen. Thus, such a strategy is for cheap phones only, though there's nothing prohibiting an OEM from making a great high-end phone with on-screen buttons jut because it fits their style and design choice better - see the recent Nexus 4/5. I agree that seeing the camera button would be awful, but this probably won't happen in higher end devices. Even if I'd like to see such a button in the low end devices too, if the trade off is making the 5xx and 6xx lines a good deal cheaper then that's a great trade off to make, since it'll open the doors to many more customers who want to buy a cheaper WP. As usual, the experience would go up in quality as it does in rank and price, so your 7xx and 9xx lines and above would surely have these details present in hardware. 
  • Taking out the requirement for the dedicated camera button? Now why would they do that? In my opinion, I think it's stupid NOT to have a camera button (iPhone). Anyways, I definitely agree that they should stop trying to copy Android.
  • Not sure you have much to worry about. Nokia will stay the same. Other manufacturers will differentiate to stand out. This is good news because it gives other manufacturers greater incentive to create Windows Phone hardware. I can imagine a number of marketing departments leaping for joy at this news. Personally I want a Galaxy Note with Windows Phone and accompanying stylus. Now I might be able to have my cake and eat it too one day.
  • Your comments are interesting, but, I look at it differently. Microsoft's not moving to the Android model, they're moving to the Windows x86/RT model! You can change hardware, you can add apps, but you can't significantly modify the user interface. It'll remain faster and more secure than Android, it'll remain more versatile than iOS, and it'll therefore remain perfect for me.
  • A few months ago, I heard that this was a possibility. I wasn't a big fan because quite frankly, I'm a fan of the required buttons and hardware. After thinking about things, I don't hate it as much. The Apple model (loose) that WP originally took didn't work out. I like the idea of getting the OS onto as many devices as possible. The windows virtual keys will still have to be in the same places because they will be part of the OS and not an OEM skin. As far as the camera shutter button. I personally love it and wouldn't buy a phone without one, but I also only use it as a camera shortcut. I prefer the on screen camera button. Long story short, I understand why Microsoft is allowing the changes. I currently buy the Lumia line of phones and don't see Microsoft changing them. There is also the chance with allowing some more freedom, an OEM may step up and think outside the box and come up with a WP design that becomes the new norm.
  • exactly feel the same
  • Nice article, though a bit sad about one thing, and thats front buttons will not be required anymore.... Also for the camera button uniqueness.....
  • Personally, I find the front buttons annoying. They do not switch off in dark conditions - meaning that when I am watching Netflix etc, I have three bright lights to the right of the screen. I'm happy for them to be removed...
  • Think about it this way: Android doesn't require hardware buttons or a dedicated camera button, yet all Xperia phones have a dedicated camera button, and all Samsung phones have hardware buttons. Sony chooses to use a camera button because its phones are camera phones. And Samsung sticks with what people like. Nokia's phones are camera phones, so the camera button will not go away.
  • Tell that to HTC, Motorola, lg, zte, huwei phones without camera button
  • I would drop my 920 in a heartbeat for a ThinkPhone....i love my ThinkPad T410!
  • No doubt the Think Brand is wonderful got two ThinkPads and a ThinkCentre adding a Thinkphone would be awesome
  • I would drop my 1020 for an HTC one 2 with WP OS any day
  • Is it really going to be called the HTC one 2? I think that's one of the dumbest sounding names ever. What's next, Xbox one 2?
  • Lol just a guess. It'll probably be called HTC one again
  • I guess so, since apparantly that's allowed. What comes after the iPad 2? The iPad.
  • if its going to bring more hardware partners let it be... as for me i'll be sticking to microsoft Lumia or whatever the name will be
  • This is good news imo.. This is one less wall for OEM's to complain about.
  • Hold on to your 920's & 1020's, the last, best Windows Phones before everything becomes clones of androids!
  • This.
  • Agreed :P
    This may be the first time i keep a phone longer than a few months if we're beginning to adopt an Android methodology and getting android rehashes :P
  • My 8X is still the sh!t though too!!! Actually all 3.
  • Sorry ... Only have 520 here. So I guess I just switching device whenever I need to (and have budget to do so :P).
  • Totally agree with you, theefman.  I'll be getting my Lumia 1020 within the next 10 days (although, I almost bought one last night); I hope it isn't the last great and distinctive Nokia Lumia tto be released, but if so, I'll use it until it dies!
  • Microsoft will still make the Lumias so obviously you can just get a new Microsoft phone.
  • I think it's a great move. More OEMs at more price points and hopefully more prepaid devices would be excellent. About them using the PC model, I think that the dev program into get early updates is a play on the Windows Update system and they may start to leverage it to get updates out to users without going thru carriers first. I could even see them renaming the app "Windows Phone Update" and releasing it to everybody.
  • +920!
  • Speaking of skinning, Tom Warren tweeted some time back that the start screen background would come as something similar to skinery....
  • i personally dont like buttons, the N9 was my dream phone for a while, nokia should make a 4.5-5.5 inch lumia N9 this time using metal instead of plastic, what a solid phone/brick would it be (:
  • From where are you ... I ask because the smiley is the opposite way.... Just curious..
  • (:. He just made his own. Im from mars. (;
  • Maybe he's left-handed.
  • Nokia wont make any phones after 5 weeks.
  • Same here. The capacitive buttons always accidentally tapped whenever I play games. That sucks :3
  • Seems like a good idea to me there's been a lack of windows phones lately and I for one would like a new high end HTC WP even if it is just a One.
