The latest sale figures show Windows Phone market share falling across the world. Is now the time for Microsoft to bet big on Android?
Kantar Worldpanel ComTech's latest survey, which covers February, 2014, hold very little good news for Windows Phone. In the United States its market share was 5.3%, which means that it's essentially been flat for about a year. In March, 2013, its market share was 5.6%, and it's been bouncing around in the 4% to 5% range ever since.
Overseas, things are worse. In the U.K, its market share in February, 2014 was 10.1%, down from 11.3% the month previous. Back in August, 2013, its market share there was 12%, and it's been on a downward trajectory ever since. In France, things look more dismal. In February it had an 8.3% market share. It was all the way up to 12.9% there in November. In China, things are bad as well. It had a 1% market share in February, slightly up from 0.7% in January, but well under the 3.5% share it had in October, 2013.
If you compare Windows Phone market share today to exactly a year ago, its market share is slightly up. But during the latter part of last year, its market share began rising. Since making headway then though, Windows Phone share has been falling. This is happening in most places across the world.
To help in emerging markets, Microsoft has started to embrace Android as a Windows Phone on-ramp in the developing world. It's allowed Nokia to release a low-cost line of Android phones, aimed at emerging markets. They're essentially Windroid phones, because their interfaces resembler Windows Phone, and they carry Microsoft services such as Outlook.com, Bing, and OneDrive rather than the Google equivalents. Apps also can't downloaded from Google Play, but instead from Nokia app's store. The idea is to make money from them off Microsoft services. And the hope is that when buyers of the phones move up the economic ladder, they'll buy up to Windows Phones.
Microsoft has also signed a deal to allow two Indian phone manufacturers to make and sell Windows Phone-Android handsets, another sign of its flexibility when it comes to Windows Phone in the developing world.
But as the latest sales figures show, Microsoft's troubles with Windows Phone go well beyond the developing world. The troubles are worldwide. So it might be time for Microsoft to embrace Android in the developed world as well. Its strategy could be similar: Release Windroid phones in order to make money from services, and try to use them as a way to get people to upgrade to Windows Phone eventually.
Microsoft is already taking a small step in that direction by allowing Huawei to make a dual-boot Windows Phone-Android device, which is expected to be sold in the U.S. within six months.
As Microsoft's recent release of Office for the iPad shows, Microsoft is now willing to abandon its long-standing Windows-only strategy. When it comes to Windows Phone, it may well be time for the company to take the next step, and fully embrace Android as well.