Windows Phone share drops in world's largest markets and 'stutters' in Europe

Here's more evidence that Windows Phone is headed in the wrong direction: The latest sales figures show that its market share has dropped in the world's largest markets in the U.S. and China, and "stutters" in Europe, according to the report's author. Can anything save the struggling operating system?

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech's latest numbers for smartphones contain no good news for Microsoft. The worst news of all is how Windows Phone is faring in the world's two biggest markets, the U.S. and China. In the U.S., its market share for the quarter ending on March 31 was at 5.3% -- 0.3% down from a year ago. In China, things are much worse, a dismal market share of 1%, down from 1.9% a year ago.

Even in Europe, which has been Windows Phone's stronghold, things are not going particularly well, where it now has 8.1% of market share in the largest European countries. In the previous quarter, ending December 31, Windows Phone had a 10.3% market share, which means that Microsoft's smartphone operating system fell more than 2% since last quarter in Europe. So it's no surprise that Kantar titled its blog post about the findings as "Apple regains momentum as Windows stutters." Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said that Windows Phone is so far having a bad 2014, noting:

"Windows had a tough start to the year as a result of its entry-level Nokia models facing fierce competition from low-end Motorola, LG and Samsung Android smartphones.

It's getting harder to imagine Windows Phone making any headway in the world's largest markets, and it's starting to stagger in Europe as well. Android, meanwhile, continues to roll, with 57.6% of the market share in the U.S., a remarkable 80% in China, and 70.7% in the five largest European markets.

So it should be no surprise that Microsoft is going all in with Android, with Nokia's new line of Android phones which will carry Microsoft services on them instead of Google ones. Stephen Elop, former Nokia CEO and now chief of Microsoft's Devices unit which oversees Windows Phone recently made clear that Android is key to Microsoft's goal of reaching 1 billion users of its services. In a Nokia Ask Me Anything session he said that Nokia's X line of Android devices are key to Microsoft's future. He said this in response to a question about the X line:

"Microsoft acquired the mobile phones business, inclusive of Nokia X, to help connect the next billion people to Microsoft's services. Nokia X uses the MSFT cloud, not Google's. This is a great opportunity to connect new customers to Skype, outlook.com and Onedrive for the first time. We've already seen tens of thousands of new subscribers on MSFT services."

It may well be that nothing can gain Windows Phone significant market share, and that Microsoft has begun to accept that, as shown by Elop's statement. If that's the case, Microsoft's mobile future in large part will be decided by Android.

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