  • I will never buy another HTC device after being burned twice by the titan and titan 2 with constant problems. I hope you had a better experience.
  • Well I had the HTC Mozart / Trophy / 8X and all were nice solid built phones and no problems definitely prefer HTC Metal Body Phones over Samsung Plastic
  • Had no problems with my Titan and HD7S...
  • I'd love an HTC one with WP as well. :) the aluminum body screams quality. The Nokia Phones are lacking that high-end feel (the icon is close with its aluminum (I think) sides but not quite)
  • Yes HTC One is such a beautiful phone. I had an HTC Radar as my first Windows Phone and it also is for the most part all aluminum. I handed it down to my little bro and it still works to this day. Never gave me any issues. I did get an 8X for my mom, another beautiful phone, but that one did seem to give my mom issues. Not sure why. But yeah HTC IMO knows how to make a nice phone. Hopefully they continue making great phones.
  • Hopefully with what seems smaller competition on WP, they will not be in such economic problems
  • I kind of agree. I wish they would at least keep the shutter key requirement. Its such a great benefit I think. And yeah, there is some decent looking android hardware out there, but designs like Nokia has given us and even the 8x will likely not be seen near as much. But I'm on Verizon so they tend to dictate alot of what I get to use any way lol. At least skinning and things like that are still locked away and all apps even carrier must be able to be uninstalled!
  • Well said. But at least give the OEM other look and make windows phone UI be be different to one another.
  • No I don't want no junk touchwhiz crap on windows phone no need to head down that path
  • Buckle up, here we go
  • No thanks
  • ?
  • No. Don't. Removing the hardware buttons is doable. But don't change the OS. It will have the mess like what Android currently has. So no. I (as developer) don't need OEM customized UI. I don't want to buy yet another test devices just because of customized UI thing.
  • I think having the WP OS stay consistent on all OEMs is a great plan. It differentiates from androids platform where anyone can make their own customizations. And it also makes it easier for customers (new and old) know they have the same experience on any WP.
  • Technically you can customize your "start" screen with tiles and such that matter to you the most, and so, when you look at 2 Windows Phones, even if they are exactly the same, the "start" screen will look different and customized to their own user. I think that should be enough in a way to personalize a WP. I am sure we all have different opinions or ideas of what customization is or looks like but my point is no 2 WP's will look the same.
  • That's a very smart move from Microsoft. I just hope it doesn't lowers the quality of WP smartphones.
  • That's the entire idea, so yeah...
  • its a very smart move, they can offer cheaper phones in emerging markets especially china and india. you will still get your nice lumias from ms. HTC and samsung will be able to make their new high end devices run wp without having to make a completly different phone for wp and andriod. it will be interesting what lenevo brings to the table.
  • And you already know Samsung will release their galaxies in the future on WP. Those guys don't judge OS's, they are out there to dominate everything and will release any kind of shape and size of a phone
  • Agreed. Don't want WP to run on laggy processors and have no hardware buttons.
  • It won't, regardless of hardware key freedom, there's still minimum specs every OEM has to follow. A lot of you guys seem to forget this.
  • +google+ why do people do this this isn't google+
  • +1
  • Microsoft has just been using Nokia over the years and now that the OS has attained a more stable position, courtesy Nokia to a large extent, they have bought a part of the company as well as allowed other stupid OEMs to make crap phones running WP8 for their own profit.
  • Re: avigyan, I don't see this as any different than having the choice of buying a cheap crappy computer running Windows, a midrange computer, or a high end computer running Windows. Certainly, the cheap one won't use all the features of the OS and not as well as the more expensive ones, but someone sells and buys the low end models for some purpose.
    Buyer Beware.
  • Just as long as someone still makes front cap buttons and camera button, I'll be fine.
  • I'll do it
  • Microsoft will still do it. At least the camera button, specially on PureViews devices ^^a
  • I love HTC designs. Besides the way Android hardware on high end phones goes, there will be impressive specs
  • Why can't people understand that specs aren't everything?
  • I know specs aren't everything, but with better specs less lag. Also I like the designs HTC comes up with.
  • @heat3330, Some people cant look beyond numbers :p. Edit: @bradley, yes and no it is about optimisation as poorly optimised software will be still be laggy on high end hardware. The 520 is a true example on what you get with optimised software on low end hardware compared to gms android prior to the kitkat update.
  • Agreed. The L521 is a neat little device. L525 is supposed to be that much better. This is why a Lotus Elise has the performance it does. A 4 cylinder engine that can run with V12s. Its optimized to do so.
  • Specs are everything. I hate looking at pixels on my phone :)
  • Specs aren't everything. I agree on that. But specs also aren't nothing. Better specs always bring better performance. Optimized or not, this rule still applied.
    And don't forget that optimization has hardware limitations. Let's take 520 for example. While the UX is fairly smooth for day to day basis (as I use it everyday), it still cannot play games that require 1GB RAM.
    So, while we might not need the topnotch specs, decent mid-high specs still act as one of big factors to choses smartphones.
  • Re: heat, tech,
    Certainly spec numbers are not "everything", but they are an indicator of something. I am hoping in the future we have higher spec Windows Phones that truly multitask and have twice as many "Live" Live Tiles that all update twice as often. (A differentiating feature.) Maybe also a streaming live news feed with a streaming live financial tickertape and ... If we can do more than today, tomorrow, with less. Then I'm all for it, but I'll still be checking out the numbers and comparing features and costs. I think we'll see a pattern develop. Best Wishes, No Worries.
