Ballmer sees quick growth for Windows Phone

Analysts are more conservative

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said on Monday that Windows Phone will quickly establish a foothold in the global smartphone market.

"We are still relatively small. ... I expect the volumes on Windows Phone to really ramp quickly," Ballmer said, as reported by the Reuters news service. Ballmer made the remarks at a Windows 8 launch event in Tel Aviv.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks during an event to launch Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Nir Elias/Reuters)

"With the work we have done with Nokia, HTC, Samsung and others ... there is now an opportunity to create really a strong third participant in the smartphone market," Ballmer said.

It's no surprise that Ballmer is expressing optimism about his company's product, analysts noted.

However, Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said he has a more conservative view of the Windows Phone operating system.

"Windows Phone 8 is a great platform, well differentiated, well designed and a lot of fun to use," he said. "I just have reservations as to how well the messaging around WP8 can be carried out and if it's enough to convince end users to make the switch, especially if they're already into Android and iOS."

Both Android and Apple's iOS have a big head start on Windows Phone, as well as more apps, analysts noted.

IDC said in an updated forecast in October that Windows Phone's share of the global smartphone market will grow from 3% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2016. But that level of growth would still leave Windows Phone in third place in 2016, while iPhone would be No. 2 with 21.2% and Android devices would be at the top with 58.6%.

Gartner recently said Windows Phone's share of the smartphone market would reach 13% in 2016, up from 2.5% in 2012. The market research firm also ranked Windows Phone third in 2016.

IDC expects Windows Phone to jump to third place, with market share of 6.6%, as early as 2013, in part due to the decline of BlackBerry, which will have market share of just 4.7% next year, according to the research firm.

Llamas agreed that third place "is a big deal," partly because it means that carriers' stores will stock Windows Phone 8 devices, leaving less room on their shelves for less popular phones. "There's only so much shelf space," Llamas said.

Microsoft also could benefit if it convinces customers that Windows Phone 8 fits into an ecosystem with other Windows 8 devices, including tablets, he added.

Llamas said Microsoft has to show the benefit of its mobile operating system, including its "live tiles" on the interface, as Ballmer did in an online ad for Windows Phone 8 unveiled last week.

What Microsoft needs to do less of is produce TV commercials like one for the Surface RT tablet, Llamas said. That ad is flashy, featuring dancers clicking tablets together with their covers and clicking open Surface kickstands in rhythm.

"It's nothing about the actual interface," Llamas said. "It leaves me asking, 'What's so great about this?'"

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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