Can Windows Phone Succeed in the Mobile Market?
Before iOS and Android became the dominant smartphone operating systems, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was battling it out with Symbian and Research in Motion’s email-focused BlackBerry OS for supremacy.
This wasn’t all that long ago either, five years perhaps, but in terms of mobile development it’s a lifetime. The proof is that now, BlackBerry is struggling, Symbian still exists but has been officially retired and Windows Mobile has exited the scene entirely.
Just like BlackBerry and Symbian, Microsoft failed to keep up with changing trends, and after Windows Mobile 6.5’s release in 2009, the OS was discontinued. As interest in smartphones exploded, Android and iOS became runaway hits, with Microsoft being all but forgotten at a consumer level. Then, in October 2010, Microsoft unveiled the operating system with which it would make its return to the smartphone world.
Windows Phone 7 was brand-new, integrated itself with other Microsoft products such as Xbox Live and Zune, and was designed for touchscreen devices. Its fresh, modern look was completely different to Android and iOS too.
Critically well received, by the end of the year, according to industry analysts Gartner, Microsoft had grabbed a 2.7-percent share of the worldwide smartphone market. Things were looking positive, fast forward to the end of November 2011, and Gartner’s new figures showed Windows Phone was down to a 1.5-percent market share.
In-between this time, Microsoft and Nokia had announced a partnership, second generation phones had been released, and the OS was receiving its update to Windows Phone 7.5. If Microsoft couldn’t build or even sustain its market share at a time when activity was high and interest should have been piquing, what chance does it and Windows Phone 7 have for the future?
Here are four reasons why that future still looks bright.
Microsoft has plenty of money, but how much of it is being invested in Windows Phone’s success? If speculation, which appeared around the new OS’s launch, is to be believed, it was a total of $1 billion, with at least $400 million used for marketing.
Later, a joint budget of $200 million was pledged to the Nokia Lumia 900’s launch on AT&T in the USA this year, showing how serious Microsoft and Nokia are about re-entering the US market. Make no mistake, there’s a huge war chest supporting Windows Phone.
Developers and the App Marketplace.
Smartphone operating systems mean nothing without a strong application store, and although it has taken a while to get going, the Windows Marketplace is gathering pace. A report shows that at the end of May 2012, the Marketplace offered 100,000 apps available for download, up from just over 80,000 in March and 65,000 in January.
Microsoft knows how important it is to get developers writing for Windows Phone, and has been busy attracting their attention ever since the OS’s launch. It looks like the hard work is paying off, but it still has a while to go before it matches the Apple App Store’s astonishing total of 650,000 apps.
Thanks in no small part to Nokia’s exciting Lumia phones, it has been reported that in China, Windows Phone has 7-percent of the market. While it may not sound like a number to shout about, it is when iOS has 6-percent. In Russia, it’s almost exactly the same situation, with Windows Phone reaching 8.2-percent at the end of the first quarter this year, and iOS trailing on 7.3-percent.
Android and Symbian may be far ahead — with both earning around 35-percent each in Russia, and Android alone grabbing a massive 69-percent in China — but the fact it’s ahead of iOS, which is arguably more fashionable and better known, is incredibly important.
Markets such as China, Russia, India and South America represent a huge percentage of the world’s population, and success there is equally, if not more, important than in established markets. Windows Phone won’t have to play catch-up to the same extent as it will elsewhere, giving it a far greater chance of beating much of the competition.
Windows Phone 8 and the Death of Zune
Expected to launch at the end of this year, Windows Phone 8 is the first major overhaul of the operating system. Ready to integrate with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 desktop software, it could also see the end of Zune, currently used for syncing with a Windows PC, and all its content moved to the Cloud.
Windows Phone has had a rocky start, but as we can see, it has serious financial backing; a growing app eco-system and the seeds of success are spreading in important emerging markets. Windows Phone 8 needs to be big though, and must build on the excellent Metro UI to capture young and experienced smartphone buyers’ imagination instantly. This is Microsoft’s second chance with Windows Phone, and it may not get a third.
Looking back to when Microsoft was leading the pack with Windows Mobile, it’s easy to see how quickly things can change, and if the combination of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 is strong enough, it could tip the balance in Microsoft’s favour once again.
This guest post was provided by Andy Boxall of Envirofone, who’d be happy to help if you’re looking to sell your mobile phone.