Windows Phone stuck at 3% world market share -- time to call in Android

Two new reports agree that Windows Phone had a scant 3% worldwide market share for the first quarter. Both reports find Android dominating, with 80% of the market. It's time for Microsoft to get truly serious about moving to Android.

The latest figures from Canalys say that 279.4 million smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2014, with Android taking up 81% of the market, iOS at 16% and Windows Phone a lowly 3%.

ABI Research reports almost identical figures, saying that in the first quarter just under 300 million smartphones shipped, with Android accounting for 81% of them, and Windows Phone with 3% market share.

The ABI Research report has something good to say about Windows Phone, but makes clear that the future belongs to Android. Nick Spencer, senior practice director, mobile devices, wrote:

"Microsoft's Windows Phone (essentially Nokia/Microsoft) continued its steady progress with 16% sequential growth and an increase of 1% in market share. Microsoft Windows Phone is currently the only viable third ecosystem."

Keep in mind, though, that the growth he's referring to was achieved only because Windows Phone market share has been minimal. So a 16% growth after starting at a low point is actually bad news, not good news. Here's what Spencer has to say about Android:

"Interestingly, basic mobile phones lost 5% market share and Android picked up almost all of these users, suggesting Android is set to gain almost all of the billions of mobile subscribers still upgrading to smartphones. Certainly, Android looks set to completely dominate the high growth developing markets and increase its market share still further."

Boiled down, what that means is this: The future belongs to Android.

That's why Microsoft has allowed Nokia to release the X line of low-cost Android phones in the developing world, to try and gain some of that market share in an area where Nokia has traditionally been strong, but has been struggling because of its devotion to Windows Phone.

That's too small a step to take, though. Windows Phone was announced more than four years ago, and it's only managed to claw its way to a 3% worldwide market share in that time. It's increasingly likely that the platform will never become a serious contender to either iOS or Android. Microsoft doesn't necessarily need to abandon it, but it does need to get serious about Android. The X line of phones simply isn't enough. It needs to develop more powerful, high-end Android phones as well, and push them in the developed world, not just developing markets, in order to ride the Android boom.

Revenue will follow, because Nokia Android phones will carry Microsoft services instead of Google services, such as Bing and Outlook.com. Google, after all, doesn't get money from licensing Android, and it's done quite well. And Microsoft recently said it would give Windows Phone away for free to makers of devices under nine inches. So by moving to Android, it won't be giving up any revenue. But it could salvage its struggling mobile business.

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