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Windows Phone Again Lags for Another Quarter

Another quarter of stunning growth for smartphones, and another quarter of less impressive progress for the Windows Phone platform.

International Data Corp. released its global smartphone shipment estimates for the first quarter of 2012 on Thursday -- and the reckoning wasn't good for Microsoft. Comparing shipments for this quarter against the same period last year, the overall market went up by 50 percent, Android-based smartphones increased 145 percent, Apple iPhones increased 89 percent and Windows Phone shipments increased 27 percent. In other words, Windows Phone shipments improved at about half the rate of the overall market and much slower than the platforms Redmond is trying to beat.

Microsoft's trajectory was good compared to Symbian (-61 percent) and BlackBerry (-30 percent), although even there it badly trailed the two struggling platforms in raw unit shipments. Symbian shipped 10.4 million units, BlackBerry shipped 9.7 million units and Windows Phone shipments totaled 3.3 million units. The quarterly unit shipment numbers were 90 million for Android and 35 million for iOS.

IDC offered analysis for each of the major platforms. For Microsoft's, IDC wrote:

"Windows Mobile/Windows Phone has yet to make significant inroads in the worldwide smartphone market, but 2012 should be considered a ramp-up year for Nokia and Microsoft to boost volumes. Until Nokia speeds the cadence of its smartphone releases or more vendors launch their own Windows Phone-powered smartphones, IDC anticipates slow growth for the operating system."

Coming from way behind in units and growing slower than your top competitors is not a formula for market dominance. Persistence, on the other hand, can be, and Microsoft has been persistent with Windows Phone. The slower-than-the-market growth beats the actual market share slides Microsoft was enduring last year.

Some of the company's investments are beginning to bear visible fruit. While Nokia is a deeply flawed partner, its Nokia Lumia 900 is the first true flagship phone on the Windows Phone platform and it hit the market in Q2. AT&T employees (in some stores) actually seem enthusiastic about Windows Phone at last. High-profile TV ads are also popping up, such as the ones featuring former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Chris Parnell as a characteristically goofy pitchman.

Whether Microsoft's share keeps moving in the right direction or not, those projections from Gartner and IDC a year ago that Windows Phone would reach about 20 percent market share in 2015 look more and more unlikely as each quarter rolls past.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 24, 2012


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