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Heard of Windows Blue? Or a cheap iPhone? Both could be reality soon

The Windows 8S phone, Image courtesy: Microsoft Corporation
The Windows 8S phone, Image courtesy: Microsoft Corporation

Even as I started to write this week’s column on stuff happening in the digital world, there came two bits of news that may cheer up consumers around the world. One: software leader Microsoft is apparently working on the sly on a low-cost Operating System (OS) called Windows Blue. 

The other: Apple Inc. may succumb to bottom line pressure and introduce a $200 iPhone to tackle competition by Android. Especially because Android-based devices are becoming increasingly popular in countries like India and China (Google, take a bow). Both developments mean a reduction in the price tag of two of the most sold digital commodities – one, a software, the other, hardware. Ain`t it good news then?
 
Two things immediately struck me as highly ironical. Both, Windows and Apple products had started off as high-end or costly to install/use, but today, both are bending over backward to reach out to more and more potential customers. The other is that in today’s digital world, where the mobile phone is fast threatening to overtake the PC, both companies feel threatened by one entity – Google (Doff your hats, you guys at Google).
 
Guess that’s what happens when competition enters the market. After all, till there was no Linux, Ubuntu, or Android, both, Microsoft and Apple had tried to capitalise on the situation and sell their products either with a high price tag or to only the premium segment.
 
The Windows Blue OS story broke in the tech/science news portal, The Verge. But among the very first reports on this front to have appeared was in ZDNet in August this year.
 
The Verge story takes off from where the ZDnet story stopped. It talks of things materialising at a much faster pace at Microsoft where Windows Blue is concerned. The launch date of this next-gen OS is sometime early 2013. The guys at Microsoft are working on the Blue concept in such a way that once released, it should become the next OS that all Windows consumers around the world will install. The main aim is to standardise the OS across Windows and Windows Phone in an effort to provide more regular updates to consumers. Once that has been done, Microsoft plans to release yearly updates to its Blue software.
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So where is the price dropping? After its release of Windows 8 in October (for a fairly decent price tag compared to the earlier versions) Microsoft will price its next Windows release at an even lower cost or even free (yup, you heard that right) to ensure that all Windows users around the world go in for the upgrade. Once that happens, Microsoft will stop accepting apps that are built specifically for Windows 8, pushing developers to create apps for Blue. Windows 8 apps, however, will continue to run on Blue.
 
Oh, yes, before I forget, the Blue download will only be applicable for those who use a genuine Microsoft OS, and not a pirated one. So if you belong to the latter, go out right now and purchase the real McCoy. Believe me, you will realise its full value next year when Blue comes out.
 
So while Microsoft seems to have got its act together, Apple needs to do some quick thinking. Apple has always placed its products in the premium range. In fact, it was a subject that some top honchos within his company often raised with him, but the late Steve Jobs prided himself on the fact that Apple products were for the “true connoisseurs”. This “reverse” marketing strategy seemed to have worked all these years as consumers clamoured to buy those expensive Apple gadgets – be it the iMac, the iPhone or iPad or even the iPod.
 
Times have changed, though. The iPhone, many feel, does not retain that kind of exclusivity any more. Plus there’s Google Android to contend with. There are zillions of cheap and equally good, if not better, tablets available in the market now, to counter the iPad. The iPod seems almost a product of the past. The iMac is so exorbitantly priced compared to other PCs that it is still beyond the average consumer’s reach.
 
So the question before Apple today is – Where does the company go from here? According to a report in the Business Insider, well known research analyst Gene Muster, who’s a real biggie in the tech world, has said Apple will put out an iPhone at $200 (At present, the iPhone costs about US $ 600+). When? By 2014. Which means, in India, the phone should cost about Rs 11,000 at today’s exchange rate. Wow. Imagine that.
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Munster feels that this “cheap” iPhone will have a comparatively lower profit margin than the
present iPhone 5, but it will definitely improve Apple’s global market share.
 
For those of you who didn’t know this, Apple already offers iPhones virtually free to customers in the US and some other markets, where mobile service companies subsidise the handset in a way that if you subscribe to the cellular service and the iPhone as a package deal, the phone ultimately costs you nothing. In India, a couple of companies like Aircel do offer this kind of subsidy. But such schemes are not prevalent in emerging markets.
 
Which brings me to the end of this piece. But before I log off, let me ask you - what do you think? Will a cheaper iPhone draw in the crowds? Write your answer in the Comments section below.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as  The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV.
 
He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
 
You can write to him at newagecontent@gmail.com
 
NNN

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