In addition to Microsoft's recently announced Windows Phone 7 Series and the renamed Windows Phone Classis series (which was so far known as Windows Phone aka Windows Mobile 6.5), Microsoft will launch a third Windows Phone category it's going to call Windows Phone Starter. According to ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley, Windows Phone Starter features a similar concept to the original Windows Starter Edition products for the PC. Windows XP and Windows Vista Starter were products exclusively tailored for emerging markets with Windows 7, Microsoft broadened the availability of the Starter Edition to include all countries.
Now she got a couple of answers from Microsoft what all this Windows Phone Starter is about (extract):
Q: Is Mobile Starter available to phone makers via Bsqure only? Or also direct from Microsoft?
A: The Windows Phone 6 Starter Edition SKU is available to all direct partners. It is also available via MediaTek and BSquare.
Q: Which version of Office Mobile is part of one of the two Starter SKUs?
A: The current version of Office Mobile will ship in Windows Phone 6 Starter Edition. Office Mobile 2010 is currently available in beta form for Windows Phone 6.5. When Office Mobile 2010 ships, it will be made available to OEMs and distributors.
Q: Is this a stripped-down version of Windows Mobile 6.5? What's not there that's in the full fledged version?
A: The Windows Phone 6 Starter Edition SKU is offered in multi-language versions with and without Microsoft Office Mobile and supports 2G (GSM), 2.5G (CDMA2000 xRTT, EDGE, GPRS), CDMA (Rev A, EV-DO Revision A), and TD-SCDMA radios.
Q: Have any phone makers signed up yet as customers?
A: Yes. OEMs will be launching products built on Windows Phone 6 Starter Edition this year.
Too bad Microsoft hasn't answered the question what the difference between Windows Mobile 6.5 (aka Windows Phone Classic) and Windows Phone Starter is. At this point it looks like both are the same, addressing different markets: Windows Phone Classic for developed markets where corporate customers have to continue with Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Phone Starter for emerging markets where Windows Phone 7 Series might not be available anytime soon - due to localization issues (keep in mind that Windows Phone 7 Series gets a way deeper service integration, it's not about translating hte user interface only) - and for sure available for a way cheaper license fee.
Cheers ~ Arne