  • If it comes down to losing some differentiation or losing the entire battle with WP going down for the ten count, I will take this new approach.  I don't think all OEMs will take away the uniqueness so I can support this new and feel it is a good development.  I want Microsoft to do anything that guanrantees the long term survival of the OS.  I would hate to see it go away and have to choose between Apple or Android.  Time will tell.  
  • This is a necessary evil. It might look desperate at first but IMO it’s a logical move to encourage OEMs to release WP devices, knowing they could design and engineer one device and it’ll work with two different OSes. Driving down manufacturing costs is one of the most, if not the most important factor in this business, or any business for that matter.
  • Its not so much the manufacturing costs, but the time and money spent for R&D.
  • They do whatever it takes to survive and prosper. So, our passion is their money. I don't blame them. I just want consistency and reliability   
  • That's why the OS is off limits, only hardware can be modified or changed
  • Because only hardware is affected the consistency and reliability will be the same. The minimum specs are those of the 520 (top selling WP8) but brings very high end specs of say a Note 3
  • I think this is good. There really wasn't anything that unique to those few features...they've all existed on android devices for years...just making them required doesn't add anything to the platform...if anything it makes for less differentiation between WP devices, giving WP device creators less to change up to make their device different from other WPs.
  • I agree with the article - this allows oems to come on board easier. Some people want the latest hot device and couldn't care less about the rest - the htc one is screaming out for wp8. It may not have done too well on android, but it would be on a par with the best Nokia has to offer. Barring Nokia, what else does wp have, device wise? Sure, the 8x and the ativ but, really, devices like the icon and the 1020 are the flagships, and the1520, of course - they are just the norm for android (discounting the specialised 1020). The htc one would be a great phone, on wp, and just imagine the Samsung gs5 coming sooner rather than later (though the Sammy google deal may nix that...) Either way, this can only be good for wp8 - Sony z1 et al are great. For me personally ... I lobe Nokia like i love blackberry :) Give me the 1020 update!!!!! Lol
  • I lobe nokia to
  • Me "two", I mean three.
  • More choice is good. Making things easier for manufacturers is also good. I like it.
  • Personally, I never used the camera button anyway. Well, I used it to launch the app, but not to take photos-- too much camera shake on my 920.
  • Hmmm...sounds like user error to me.
  • Nope, not at all. There's simply less shake from just touching the screen then pushing down the camera button, at least on the 920, in my experience. Maybe on newer versions the button is better, I dont know. Sometimes the shake isn't there if I'm trying to be super steady, but with a screen tap I don't have to try at all, it's just steadier. But thanks for the snarky assumption that I'm some kind of idiot who can't press a button or something.
  • I 1000% agree!!! I only use the dedicated camera button to open the camera app. 
  • This is going to be the one that kills Android. Once those OEMs put in WP on their mid and low-end Android phones, WP would simply perform better for its stability and smooth user experience. Someday in the future, I am seeing OEMs would produce new handsets running WP initially before launching their clones running Android.
  • Exactly. In the beginning the manufacturers are adding WP to Android phones. Not long after they are adding Android to WP phones. Love how the OS remains locked down to keep the user experience universal throughout.
  • I love real buttons and camera button, so this sucks a lot
  • I don't like the camera button. A lot of times when I put my phone in my pocket I will accidentally turn the camera button and the phone will be on for a while
  • Re: topleya,
    It's not a new requirement for all phones. Just buy the phone with the features you want.
  • Yes. If only someone else but you liked them and future WP phone makers were allowed to have real buttons..........Wait a minute.
  • At this point I also don't care. We need market share, and we need it NOW!
  • yes, Yes, YES!
  • Who is 'we'?  Are you Microsoft?
  • Re: Residing, Figuratively speaking, join the team. Everyone welcome.
  • Yeah...one should not lose its uniqueness no matter what they have to deal with! With the screen off....no one could differentiate between a windows phone or an android!!! That's sad! :(
  • They still have a choice to put the WP buttons..
  • Overall this is good news, although I hope most manufacturers realise that the dedicated camera button is actually a key feature that many of us love. Launching directly to camera from lock screen with that button is still one of the best features that kept going from the WP7 days
  • YES.
  • Yeah, i just care about the camera button lol gives me very quick access to point n shoot. Though i tap the screen to capture
  • Not worried about other OEMs. Just concerned with MS's purchase of Nokia's device division as to will I, oops, we lose the quality updates and innovation we're accustomed too? For example glance for Nokia phones. How about the camera? I'm getting worried. Just can't fathom the idea MS screwing up and screwing.
  • If you want innovation, then this is a great move. Competition breeds innovation. Having more OEMs jockeying for WP dominance pushes them to innovate to differentiate. It really depends on MS and the cost of the OS license fee. Since android was "free" that allowed OEMs to take chances while $8 a device for WP forces OEMs to go the safe route.
  • No OEM can innovate camera phone better than Nokia. Look at the former lead designer, he left. Once the purchase goes through, just afraid of MS's influence, which may cause the best of Nokia's innovators to leave.
  • I'm hoping most phones still come with the camera button. One of the many things I love about WP.
  • I really don't see this as a bad thing. As long as they're not completely changing the UI, I'm fine with OEMs having a little more freedom.
  • Yea they don't have access to have customized UI's like on android. This is a good thing BC it keeps experience on WP universal
  • I just see this as a huge nightmare for developers. Also, consumers are more likely to miss out on updates if it's left to OEMs to update them... Why update last years model when you've got another 6 new models being pushed out? Hopefully this won't mean they get lower quality hardware, and end up blaming the OS for it.
