Telefónica hopes to make a dent in iOS-Android duopoly with new Windows Phone push

The operator will spend more on Windows Phone marketing in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile in the coming year

Spanish operator Telefónica is worried about the Android-iOS smartphone duopoly, and has joined with Microsoft in a marketing blitz that it hopes will convince consumers to pick up smartphones based on Windows Phone.

For one year, Telefónica will spend more on marketing to help sell its Windows Phone 8 devices in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile, the operator said on Wednesday, without elaborating on how much money it would invest and to what extent Microsoft is contributing to the effort.

Telefonica also sells Android and iOS devices, but doesn't break out how much revenue it gets from each platform.

Telefónica said it wants a more competitive and diverse smartphone market. More than nine out of 10 smartphones shipped during the first three months of the year ran either Google's Android or Apple's iOS OSes, according to IDC. Windows Phone sales more than doubled thanks to Nokia, but is still only 3.2 percent, the market research company said.

Mobile operators have previously expressed their concerns with Android and iOS dominance. At Mobile World Congress, Orange spoke about its hopes for Intel and Samsung Electronics' Tizen OS. Telefónica is also one of the main backers of Mozilla's Firefox OS.

"When you reach a situation where ecosystem owners like Google and Apple command so much of the smartphone market it becomes really scary from a revenue generating point of view for a carrier like Telefónica, so I can understand why it wants more competition," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, who thinks Telefónica sees Microsoft as more of a partner.

Today, Windows Phone's fortunes stand and fall with Nokia's ability to sell as many Lumia smartphones as possible. About 80 percent of all units that shipped during the first quarter came from the struggling Finnish vendor, according to IDC.

For Nokia the deal is good news. It too has been working closer with operators, as the company hopes to boost its sales. Last month, Nokia launched the Lumia 928, which is an exclusive to Verizon Wireless, for example.

"What will make or break Windows Phone is the support from carriers, and the platform also needs more support from developers," Cozza said.

Meanwhile, the other vendors continue to offer Windows Phone devices, but mainly as an alternative to their signature Android devices, IDC said. When Samsung last week launched a new generation of ATIV products -- which is its brand for Windows-based mobile devices -- a new smartphone was missing in action.

Telefónica said it would work with a number of suppliers "to ensure the availability of high-quality devices," it said. The other phone makers have been too focused on Android, and with the exception of Samsung haven't seen a lot of return on that strategy, according to Cozza. But increased backing from operators like Telefónica could result in more Windows phones, she said.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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