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Tango Thoughts

Hello, I’m Hotmail Alias and I’m glad to have joined the WP Sauce team as a contributor. I am essentially a non techie tech-enthusiast from India with interest in gadgets, automobiles, photography and I’m very impressed with Windows Phones. On this blog, apart from the events that are ‘happening’ in the WP7 world, I’ll try to present the point of view of an average-non-geek smartphone user, which is what I am. I took the name of Hotmail Alias when Microsoft introduced the cool feature for creating, umm well, a ‘Hotmail Alias’ within your Live account and I’ve developed a liking for it.

Tango Thoughts
It has been well documented that the updates following Mango and preceding Apollo are likely to be Tango1 and Tango2. One of them, Tango1, is likely to add support for new languages not supported in Mango; and Tango2 will be targeted at low cost devices in emerging markets to include fixes and new features as well as services (Mary Jo Foley’s thoughts on this). This is specially important for the Indian customers where usage of smartphone features is much lower than smartphone penetration.

Microsoft has been dropping hints about Tango 1 & 2 all along. John  McConnell, Principal Program Manager, Windows Phone Engineering mentioned about the future in his 07 Jul Windows Phone Blog while talking about language support beyond Mango. He talks about complex scripts like Arabic and Hindi and languages that are written from right to left like Hebrew and Urdu and that these will be supported in future updates. Out of these, Hebrew and Arabic are likely to be supported in Tango1 as Microsoft engineers had already achieved considerable progress in rendering their typefaces even in WP 7.5. Hindi and Urdu, the principal languages in India and Pakistan, can be assumed to find favour in Tango2. If Microsoft has studied the Indian market, they would know that support for Hindi is not absolutely essential here. India has over 200 million people who are comfortable with using English and the Roman script and they are also the likely target for Windows Phone marketing. However, BlackBerry and Android owners can already read and type in Hindi on Opera Mobile, so its natural that WP7 aficionados will want this feature.

It has also been speculated that Nokia would be heavily involved with Tango update (one or both??) and the mention of new features and services in Tango2 fits in with this theory because Nokia has repeatedly affirmed its intention to bring its suite of services to Windows Phones. It can be argued that the said Nokia services are not only for low end devices targeted in Tango2. However, I expect Microsoft and Nokia to work on a two-pronged strategy in assimilate Nokia Services in WP7. Some services like Maps/Navigation would be modified by Nokia to integrate them with WP7 while Microsoft would alter their OS to accommodate
localised Nokia features like Carrier Billing, Music downloads etc. This alteration is most likely Tango2 and it can make a huge impact on emerging markets like India.

The Indian mobile phone market is very peculiar. Smartphone penetration is low, quite understandably, but it is flummoxing to see that most smartphone owners don’t have any data plan. Those who do, they follow the Nokia approach i.e., each data transmission session begins with permission from the user and this happens every time!! Data plans themselves are baffling. While it costs Rs. 99 ($2.00) for 2GB of data on the 2G/EDGE network if you have a PREPAID account, the same amount fetches you just 1/10th of data (200MB) on a POSTPAID account. 3G tariffs are almost 8 times more expensive. Therefore the Always-On internet needed for live tiles, push notifications, background agents in Windows Phones will not be adopted so readily. Tango2 will need to find an answer to that. They will also need to address the issue of almost every app and game requiring access to data services. This should help regular WP users too as most games need data services just to display global leader boards.

Ironically, the need for reduction in data usage for emerging markets does not augur well with the lowered chassis requirements as suggested by nanoph.jp recently. The speculated minimum memory of 4GB will be woefully inadequate as seamless cloud connectivity (SkyDrive storage) cannot be resorted to, if data charges have to be minimised. Microsoft may also have to relent and allow transfer of documents over bluetooth which they seem to be averse to.

Another peculiarity that Microsoft needs to consider is that the younger generation, which is taking to smartphones in a big way in India, is largely ‘mobile-only’, i.e., they carry out all their activities on the phone. Most of them do not use a regular PC or laptop and many may not have ready access to the larger devices. This is a problem for Windows Phones adoption because of its dependence on Zune for syncing media, phone updates etc. And lets face it, no one has heard of the word Zune here. Add to it that 75% of this generation does not hold any credit card that makes the Marketplace out of bounds for a large chunk of potential customers. Microsoft will have to incorporate carrier billing in their OS if they want to succeed in this demographic segment. Luckily, Nokia has strong carrier relations here which Microsoft can rely on if they so decide.

All in all, some interesting scenarios may emerge in the next 6-8 months within which I expect the two Tango updates to be delivered. Since they are essentially for the Asian market, we will likely see a reduced level of interest in the West. If you can think of some other areas where Microsoft (and Nokia) need to work to bring value for our money in their product, please express the same in the comments section.

Image courtesy – Tangojump , Wikipedia , Cris Vector