The all-powerful U.S. carriers: Biggest obstacle to Windows Phone

Windows Phone is failing to make a dent in the smartphone market in the U. S., and it's the carriers at fault.
Written by James Kendrick on

The latest smartphone figures for the U. S. are in and according to ComScore Windows Phone has dropped a percentage point in smartphone ownership. This is not the direction Microsoft and Nokia want to see given the ramping up of the big partnership aimed at reversing that trend. There may be other factors affecting the lack of sales of Windows Phones in this country, but none as absolute as the powerful carriers that aren't getting behind either Windows Phone nor Nokia.

Windows Phone only garnered 5.6 percent of the U. S. smartphone market in September of last year, and the new ComScore figures peg it at just 4.7 percent at the end of 2011. This is such a small share that it is just a blip on the radar compared to the big dogs of Apple and Google. The major partnership between Microsoft and Nokia is no longer a new thing, and the fact that neither is getting traction in this country is at the feet of the carriers.

There is no doubt that carriers have total control over what phones get launched and sold in the U. S. They alone can determine if a given smartphone will do well, or even be sold at all in this important phone market. It's not just Windows Phone bearing the brunt of the situation, it also played a major role in the fall of webOS last year.

While the abysmal sales of the HP TouchPad is usually given as the reason behind HP's killing that platform, my sources within HP paint a slightly different picture. While the TouchPad was indeed a factor contributing to HP's decision, the company was extremely concerned that the flagship webOS phone, the Pre 3, was not picked up by a single U. S. carrier. HP/ Palm had a lot riding on the future of webOS in the smartphone space, and the rejection of the Pre 3 was devastating to the future of the platform.

Hopefully Nokia and Microsoft will be able to turn this tide of disinterest in Windows Phone with the carriers. Nokia and Windows Phone made a big splash at the CES last month, a trend expected to continue with the Mobile World Congress soon to get underway. It seems there is a general interest in Windows Phone and the things it brings to the smartphone. Now the two companies need to get the U. S. carriers to recognize that and start carrying the line. Maybe the ownership numbers will start trending the other way later this year.

Update: The ComScore figures do not account for older Windows Mobile phones in the Microsoft OS category. While the drop of share reported could be Windows Mobile and not Windows Phone, the fact is the pure Windows Phone market share is even smaller than the total indicated.

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