Research giant IDC dropped a bomb on mobile watchers this week by stating that the struggling Windows Phone 7 is a still a real contender — in fact, its future is bright.
How bright? Well, according to the new IDC report, by 2015 WP7 will rise from the bottom to surpass BlackBerry and iPhone worldwide mobile market share and be second only to Google’s Android OS.
Say what now?
This leaves me a bit flummoxed. Windows Phone 7 is currently in last place in the mobile OS race with 5.5 percent worldwide share, according to IDC. Microsoft’s mobile OS market share in the U.S. has actually gone down since Windows Phone 7 debuted five months ago. According to market researcher comScore, Microsoft’s mobile OS share (combining Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7) was 9.7 percent in October 2010 and fell to 8 percent in January 2011.
In short, there just hasn’t been much consumer interest in Windows Phone 7 despite widespread advertising.
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Lately, I’ve made a habit of observing what phones people use whenever I’m out and about: in airports, in restaurants, at the mall, in line at the coffee shop. Very rarely do I see a Windows Phone 7 phone. It’s all BlackBerrys, Droids and iPhones. In fact, spotting a WP7 is grounds to ask a complete stranger a few questions. Do you like it? Did you lose a bet? Do you work for Microsoft?
I’ve written before in this space that WP7 phones are not perfect, but are still good phones, with a superb mobile browser and an intuitive user interface that organizes content better than most other smartphones. The problem has been getting the message across to consumers who have fallen in love with Android and the iPhone and their respective mobile app stores.
Which is why it was so surprising to hear IDC forecast that Windows Phone 7 is going to quadruple its worldwide market share to 21 percent in the next four years and be the number two mobile OS worldwide behind Android.
Surprised? I am. But remember, these are worldwide numbers from IDC, and Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia is a big factor. IDC predicts that Windows Phone 7 sales will jump so much because of its exclusive partnership to run the OS on Nokia phones. While Nokia is dead in the water in the U.S. with market share below 5 percent, it still has 21 percent global market share.
So IDC may have a point that Windows Phone 7 could surge internationally because of Nokia’s global muscle, but will that carry over into the US of A? It’s doubtful given that Nokia and Microsoft are both in the mobile doghouse here. Nokia is going to end up being just another WP7 hardware provider. Obviously, this carries more clout outside of the U.S., yet it’s not enough to go from last place to second place in four years.
Well, actually two years.
Computerworld blogger Preston Gralla reminds us in a recent post that the SEC has stated that the Nokia transition to Windows Phone 7 will to take two years. So if Microsoft is going to reap mobile rewards from Nokia, those wheels won’t start turning until 2013.
It’s just not enough time, and there are no indications that WP7 will suddenly start winning over hearts and minds as it waits for the Nokia deal to go through. If the mobile landscape continues along its current path, Android and iPhone may be so out of reach for Microsoft in 2013 that all the advertising and Nokia influence in the world (literally) will make no difference.
Short of brainwashing consumers, I don’t see how Microsoft can fly past RIM and especially Apple by 2015.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with IDC’s forecast?
Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Shane at email@example.com