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Window Phone 7's market slice contracted slightly in the closing months of last year. But the platforms true test will come when it reaches a fully-updated form, begins popping up in Nokia handsets, and hits Verizon/Sprint during Summer 2011.  (Source: Reuters)
Windows Phone may yet reverse the fortunes of the struggling giant, but the proof isn't there yet

Q4 2011 wasn't exactly the start for Windows Phone 7 that Microsoft might have dreamed of, but the platform is far from out of the picture.

Windows Phone 7 lost some ground in October 2010 through January 2011 of this year according to market research firm comScore.  The platform dipped from 9.7 percent market share to 8.0 percent.

Other losers for the quarter were HP's Palm unit, which fell from 3.9 to 3.2 percent, and RIM, which dropped from 35.8 to 30.4 percent.  Apple held steady, beginning at 24.6 and closing at 24.7 percent.  

The only real winner was Android that soared from 23.5 percent to 31.2 percent.  In other words -- Android is eating everyone else's lunch, except for Apple that is hanging steady due to its legion of loyal fans.

Ultimately this is news we've known for some time now.  Other market research reports have reported Android already having passed RIM and iOS.  The interesting and much-talked-about aspect of this particular report is the implication that Microsoft lost even more market share.

While it's tempting to predict to buy in to the gloom and predict the demise of Windows Phone 7 (and some are indeed doing exactly that), the outlook for Windows Phone 7 is pretty good.  With arguably the market's most cutting-edge user interface (and a well-liked one by customers to boot) Windows Phone 7 offers a unique profile.  

With a partnership with Nokia in hand it seems destined for a large boost in market share, possibly to the number two position, as Nokia phases out Symbian over the next year.  Many have expressed skepticism of this given Nokia's poor performance, but history shows that Nokia is more than capable of lingering around, market share-wise, despite an anemic smartphone lineup in the U.S.  And while recently revealed details indicate Microsoft may have essentially "bought" that market share via a $1B USD payout to Nokia, at the end of the day it's where the market moves that counts.

The reasons for the dip seem pretty straightforward.  

First, there was a limited number of handset options at launch time compared to Android and WP7 handsets haven't landed on Verizon or Sprint.  In this regard Microsoft will continue to suffer for a little while as a Microsoft spokesperson says that the handsets won't hit America's biggest and third biggest (respectively) carriers until June 30.

Second, many buyers on AT&T and T-Mobile who might be interested in Windows Phone 7 handsets may be waiting to see how Microsoft's intense cycle of early updates plays out.  Those updates will add functionality like third-party multi-tasking and copy and paste.  Likewise they're likely waiting for issues like update compatibility and phantom data to be cleaned up as Microsoft and its hardware partners break in the platform.

Microsoft proclaimed earlier this year that it sold 2 million "units" of Windows Phone 7 (licenses, not handsets) -- a rather misleading figure as its true handset totals were far from that.  Likewise, some of the platform's critics have been quick to call it a tremendous failure.

Reality is that Windows Phone 7's true potential won't be seen until it lands on Verizon -- effectively in July -- at the least.  Like Android's original launch, the most serious test will come at about the end of the year.  If the platform can't gain ground during the Nokia phase-in and with a year of updates under its belt, then it's time to worry.  But chances are that Microsoft's position will improve -- even if its start was far from what it might have hoped for in its most optimistic dreams.

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By karhill on 3/8/2011 4:53:15 PM , Rating: 2
I own both an Android-based Samsung Galaxy S phone and a WP7-based HTC HD7. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but on a day-to-day basis I find myself using the WP7 phone more. Basically, the WP7 is buttery-smooth compared to the Galaxy S. The WP7 UI, which at first I thought was fugly as all get-out, is just much nicer to work with. The Android grid of App icons just feels so boring and dated, and, well, as said above, clunky in comparison. The WP7 phone is just a dream to work with for the common day-to-day tasks.

The WP7 phone boots faster (ug, not more media scanning on the Android) and I very rarely have to reset/reboot the WP7, about 1/4 as frequently as I do with the Android, so the WP7 is more robust. The email sync and especially the mobile Onenote and Onenote sync are fantastic things for an avid Onenote user. The Netflix app on the WP7 is great, but will apparently be available soon on the Android. The GPS works much better on the HD7, but the Samsungs are not known for their GPS (I do a lot of work in the mountains). The GPS is probably more of a specific hardware issue than an Android/WP7 issue. The camera is easier to use on the WP7. Battery life is generally longer on the WP7, but it's not long enough on either.

My kid, who also has a Samsung Galaxy S, loves the keyboarding input on the WP7 with its auto-correct feature. He's much faster texting on the WP7 than he is on the Galaxy S, which he otherwise defends fervently. The keyboarding alone, he says, is "almost enough" to make him switch. Personally, I try to avoid keyboarding on phones, it's just too slow for me. I tend to do short one-finger quickies, and for that the Android Swype input method is much better. Keyboarding summary: two thumbs is faster on the WP7, Android's Swype is great for one-finger fastness.

The Android app store is more complete and easier to use...searching the WP7 app store is a joke. The Android provides much better acess to the file system, which I really miss on the WP7. The limitations on 3rd party app multitasking on the WP7 is an issue in certain usage scenarios (but not that many for the casual user).

Basically, the Android is better for tinkering/geek donking around. The WP7 is better for the casual user who just wants an easy to use smartphone (e.g. my Dad doesn't know what a filesystem is and exposing it would just confuse him.)

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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