Windows Phone: The mobile world's third wheel

Windows Phone: The mobile world's third wheel

Summary: Bottom line, in almost four years Microsoft has accomplished little more with Windows Phone than becoming the mobile world's third wheel. The best way to change this is for Microsoft to embrace the competition -- Android.

SHARE:

While no one can doubt that Windows is the platform that controls the PC landscape, when it comes to the mobile arena, Microsoft is a small fish in a very large ocean dominated by Android and, to a lesser extent, iOS.

Windows Phone was announced more than four years ago, and made its initial debut in the US in November 2010. During that time the platform has grown from zero to grab a 3 percent market share. This figure is backup up by reports from Canalys and ABI Research.

Bottom line, in almost four years Microsoft has accomplished little more than becoming the mobile world's third wheel.

Android on the other hand is booming, dwarfing the competition with an 81 percent share of the smartphone market (excluding basic mobile handsets), a number supported by both the Canalys and ABI Research reports. Apple's iOS is holing its own with a sub 20 percent (which doesn't seem much until you realize that this figure is for a single brand – the iPhone).

Bottom line, in almost four years Microsoft has accomplished little more than becoming the mobile world's third wheel.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the Windows Phone operating system is an excellent platform, and it brings a number of innovations to the table. It's also currently the only viable third ecosystem since the disintegration of BlackBerry. If you want something other than Android or iOS, then Windows Phone is pretty much all there is.

It's pointless debating why Windows Phone hasn't been the hit Microsoft expected it to be. There's been enough finger-pointing at the confusion over the branding, the lack of developer support, Microsoft's lateness to the market with a platform, and the overall lack of visibility of Windows Phone-powered handsets. What matters is what the future holds for the platform.

Barring a miracle, I can't see Windows Phone posing any serious threat to either the iOS or the Android platforms. Both platforms are too well established, have too much market traction, and are too widely supported by developers to have much to fear. The best I think that Microsoft can hope for is to snag a few percentage points here and there.

But what about all those folks wanting to upgrade from basic handsets to smartphones? Surely there's an opportunity there? Well, there may be, but the data as it stands isn't promising.

"Interestingly, basic mobile phones lost 5% market share and Android picked up almost all of these users, suggesting Android is set to gain almost all of the billions of mobile subscribers still upgrading to smartphones. Certainly, Android looks set to completely dominate the high growth developing markets and increase its market share still further," said Nick Spencer, senior practice director, mobile devices at ABI Research.

In other words, don't bet on it.

So, what's left for Microsoft?

If you can't beat them, join them. And by them, I mean Android.

Microsoft doesn’t have to abandon Windows Phone to embrace Android. It can still keep the project alive, and perhaps even work to further integrate Windows Phone with the Windows platform. Over time this might lead to something.

Or it might not.

In the meantime, Microsoft can load Android on a select number of Nokia handsets, handsets that have been customized to point to Microsoft services rather than those offered by Google, and as users partake of those services, so the dollars will slow to Microsoft.

And at the bottom of all of it, that's what Microsoft cares the most about. While market share and dominance offers bragging rights – and the chance to better steer the ecosystem – it's money that really drives a corporation. And it doesn't matter if that money is coming from Android devices, because money is money and it all spends the same.

But even this route is not without its difficulties. For example, Microsoft's Android handsets won't have access to the vastness of the Google Play store.

If Microsoft can put ego aside, Android gives it the opportunity to gain a foothold in the mobile space. At the very least, Android gives it an opportunity to pull in some mobile dollars.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Microsoft, Windows Phone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

155 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • with your logic AKH, Apple should have given up on OSX long back

    If market share is the reason why a company like Microsoft should adopt competitor platform, then Apple should have given up on OSX decades back as it was just few % market share. Also same with Linux.

    Windows Phone 8.1 is just phenomenal OS, but you will have to really use it to figure that out. Also remove your Apple or Google glasses before doing so, else you probably can see nothing else as good.
    soulxfer@...
    • Stick a fork in it.

      It's done!
      NoMore MicrosoftEver
      • why do you bother?

