Days of Reckoning Ahead for Windows Phone

Carl Weinschenk
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10 New Smartphones for Business

When Microsoft introduced the Windows Phone 7 in November, it was positioned as the last best chance for Microsoft to remain relevant in the smartphone game, and, by extension, the mobile world in general.

That's why headlines such as "Why Is Windows Phone Failing?" must be particularly galling for the folks in Redmond to read. The story, written by Nicholas Kolakowski, quotes comScore numbers that show a small market share of 7.5 percent being shaved still narrower - to 5.8 percent - during the second quarter. It also shows revenues that were probably less than $613 million.

The piece offers a number of explanations. The bottom line, almost undoubtedly, is that Windows Phone is in an extraordinarily poor environment: Two mobile operating systems, iOS and Android, are sucking all the oxygen out of the category.

Indeed, the nature of mobile operating systems is that some operating systems, most notably Android, show up on multiple vendors' devices. This makes the atmosphere intensely toxic for a struggling entrant, both because of the appearance of more competition and the very real game of one-upmanship between various versions of what is the hottest mobile OS.

It may not be long before the issue of pulling the plug on Windows Phone - here summarized by InformationWeek - moves front and center:

The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft's mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.

The jury still is out, but there is stirring in the courtroom. Microsoft does have a couple of cards yet to play, however. the::unwired reports that the first Nokia device driven by Windows Phone - which will use an updated version called "Mango" - may be released this month. Kolakowski, however, said that Mango - which he positions as significant - is due this fall, not in August. One apparently is available from KDDI in Japan. Regardless of timing details, there are two discrete, but interrelated introductions - a Nokia Windows Phone and Mango - that may help Microsoft.

In the final analysis, though, it seems that significant success for Windows Phone in a landscape dominated by Android and Apple is a stretch. The end game, if it comes, will be loud and interesting.

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