  • You mean like AT&T 920s getting the Amber update dead last?
  • Yep. The carrier to launch the 920 has kept it anchored.
  • Maybe Microsoft can fix that by allowing the developer preview program be available to all WP.
  • Actually I really don't care, as long as they make sure the user experience will be smooth in any device, from the low to the high-end. I don't want to go through checking specs and benchmarks like crazy to get a device with an acceptable performance. If they can keep the user experience AND make it easier for more manufacturers to join in, excellent!
  • Android has 75+% but mostly I see iPhones. You want the US, have hw restrictions and go for best hardware. Want the rest of the world to be on Windows, this is necessary. There will still be opportunities for top notch hardware for the folks that want it. Thanks to Nokia and some of these changes. I like it!
  • Here comes the big boom in sales. Get ready
  • So window may become watered down now
  • The more wp phones out there, the better the ecosystem will get. I think this is a good move. Frankly, hardware buttons break. If they can remove that part, that can be broken, the better the phone will be.
  • I like the move, but it all hinges on that MS sets and keep standards with this new hardware and the device drivers that go with them. I don't want manufacturers mucking up the smooth WP experience with half baked device drivers and features.
  • I don't think this is bad: it's exactly the model being used for Windows 8(.1) at present. We've got Nokia (now to be absorbed by Microsoft), who will likely continue to press forward with the luxurious design and great mobile imaging technology we've come to expect. For people concerned about Windows Phone losing what makes it unique: just stick with "Microkia." Just like Microsoft's Surface line: it's unlikely to change. However, whilst you can stay under Microkia's umbrella, you can also branch out to potentially new and innovative ideas from other OEMs. This is beautiful, actually. It's just like Windows 8: we've got the perfect harmony of a combo between Apple's model and Google's model. If you want streamlined hardware and software, stick with Microkia. However, you also are respected to make your own choices about the devices you use, and can easily switch OEMs if they have something that better catches your eye. All this: without having to relearn the UI every upgrade, you get to keep your data and let all of it migrate, while you also aren't being forced to only have the option of one new device per year. This is just awesome, I'm very excited. Microsoft is absorbing the strength's of its competitors, and very few of their weaknesses. Be not sad, my friends, rejoice! A new era of Windows Phone and Microsoft is dawning upon us: and it is glorious!
  • Re: SwimSwim,
    Very nicely said!
  • Sounds like a good move but I will always want a button for the camera.
  • It is a good move for WP in the long run.
    And also force MS to support more hardware in the future.
  • It makes sense and it's great to see MS go down this route. Now that Nokia is essentially gone as of WP8.1, all the exclusives they brought (both apps and software features. Not hardware, obviously.) with them will be available across all devices that can support them making it a much more level playing field in some respects. That HTC can just throw WP on their next flagship without too much effort is great news, ditto for any of the other companies. I just hope MS doesn't back away from Nokia's diversity of hardware, being able to pick up a low-end Lumia 520 for £60 all the way up to the 1520 for £500 and all those inbetween is a real strength, as are their hardware designs. Android hardware is generally rather boring, the colourful Lumia line seemed a draw a lot of people in (from my experiences and conversations with people at least) so hopefully we'll see more bright colours and changeable shells now MS owns them. A shame that this might mean the end of the hardware buttons though. It irritates me constantly when using my Android devices to not have those options always available to me without a swipe or some action before I can tap to go home. I'm interested to see what else is revealed at Build in a few weeks though, there was a surprising amount of info here really. I wonder if we'll see 7-8" tablets running Windows Phone? I mean, Huawei just announced a 7" Android phablet, they're a partner and can (apparently) very easily put WP on there... Nice to be reminded we do have almost 250K apps though, that's still a heck of a lot, even if we didn't quite catch the Flappy Bird craze! ;) (Officially, anyway)
  • Your post makes a lot of sense.
  • The Android nav bar is shown 99% of the time, it's only when playing videos and using something with immersive mode (KitKat only) that it's hidden. Really not something that is going to irritate you 'constantly'.
  • I've only ever had KitKat running devices so I wouldn't know what it used to be like. I can only speak to my own experiences (so I'm unsure how you would know better than I do what does or does not irritate me, but thanks anyway) and it is something that irritates me constantly, I never realised just how much I took those three always there buttons on Windows Phone for granted till I started using Android more. For those (like yourself, I'm guessing from your avatar only) that are more entrenched in Android it probably feels perfectly normal and natural, but after three years of using WP it's a lot less so for me right now. Will be interesting to see the WP implementation in action at Build though to get a feel for how this will all work.
  • It's not that I feel I know better than you, it just seems odd that what is generally an uncommon event constantly annoyed you. I too will be interested to see how WP implements them, I expect it to be pretty much the same as Android does, since there isn't really a need for them during video playback, but you never know, they could just be permanent.
  • Microsoft has a minimum spec requirement also dev preview gives you updates directly from Microsoft.
  • I actually love this idea and much as I love my L925, I wouldn't mind a HTC One version of WP. This wld also force OEMs to really be innovative around hardware looks and feel so as to differentiate their offerings which is what they were supposed to do in the first place. PC model, heck yes. Might just be what MS needed to grow WP which IMHO is a great OS vs. Android which I've been using now for close to 4 years.
