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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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RE: WP7
By Aloonatic on 3/9/2011 1:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't intend to be condescending, and started my comment by saying that it depends on your definition of "the first iteration".

To me, it's not a good enough excuse for MS and their fans to make out like this is their first go at it, which is what appears to be being implied.

It;s a point of view thing. Put a Model T next to a new Focus, and just because they look different, it's hardly fair to call it their first iteration, and if it doesn't work well, well that's just fine.

I understand what you're saying, first iteration of this generation of mobile OS, but it still doesn't make up for the fact that they have been in this market for longer than others, and are still playing catch up, and it is (by your own admission) built on a well established core, which should only make it easier, surely?

Apple and Google might have had excuses for not getting it right first time, with their first efforts (buit on established cores too, no doubt, but still not with the mobile experience that MS has) and they made mistakes that MS should/could have learned from.

Seems to be one of those instances where MS is being given a bit of a free pass, IMO, but if you don't agree, then fair enough :o)


RE: WP7
By Helbore on 3/9/2011 5:25:59 PM , Rating: 2
I guess I took at "you see that 7 there...." bit as being condescending, as if I hadn't worked out that this was being billed as the follow-up to WinMo 6.5. But if that wasn't your intention, then fair enough.

As you point out, both iOS and Android are built on solid codebases (OSX and Linux, both of which hark back to the UNIX/BSD days), so the codebase has little to do with the maturity of the platform. Using an existing codebase for the core has little to do with developing the overlying OS.

The reasons iOS and Android didn't get it right in their first iterations had little to do with them not knowing what was needed and much more to do with management-instructed release dates. Both companies could have put everything in for their first release, but that release would then have been years later, due to a longer required development schedule.

Microsoft's biggest mistake was failing to make significant improvements to WinMo when they had the chance. They sat back and put out new versions with barely any improvements between them. Once the got confronted with a real competitor, the old code was so far behind, it was clearly easier for them to scrap the whole thing, go back to the original codebase and rewrite the entire OS. You'll get no complaints from me if you want to criticise MS for their poor WinMo development strategy. They lost me as a customer to Google because of it.

But its because of that "return to codebase" decision that I consider WP7 - the platform - to be in its first iteration. When referencing the platform, I'm not thinking about poor business decisions MS has made in the past. They've scrapped the majority of WM code and started from scratch, so I'll judge this OS as a new OS - just as I'd judge any OS Microsoft may potentially, one day, put out based on the Singularity kernel and not hinder my views based on what was previously in NT-based Windows. Just as I did when judging NT-based Windows compared to 9x-based Windows, or OSX compared to the older MacOS.


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