        Your call-sign is NoMore MicrosoftEver, why don't you practice what you preach by first not ever reading and/or commenting on a Microsoft related article?
        CriticalSection
      • NoMoreMicrosoftEver

        is little on the dumb side. Please excuse him.
        Blogsworth
      • Someone stuck a fork in you a long time ago

        you where finished long before you came here.

        But you knew that already, so save your breath.
        William.Farrel
      • Microsoft is leading in technology for a UI perpective.

        Windows Phone is the fastest growing OS worldwide. Windows Phone introduced Flat UI with mobile devices, the entire planet including Iphone and Android have copied WP Flat UI, HTC one Blinkfeed looks like WP Live Tiles. The OS is a trendsetter in my opinion, it is indeed phenomenal.
        bxbbrian
        • IT is easy to be the fastest growing...

          Go from 1 to 2 is 100% growth.
          jessepollard
          • Hows Your Ubuntu Phone Doing?

            ????????????
            Mujibahr
          • who cares. android going like gangbusters...

            That WP not doing so well..
            jessepollard
        • What?

          The flat UI has existed for some time. The WP UI actually isn't that bad, but its def not the fastest growing. Maybe in % marketshare increase, because 3% to 4% is a 40% growth... But it will find its place in time!
          Jimster480
    • Agreed

      Marketshare and profit are two different things altogether. And besides, there is always room for mobile options. I use all three and enjoy the merits of each, right now wp8.1 feels the best for me. And it's not too hard to see the long term big picture of what MS is trying to accomplish with Windows 8.1/WP8.1 and beyond. Watch this all play out. Great comparison of OSX and market share. Small market share but great profits. You don't have to be at 81% to be financially successful. You just have to sell enough to cover your costs. I wish I had a product that sold 3% of billions of available customers.
      NC_Prince
      • Also note...

        When the iPhone came out in 2007, that was a very disruptive product and changed smart phones forever. Even Google had to go back to the drawing board and rework their own Android product. MS had been in the smartphone business for a while but CE was always clunky and a mess. Everything was resetted in 2007.

        HTC released the first Android phone in 2008. That was 6 years ago and it really was not till Android 4 till the OS was on par with iOS as far as fluidity and stability.

        WP8 is really MS getting a phone OS right. That was released in 2012, only 2 years ago. Since then it has gotten better and now MS is working hard to integrate development into other MS code bases with universal apps. They also bought Nokia, the best of the WP8 makers as well. I think it is WAY too soon to write WP8 off and throw in the towel. I have liked what I have seen with WP8.1, it still needs enhancements but MS seems to now be on a rapid release cycle so I expect those changes to come.
        Rann Xeroxx
        • Fluidity and stability?

          I mean.... My Gingerbread phone was pretty damn stable and quite fluid. But yes 4.0 did make the biggest changes as far as the UX on Android. But then again the UX on iPhone is horrible. It has no recent apps button, it has no back button, it has no buttons at all... The UI's are ALL different, based on where the developer wanted to put the screen navigation and menu buttons, its a very inconsistant and confusing experience...
          Atleast Android has always had proper navigation.
          Jimster480
    • Next we'll be hearing from him that Tesla Motors should call it quits

      because they been in business for over 10 years, and have little market share to show for it.

      A "fifth wheel" in the automotive industry.

      Just using his logic that market share is more important then profit....
      William.Farrel
      • Except that Tesla is profitable.

        Is windows phone?
        jessepollard
        • Tesla it NOT profitable, and what is claimed as profits, is nothing more

          than the revenue they get from government for carbon credits. Without the carbon credits and government subsidies, Tesla would not have even gotten started.
          adornoe@...
          • sorry to have to burst your bubble...

            But Tesla profit margin is 31.56%.

            http://www.thestreet.com/story/12670631/1/one-factor-driving-tesla-motors-tsla-stock-down-today.html

            Might not be as high as they want, but they are looking at matching Porsche’s this year.
            jessepollard
          • jessepollard: You still don't get it,

            and what I said is that, Tesla's profits come by way of carbon credits and government subsidies.

            Without those, Tesla would have failed almost from the start.
            adornoe@...
    • Great point!

      Is OSX even at 10% worldwide market share yet?
      cybersaurusrex