  • While I prefer for MSFT to take WP proprietary (so they could optimize the OS better), if they're going the OEM route then this is the way forward. Now they need to work with the carriers so that people can go to their local carrier store and order a phone with their OS of choice ... or maybe even switch the OS on their own later. For example, the Galaxy Note II is free right now at ATT. I'd like to be able to get one and blast WP8 over the preinstalled Android. That way I'd have a nice 5.5" Windows Phone. Edit: I don't know how carriers handle updates but I assume the delays we see are due to them wanting to make sure updates don't screw up their networks. If that's the case then MSFT needs to work with the carriers to isolate the critical software pieces. Those pieces can be tested independent of OS changes and on a slower timescale.  
  • Good idea!
  • Remember carriers only want to update the OS to keep from hearing from us. No software updates for older models mean they continue to sell newer models in their minds. Damn the public actually getting value from their purchases and an enjoyable user experience with newer features for longer than a year. I am even less hopeful for updates on the regular with all the new "get the newer phone for free" programs (which I like) proliferating the US phone market.
  • This is a very smart business move and we should welcome it. The more exposure Windows phone gets, the better it is for the OS.
  • This move will make it easier for low end oems in to make windows phones, so that's a plus. I just hope the high end windows phones in the future still retain the shutter key. The capacitive buttons i can live without as it opens up alot of design possibilities i.e tapping the bottom the screen brings them up and they autohide when not used (with a user adjustable time for auto hide) this giving abit more screen real estate for apps, games and movies. Or be able to move them around like a floating tool bar? Though i don't see MS allowing that to happen :p.
  • You'll gain manufacturers, but lose devs.
  • Why would devs leave or not come? The OS remains locked down and stable. In fact, you now get to have your app on more phones. Please explain your point of view.
  • Android and iOS, better be careful. WP is on its way to outrun you.
  • Lol!  Keep dreaming, VinaySC.
  • Dislike
  • Microsoft always makes dumb decisions. They need higher end phones not more crappy ones. I'm not saying our current high end is bad, I love my 1020 but when explaining it to fandroid users I lose them after I say "dual-core" or "no expandable storage". Its common knowledge that most high end fandroid users buy their phones based on the specs alone and when you compare Galaxy4s to Lumia 1020 the only thing fandroid users see is lower ram and less storage with a mountain protruding from the back. Not that 1020 is buttery smooth and boots apps and web pages faster they don't care about real world application just the specs. So give me somthing with high specs that I can peddle to potential android customers as a true alternative.
  • well unfortuantly in reality you dont get to number 1 just selling high end phones.
  • Who said these new plans would only bring lower-end windows phones? If anything it will allow high end phones like the HTC one and the upcoming Galaxy S5 to install WP easier
  • I like and want the hardware buttons to stay...hopefully at least some of the OEM s wont ditch them...
  • I think we will still get all the unique hardware features on the reference device that Microsoft is going to release, much like the Nexus 5 by Google. So, I am not getting overly worried about it. :)
  • Loads of good news
  • This is a very smart move, and dies not mean that we will lose anything. We will always have dedicated WP hardware, plus more choices now. The only time that I use the camera button anymore is to launch it... I can learn to work around it if needed. Other than that the android buttons will work just fine.
  • MS and WP developers plans are shortsighten. Why the hell they bring these buttuons if they are going virtual. MS really need some good employees there.
  • i'm pretty sure they're more adept than anyone else here at running their billion dollar company.   they've solidified wp as a platform and now want to expand quickly as possible by giving oem's more freedom.    
  • And what about the users.
    Are they forget about them.
    First that kernel thing with wp7 and now they are removing buttons support.
    Is MS forget about the past users. I don't know why the hell they come up with stupid things when they have to remove it in future. I think MS doesn't know how to build smartphone OS.
  • They're not removing anything, they are adding support for onscreen buttons, and no longer forcing a physical camera button on manufactures.
  • STFU troll.
  • About time.
  • Agree.
  • One plus point from this will be you can put a low end Android hardware running Kitkat next to low end WP hardware running 8.1 right next to each other and now compare likes for likes,showing how laggy Android is. This will work in the benefit for Microsoft as people will get a chance to buy into a smoother, non-laggy, malware-free OS on the hardware they like at the price point they prefer. That too not because a "salesman said so" but because they will compare two handsets side by side. Can't wait for reviews on the internet when HTC One with Kitkat is compared to HTC One with WP8.1!
  • Me too :D I love HTC's designs and can't wait for their future handsets on WP
  • Re: rockstarzzz,
    I agree, I can't wait to see the comparison of android to WP on the same hardware. I am concerned that the biased press will only report that the current WP OS didn't have the current new feature that the "version" of android did. Microsoft needs to continue to innovate and lead.
  • It's logical step towards the future. Although I LOVE everything Nokia and MS have done to the W8 experience I do know for a fact people dislike everything they do and hell, maybe we even get an 8PHONE from the world's richest OEM $_$
  • This is really a win-win for the WP ecosystem. Front facing camera - The low end lumia's  (500's) already ditched it. Most Android phones have a front facing camera anyway. Except fo the really low ends, so were back to comparing to low end Lumia's. Front buttons - What's the big deal? What to you think a capacitive button is? It's just a dedicated touch screen spot. If the manufacturer doesn't want to put in the dedicated spots, the O/S will put those same icons at the bottom of the screen and they won't go away, no matter how hard the manufacterer tries. Camera button - Ok, this is really where WP differenciates itself with other devices. It is nice to have to quickly get to the camera. You don't have to unlock screen, find camera tile, tap tile, etc. depending on which camera app you use this is a LOT of steps to take a picture. Dedicated camera button? Two steps to take a simple picture, NICE!
