Regular readers will know that EngagingChina has a begrudging admiration for Microsoft's China strategy.

Unlike many of its western rivals, Microsoft no longer sees China as just another “developing market” and the software giant seems prepared to think the unthinkable to win over China — such as a Made in China mobile phone that potentially replaces the need for a PC and, ahem, Windows.

At a recent event at its US HQ, Eric Chang, director of incubation at Microsoft's Advanced Technology Centre in Beijing, described Fone+, a product that lets users connect their mobile phones to a TV, keyboard and mouse.

The thinking behind Fone+ is that mobile phones have enough power for common computing tasks like surfing the internet, but the user experience is let down by the small screen and the tiny keypad. By plugging a full-size keyboard and TV screen into the Fone+, the experience is transformed into something approaching that of using a dedicated PC.

The product would be aimed at regions like China where PC penetration is still quite low but mobile phone ownership is high.

Users could also connect other devices, such as external storage, to the phone which would connect to the internet wirelessly or even via a conventional ADSL wired connection.

Presumably, the Fone+ has been designed to use the Window Mobile, its operating system for smartphones, otherwise its difficult to see why Microsoft would be so keen to develop a product that would stop people buying PCs.

But Windows Mobile has hardly set the smartphone world alight and I can't see anything to stop Nokia or Motorola developing a similar product running Linux, for example.

In addition, the main buyers of Windows Mobile devices are corporations who want full compatibility with the Windows-based software running on their office PCs. For the consumer market that the Fone+ is aimed at, PC compatibility is much less important.

Nevertheless, its good to see that Microsoft can think outside the box.

More in this IDG News story.


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