Windows Phone U.S. growth stalls. Can Android save Microsoft?

Just-released figures show that Windows Phone market share in the U.S. has essentially stalled, with only a 3.3% market share of all smarthphone owners. Is it time for Microsoft to commit all-out to Android?

The latest comScore report shows Windows Phone with a 3.3% share of the U.S. smartphone market in March, up only .2% since its 3.1% share in December. In March, Android had 52.2% market share, Apple 41.4% market share, and Blackberry 2.7% market share. Blackberry is essentially down for the count. It has lost 0.7% market share since a 3.4% market share in December.

comScore's figures are not outliers. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech's latest numbers shows Windows Phone with 5.3% U.S. market share for the quarter ending March 31, down 0.3% from the previous year. And Opera Mediaworks reports that worldwide, Windows Phone has a barely measurable ad market share -- 0.18%.

It's now been more than four years since Windows Phone was announced at the Mobile World Conference, on February 15, 2010, and three and a half years since it was made available to the public on November 8, 2010. All it has to show for since then is a single-digit market share in the U.S., and according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, a market share of 1% in China. Those are the two largest smartphone markets in the world, and Windows Phone market share in them has been shrinking over the last year, not growing.

It may be that Microsoft will have to accelerate its Android strategy if it's to gain any success in the smartphone market. Microsoft has already committed to Android, allowing Nokia to release a low-cost line of Android phones aimed at the developing world, and signing deals allowing Indian device makers to sell dual-boot Windows Phone-Android phone hybrids.

Former Nokia CEO and current Microsoft devices chief Stephen Elop has also said publicly that Android is one of the keys to Microsoft's future. In a Nokia Ask Me Anything session he had this to say about the Nokia X line of Android phones:

"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."

But Microsoft still hasn't gone all-out with Android, for example by having Nokia develop powerful Android phones for markets in the developed world, notably the U.S. It could replicate its strategy in developing markets, making money by having those phone use Microsoft services instead of Google services, such as Bing, Bing Maps, and Outlook.com.

If Windows Phone continues to stay in the doldrums, this Android strategy may be inevitable. For now, Microsoft is clearly avoiding it. But don't be surprised if Microsoft eventually bets its future on Android, not Windows Phone.

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