Windows isn't dead -- expect growth of nearly 30% over two years

People may be writing Windows' obituary, but there's big growth ahead for it, nearly 30% in the next two years, thanks to increasing sales of mobile devices. So say Gartner. Can those numbers really be right?

The latest Gartner figures show that Windows has a shrinking share of the "smart device" market (traditional PCs, smartphones, and tablets), but that in the next two years, it will start to gain ground. Windows market share has been shrinking thanks to a slump in sales of desktops, laptops, and ultramobile devices. But it will gain in the next two years because Windows Phone sales will increase, even though tablets might not grow significantly, Gartner found.

Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal told Computerworld:

"The upside on mobile phone is so much bigger for Microsoft given the size of the market. Even though Microsoft's share of mobile phone will remain small, the volume [of that market] is very large. The tablet market, on the other hand, is still small in comparison."

This year, Gartner expects overall Windows sales on all devices to increase by 10%, for total device shipments of 360 million. In 2015, that will increase 18% over that, to 423 million devices. All in all, the 423 million Windows devices sold in 2015 will represent a 29% increase over the 360 million sold in 2013, Gartner says.

Can Microsoft really expect to see that kind of growth, particularly in smartphones? It might be tough, at least if other analysts are to be believed, especially when it comes to smartphones. The latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech show Windows Phone without very much market share in the two largest smartphone markets in the world, the U.S. and China. The report found:

"Progress in the world's two largest smartphone markets remains stubbornly slow with share stuck at 4.7% in the US and 2.7% in China."

Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said that even though Windows Phone has a 10% market share in the largest European Union countries, without a breakthrough in the U.S. or China, its growth will stall. He wrote in the report:

"You don't have to conquer China and the US to win in the smartphone market, but you do need success in one of them. At the moment there are few signs of progress in either country for Windows Phone and momentum needs to be made soon before OS loyalty severely limits the available market."

He believes that China would be an easier market than the U.S., because of Nokia's traditional strength there. But he expects that Microsoft won't be willing to sell phones at the low prices required to gain market share in China. And so he believes that Windows Phone won't be able to gain big market share worldwide.

Who's right, Gartner or Kantar Worldpanel ComTech? That depends on what Microsoft does. If it's willing to lowball some prices, Garter will be on target. But if it holds out for higher-priced devices, expect the lower sales figures that Kantar Worldpanel ComTech believes will be the case.

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