Why Microsoft Is Delivering Weak Smartphones Right Now

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Photo: Business Insider / Matthew Lynley

One of this year’s biggest smartphone changes, from the hardware perspective, is the introduction of dual-core chips.The iPhone 4S, and nearly every major Android phone is powered by a dual core chip, which delivers a snappier performance.

Microsoft, however, doesn’t have any phones powered by dual-core chips. Instead, it’s relying on the slower single core chips for its Windows Phones.

Why? We asked Microsoft’s Windows Phone president Andy Lees.

He says the company gets better battery performance from single-core chips, and isn’t sacrificing much. It also allows Microsoft to sell cheaper phones. Right now Microsoft is playing catch up in smartphones, so it’s hoping that it can compete on price to make up ground.

We got a chance to speak with him briefly at Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 event on Monday — below is a transcript of our conversation with Lees, lightly edited for clarity:

BUSINESS INSIDER: You don’t mind being on a low end phone?

ANDY LEES: We love low end phones. Have you seen the volume of low end phones?

BI: Is that preferable to a $300 phone? 

AL: No, they’re all fantastic.

BI: You think you’ll ever get a free phone like Apple has with the iPhone 3GS?

AL: We have already had three free phones, what I look at is the transfer price. The price of the phone when it leaves the factory, and our goal is to erase that as quickly as possible, as low as possible. Promotions will come and go, subsidies will come and go in different parts of the world based on who is betting on what and what deals are being done but the fundamental question is: Are we able to be a very low cost smartphone with the best experience at that price?

BI: Why did you keep the minimum clock speed for Windows Phone 7 devices at 1 Gigahertz?

AL: It’s actually below 1 gigahertz, I think. Everybody is talking about dual core but there’s already a second processor on that chip. It’s called the graphics processor, and that’s the thing that gives the user the most amount of perceived performance. You’ll get our cheapest phone and it’s silky smooth and fast performance everywhere. 

We don’t have a dual core phone today but I suspect if you compare performance, battery life and other aspects of the phone, we think in many cases because of the way we optimise, we give you a far better experience then you would get from those phones.  

BI: Are you guys attached to single core? You think you’ll be using dual core in the future?

AL: We’re certainly not against dual core.

BI: What about graphics processors. Are you going to throw your weight behind putting in more GPU power, is that your priority in terms of hardware? How much RAM?

AL: We’ll have a minimum set of GPU, and AP requirements. Today, the minimum is 512 megabytes to be able to run 100% of all applications. All our phones use 4 point multitouch and that means all the games work so you don’t have this situation where someone is using some touch technology that is not right.  We go right down to the detail and our goal here is to provide minimums. The good news is, if you provide predictable minimums, the volume fixes the price problem. That’s a better strategy. It seems like you’re slower, and then boom, you come out with these low cost phones that are fantastic. You leapfrog in multiple dimensions.

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