  • I believe it is a necessary change. Why would an OEM be compelled to build WP8 with such limited ways to differentiate itself?
  • I think its good, because they still don't put the OS "on boat to the sea", just the hardware things. Good for you MS.
  • This sounds irritating me .. Windows phone is going to lose its uniqueness.
    i just switched to Nokia Lumia 925 from IOS 'cause of WP uniqueness.
    i love that three physical key & camera shutter key. So once again moving to IOS
    WP just go like an android.. Gud bye WP
  • you make no sense. why don't you just stay with lumia?  they aren't changing anything up, just other oem's.  you sound a bit ridiculous if that's the reason you would dump android or wp for ios...  :/
  • It means OEMs will have the option. It doesn't mean there will never be a new WP phone with capacitive buttons..
  • Also, if your going to take away the things that made windows phone unique while everything becomes just like Android, get me a god damn Lumia 920. Why is that so hard for at&t to just share!?!?!?!?!? They don't even push it anymore...
  • All this means to me is the "surface phone" should be coming along lol. Seriously this is a smart move. Not desperate at all. Ms knows that they have to cater to consumers and oems. Consumers bitched about win 8 so ms has to fix it. OEMs cry about wp8 now ms will fix it. Not desperation more like customer satisfaction.
  • Lol imagine a phone with a kickstand
  • Re: andy21andy,
    I want one. I miss my Windows MOBILE 6.5 HTC TouchPro2. It had a sliding tilting screen over a real hardware keyboard. I could slide and tilt the screen and sit it on the table to watch YouTube, etc. The physical keyboard allowed me to see the entire screen while typing. Good memories.
  • Honestly if you look at it yeah it maybe a bad thing takig away some things that make Windows Phones the thing we all love but the key factor is. Not many people know how to work a windows phone there so accustom to android based phone. I have friends look at my phone weird cause it has a camera button but to me. If it can draw android users that don't like the Android OS to what alot of people like the windows phone OS look...i think it would be a great bridge. Most people stick with phones there used to and alot of people love Samsung so allowing a galaxy note 3 but running windows phone OS I think is a great look. Get people away from the android OS but they still know they have a product phone they like and is used to just with a different OS experience
  • I think this is a fantastic idea. We'll still have the Nokia/Microsoft products for those of us that perfer a standard experience, but being on more devices could do very little to hurt the platform and possibly quite a bit more to help.  Let's say you're the average user and you like LG phones because you've seen a lot of commercials for them. You stop in to the store and to check out their Android phone. Right next to it, is a similar device but it's running a much more attractive and inuitive OS than the cluttered Android interface. Boom. Windows convert. It may not be that simple, but a boy can dream. :)  
  • It might actually be that simple.
  • I 100% agree. more manufacturers displaying WP's in the store will lend legitimacy to the platform and will bring more eyes on the OS.  I view this as a very positive move by Microsoft!
  • I wonder how the license will affect the smartphones. If the HTC One 2 launched both for android and Windows would the price be the same for both? Would both version have camera buttons, the Windows one or none? There's a lot to wonder about this. Would it be the same or will there be any differences? Is there going to be dual-boot phones like the dual-boot tablets?
  • I think Microsoft had to do this. I for one want to keep the live tiles and will only buy phones that have the option to have them. The main important for me in the long run is the ingratiation with the computer and phone. Whoevers' systems work best together and have the live tile. That is the system for me!
  • I'm glad Microsoft are choosing to do this it gives WP the potential of making it big. It increases the range of devices and gives people more choices. This is a good call as WP needs to increase its market share. About WP running on Android hardware, I have no complains. Some android manufacturers produce beautiful phones, ex- htc one, Motorola droid etc. More powerful wp devices will be available and this is a big win for consumers and MS.
  • The only I feel we are potentially losing is the camera button. To me, the capacitive buttons have always been a bit of an annoyance and I look forward to tying the onscreen version. Windows Phone is already running on low end hardware, so lets see if it run better on the low end Android hardware than Android.
  • Microsoft can even make gestures with the on-screen buttons which sounds awesome. Like how some android tablets, when you drag the home button up you get google now
  • I think this is really good news, because although they removed some hardware restrictions, they have kept the ones that equate to a seamless end user experience (ram/processors/UI). it also opens the market for WP powered devices to spread with designs that have proven to do well (S4/Note3/G2) my issue was always with android and the end user experience it gave, not the hardware! -- so yea.. I think this is a great idea, there will be WP's at many different price points, by many different OEM's, yet with the same smooth consistence experience we've all grown to love. +1 #dontfearchange
  • And the one who gain the benefits from this, well apart from Microsoft themselves, is Qualcomm. Microsoft might removing the requirements like buttons. But the processors will always be Qualcomm. This part of hardware limitation still intact. The range does widening, but all of them still Qualcomm.
    It's logical actually. Optimizing OS is far simpler if you just optimized it to one architecture.
  • Exactly what I was thinking. It's quite a bold statement to say "we've loosened the hardware restrictions" when all an OEM can buy will still have to come from Qualcomm. For many vendors that is a (or rather the) dailbreaker! And no, the important part is not the optimisation but having the drivers, especially for the GPU. In Android land a chip vendor actually has to deliver Linux drivers (for Android) now or they won't sell anything. So far -- and that's really the bad news -- Microsoft couldn't convince any vendor except Qualcomm to do the dirty work and they seemingly don't want to do so themselves. I presume that is also the reason why Nokia will be building Android devices now for the lower end market, without Qualcomm chips.
