There's "slow growth" ahead for Windows Phone, warns IDC report

Windows Phone is falling further behind Android and iOS, with market share dropping from a year ago, says the latest report from IDC. And the report also warns that there will likely be only "slow growth" for the smartphone operating system.

The report shows Windows Phone and Windows Mobile with a 2.2% share of smartphones shipped during the first quarter of 2012, compared to 2.6% the first quarter of 2011. Android, meanwhile, had 59% of the market for new smartphones during the first quarter of 2012, compared to 36% the first quarter of 2011. iOS had 35.1% in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 18.3% for the first quarter of 2011. Symbian and BlackBerry both dropped precipitously, Symbian from 26% to 6.8%, and BlackBerry from 13.6% to 6.4%.

Even though Windows Phone market share dropped, it had a small increase in the number of phones sold from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012, from 2.6 million to 3.3 million, an improvement of 700,000 phones, a 26.9% increase. That means it's not growing nearly as fast as the overall smartphone market, in which 49.9% more smartphones where shipped in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011.

Android went from 36.7 million to 89.9 million phone sold, an increase of 53.2 million, a jump of 145%. iOS went from 18.6 million to 35.1 million, an increase of 88.7%.

The numbers look grim for Windows Phone, as does IDC's outlook for it. IDC concludes:

"Windows Mobile/Windows Phone has yet to make significant inroads in the worldwide smartphone market, but 2012 should be considered a ramp-up year for Nokia and Microsoft to boost volumes. Until Nokia speeds the cadence of its smartphone releases or more vendors launch their own Windows Phone-powered smartphones, IDC anticipates slow growth for the operating system."

The IDC numbers echoes research from Gartner, which found that in the first quarter of 2012, Microsoft smartphones had a worldwide 1.9% market share, compared to 2.6% a year previously.

The NPD Group has found that Windows Phone had 2% of smartphone sales in the U.S. in the first quarter of the year. Nielsen says that Windows Phone had 1.7% market share among all U.S. smartphone owners in the first quarter of the year.

At the moment, there's no word of a Windows Phone blitz from Nokia or other vendors. One bright spot for Windows Phone is China, where Windows Phone outsells the iPhone, and has a market share of 7%. And carriers would certainly like to see Windows Phone succeed as leverage against Apple's onerous demands for subsidies for every iPhone the carriers sell.

But for now, at least, the news for Windows Phone remains bad, and it looks as if the rest of the year won't be better. Microsoft has to hope that a Nokia rampup and the release of Windows Phone 8 can breathe new life into the operating system.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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