Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Smartphone Makers Aim at Africa

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Smartphone Makers Aim at Africa

Article excerpt

The software giant is teaming with Huawei of China in an effort to tap demand for a smartphone on the continent.

Microsoft, taking aim at the world's fastest-growing smartphone market, is teaming up with Huawei of China to sell a Windows smartphone in Africa, with an introduction event that was planned for Tuesday.

The phone, called the Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone, will cost $150 and will initially be sold in seven countries. The Windows Phone software from Microsoft is fourth among smartphone operating systems, with just 2 percent of the worldwide market in September, according to Canalys, a research firm in Reading, England.

"Microsoft is a small player in smartphones, and it needs as many partners as it can get," Pete Cunningham, an analyst at Canalys, said Monday. "And Africa is one of Huawei's strongest markets outside of China."

Microsoft's choice of Huawei, a leading maker of mobile networking equipment for African operators, does not detract from Microsoft's commitment to Nokia, which is relying on Windows Phone software to lift its new line of smartphones and return the company to profitability.

Fernando de Sousa, the general manager for Microsoft Africa, said that in the next few months, Microsoft and Nokia planned to introduce two new Windows phones in the African market.

Africa is the world's fastest-growing region for smartphones, with average sales growth of 43 percent a year since 2000, according to the GSM Association, an industry trade group in London.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 10 percent of the 445 million cellphone users have smartphones, but that is expected to increase rapidly as operators expand high-speed networks.

By 2017, most consumers in South Africa are expected to be using smartphones, up from 20 percent last year, according to the GSM Association.

The World Bank has said that about a quarter of the one billion people on the continent are middle-class wage earners, the target group that Microsoft will try to reach with the Huawei phone, Mr. de Sousa said.

"Africans are generally quite conscious of brand, quality and image," he said. "We are being very clear that we are not going to be building something cheap for this market. …

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