  • No. MS develops their snapdragon drivers on their own, with support from Qualcomm. Qualcomm isn't doing any of the "dirty work".
  • Get ready for a whole bunch of garbage WP flooding the market. Stupid idea MS.
  • I like os buttons for the front. But I'm happy for SD support as long as they don't screw internal memory to much. I still think high end phones should have 32gb internal with micro SD support for up to 64gb. That would be nice.
  • I firmly believe this is a positive. While some may think that this goes against what windows phone was founded on, it is necessary for a company's strategy to evolve based on the market. Something Ballmer knows all too well now. For those comparing this to android now, it is not an equivalent scenario. While there are more manufacturers and hardware, that is not the true cause of the sloppy update rollouts and fragmentation within the android ecosystem but the OS itself. Not only will more manufacturers with simple crossover allow windows phone reach critical mass, it will also provide the public with two physically identical phones, one android and one wp, and they will see that the windows phone will most likely run smoother and more efficiently. I personally thought phones like the HTC One were great looking, but was unwilling to get one simply because it was android. Now with the high end android phones also becoming windows phones, and running better on it, there will be no excuse for the consumer to ignore windows phone as the viable option.
  • Daniel sounds dissapointed...
  • This might be the "brightest" idea. An excellent consistent OS with many more choices of hardware. It worked for + 900 Million PCs.
  • They are not going Android way they are not going Apple way, they are going both. "Apple" experience you will get with buying Nokia and "Android" experience with buying other OEMs
    Clever move Microsoft :)
  • The OS is exclusively coming from Microsoft, the hardware is exclusively coming from Qualcomm. I see far more Apple in that than Google. There's almost no way for an OEM to differentiate. (Qualcomm) CPU and CPU, memory, flash, screen technology and size, battery capacity, hardware buttons yes or no. That's it, 6 variables and some of them even bounded.
  • If Microsoft goes the way of Google and lose control of their OS floods the market with crappy-wonderful experience then all WP users should just use Android phones and Microsoft should give up. Everyone with an iPhone has the same experience and right now from Lumia 520 to a Samsung AtivS to a Lumia 1520 your experience is almost identical so why mess that up Microsoft. I say lower the licensing fees but keep the requirements
  • +1
  • Its all over looks like Samsung galaxy will be my next phone.
  • I'm glad there are some things that Microsoft is relaxing on, but just as happy that they're not compromising on their OS! I just hope that some OEMs will still keep the hardware shutter button. I find the software version like seen on the iPhone doesn't feel right for me...
  • The high end Nokia phones are simply not selling. The only Windows Phones being sold are heavily subsidized by Microsoft.  If they kill the subsidies then their market share drops down to 1%.  
  • As long as the bottom bezel is small/slim, im fine with onscreen buttons!!! I have seen sony xperia phones and boy those bottom bezels are not very appealing...
    And also display should go 16:9 ratio if onscreen button is planned on the phone
  • Oh some sad news the hardware buttons were cool, windows logo looked good. Beginning of the end for unique wp devices I fear will just be rebranded android phone I reckon
  • I just came from android...i hope thus doesn't allow for cheap crappy phones. I understand needing to gain market share but toy plastic feeling phones just aren't the way to go
  • You understand that there will still be high end phones right?
  • Well, this legitiamtely sucks. All of the things abotu WP hardware that I like over Android hardware are basically becoming optional specifically to get more devices where those things aren't present. I want to keep my 3 off-screen buttons. I can't stand the way Android devices sometimes have their buttons virtualized on the screen. Then they talk abotu not including the camera button as well? I literally only take as many pictures as I do because that button is there, and I love that it's there--this coming form someone who doesn't care for pictures.   I just hope these things stay limited to the lower-end/desperate hardware (like what HTC would launch). Ideally, Nokia will continue to release its high-end devices with camera buttons and the back-home-search setup.
  • This is a good business decision. What was it like 80% of android phones are low-ends? Where if you actually compare iphone to the androids with the same or better specs its 90% iphone. Making cheaper devices will help market share and in turn get more companies on-board the WP train.
  • Guys you are forgetting ONE thing!! More devices more developer! More apps!!
  • I don't know how all of this can be seen as bad news, this is terrific news! Gives companies way more incentive to release Windows Phone products. Just imagine HTC releasing an HTC One3 with the option of picking your OS of choice, or releasing then side by side a One3A and One3W. This is great news. Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • Yeah! I can't wait to see htc two with windows phone. I thought song was going to make one? Sony had waterproof designs and good cameras so they could compete with nokia well.
  • Cool with me. At the end of the day, I am the consumer and get what I want and need. No camera button, not my phone. I will just stick with my 1520 until another phone appealing to me comes around. If Microsoft broadens the footprint by opening up a bit for OEMs, fine. Doesn't mean I have to go with any of them.
  • Believe me, when i clicked on the link on the previous page, the first thing i said was LOSING UNIQUENESS! Well Android is so common and everywhere. True that Windows Phone has and had drawbacks and faults but those make it unique, not in a bad sense but in a good one. And now Microsoft is removing certain restrictions and only god knows what would happen after this. And imagining a phone with not even 8 GB phone is so disappointing. Thank god Microsoft doesn't allow the OEMs to customize the OS beyond a certain level. Well that's really a relief. Phew!
  • I love the camera button
  • I say, lets see how the phone makers respond. Might be ok.
  • Windows Phones is amazing BUT the war is over guys. Shame Microsoft.  "scroogle" wins. For me OPEN your OS Microsoft or create (only you) Windows phones.
