It looks like 2012 will be an interesting year for Windows Phone. A leaked slide deck offers the first tidbits about Microsoft launch plans for 2012 -- a year some are billing as a make it or break it year for Microsoft.
Windows Phone (WP) 7.5 Mango is still relatively new on the market, but Microsoft is already cooking up its successor (or perhaps counterpart) dubbed Tango. Set to launch in Q2 2011, Tango will bring the Mango experience to lower-priced budget smartphones.
Microsoft has been pretty strict thus far about its hardware specifications (e.g. requiring a 1 GHz CPU), so it should be interesting to see if lower end hardware can keep pace. Windows Phone is perhaps the most fluid operating system on the market today, in terms of animations, when navigating the core menus interface. If the budget hardware indeed makes the WP experience clunkier, it should be interesting how much that cripples the UI experience.
Tango is likely heavily crafted with Microsoft's premium partner Nokia in mind. While Nokia has struggled in the U.S., it has flourished with budget handsets in other very large markets like China. Nokia has promised to transition all of its smartphone lineup to the Windows Phone platform. In order to get its budget handsets onboard with that plan, WP Tango will be necessary.
For WP fans, the more exciting launch will likely be the Q4 2012 "Apollo". Perhaps the rumored Windows Phone 8, Apollo will bring support for "super phones" (think LTE, large HD screens, dual-core CPUs, and more). While some Windows Phones (think the HTC Titan) have offered more of a premium hardware experience, they still trail Android models in CPU speed (less noticeable) and screen resolution (more noticeable).
The slide also indicates it will improve the business experience.
Microsoft's slide also indicates that a key objective of Apollo is to "increase overall volume". Well, duh -- even the typically enthusiastic Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that Windows Phone sales have been "very low". With Nokia's transition to WP, Microsoft will instantly gain a large international market share, but it will need to push hard to win over the U.S. market, which is currently being dominated by a Google Android and Apple iPhone duopoly.
While its success is uncertain, Microsoft continues to pour money into the mobile space and cook up novel product -- from an operating system perspective, if not yet from a hardware perspective. Thus it seems inevitable that sooner or later its effort will see at least modest success. 2012 will verily be an exciting year for WP fans.