  • FINALLY, Microsoft is acting like Microsoft.   The closed, bespoke, single-OEM strategy copied from Apple failed for Microsoft (and is even failing for Apple).   To compete with Android -- which benefitted from copying the "totally easy and diverse ecosystem" model of classic Windows -- Microsoft is setting Windows Phone free.   This means LOTS of awesome hardware on all the major carriers around the world -- LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Mega and Lenovo ThinkPhones all running Windows Phone.  That's a much better situation than the current pathetic one (especially in the USA) of meagre, derivative Nokia designs sold "exclusively" on a particular carrier.
  • Damn! The hardware key for Camera is a actually great. I like it a lot. It helps in accessing camera even when phone is locked. It's perfect!
  • This is understandable as the progress for the platform have to increase faster to be relevant, at least for Microsoft. But as a old WP user the 8.1 update and these new possible hardware products, is a step in the wrong direction, and for me personally, a sign that Microsoft have truly lost to many battles and in that the vision. It may be that Stephen Sinofsky destroyed Metro already when he produced W8 in his bullish ways.
    I look at the future with happiness and disappointment at the same time.
    I feel like many other here, that the Lumia 1020 up to Icon will be the last Windows Phones of its kind. Will this be good or bad? I don't hold any answers but I have a feeling I will be holding on to my L 1020 until it dies, and maybe skip the 8.1 update. From there ots open world. I love WP to much to move in this new direction everything SEEMS to be going (Will make up my mind as I go. Everything's rumors and the rest i know to little to make a decision currently).
  • What about dual-booting from existing and future android phones?
  • That, imo, is a bad idea. Yeah, it may sounds nice to have two os in one device and gives you choices, but you know, if two things battling, one must be the loser. And yeah, I am afraid of this will make WP extinct especially if app development is taken into consideration.
  • Still gone get a windows phone no matter what. Big fan. Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • This means we'll be seeing regurgitated crappy Android devices with Windows on them.  What a way to go down the tubes.
  • I would prefer if Windows Phone retained its uniqueness, but at just under 4% of the global market and Nokia, essentially as the sole OEM partner (soon MS manufacturing arm), MS NEEDED more partners to produce devices to increase scale in order to compete. If OEMs needed the reins loosened a bit in order to get them on board, I think its a good thing. Uniformity in devices will sadly be lost, bit consumers will have more devices to choose from. Rather than a few Lumia devices at ATT and Verizon and a couple on Sprint and T-Mobile, there will be a few others to add to the list and emerging markets of course would see even more since many of the new OEMs on board are focused there.
  • You make sense but get every one onboard as long as leave os untouch. Gives us more as consumer. I never use my camera button so yes give as more but leave os untouched
  • Hey let's just look at the bright side guys! We'll always have high quality phones from Nokia!! I love my HTC 8X but I'm definitely switching to Lumia soon, no doubt about it.
  • I'm so sad that the camera shutter button isn't going to be required anymore, that set windows phone apart!
  • What's the difference between OEM and ODM?
  • I rather have quality product,I over numerous samsungs and htss on WP and windows mobile if anyone remembers that, and hardware is a pile of flimsy plastic junk. I hope ms makes use,of Nokia purchase I want quality not quantity.
  • Does this also mean we can expect to see the likes of lumia 1020 running on Android? Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • This is awesome news!  The biggest hurdle for winphone gaining market share has always been the lack of variety in available handsets.  Hopefully this will result in more winphones being put on display in stores.  That's how you get the customer's attention.
  • I've read a fair share of the comments and what I see that many people fail to understand is that Microsoft actually is not copying Google by having a large number of OEMs but it is the other way around. Doesn't anyone remember windows mobile? Isn't that the same model that Microsoft is trying to get back to here? When windows mobile was young (think pre ios), what many OEMs such as Samsung used to do was make very light additions to the interface that did not slow the OS down but was actually rather helpful. Isn't that what Nokia does with their small additions to WP? Additions such as the double tap to wake the device or the smart camera are good examples of this approach. I do not think that Microsoft is stupid. It sees the chaotic state that Android is in and would only allow light useful additions to the OS. Even Google saw the error that they made and stopped Samsung from going even further with their "customizations" to android. I think what Windows Phone is in for would be something akin to what Google had created in the Moto X. I don't think there is anything to really be afraid of.
  • The 3 button requirement is still there it seems, but OEMs now simply have the option to make them always visible buttons or virtual ones. That means consistency in front buttons across Windows Phones. As for the front facing camera, not all Windows Phones had one when they first debuted using WP7, so that's fine as well.
    So in general, the Windows Phone experience will still be consistent (UI and navigation) wise across all devices, on high and low end hardware.
  • This will make the final comparison: when an OEM will launch a device it can do it simultaneously with Android and WP. They will both have the same launch date, benefit the same hardware, it will be the race that everybody is waiting for. The only thing that can influence this is marketing otherwise the nr of devices sold will show how much WP is catching up.
  • I think it is a good move! Microsoft has to increase its market share to catch up with android and iOS and make WP profitable, this the only way for us to keep geting cool stuff otherwise they will kill this business.
  • I don't mind this move, it will bring more manufacturers back to WP to help gain market share, but all the high end internal Microsoft/Nokia devices I'm sure will continue to have the standard hardware features and they are the ones that I'm always going to buy.
  • No no no. This is why I like Windows, there is minimum hardware level manufacture has to meet. The amount of times I've wanted to throw cheap low end Android phones out the Window when clearly its not usable and fit for purpose.
  • Amen