Redmond View

Can Windows Phone Defy Odds and Gain Share?

The mobile platform's fate lies with increased OEM and carrier support.

At a tour of a nearby Microsoft Store that opened this summer, the manager saw my iPhone and tried to sell me a Windows Phone-based device.

While I didn't break into a sweat, it was an awkward moment because I had no intention of buying a Windows Phone-based smartphone on the spot.

It's not that I don't find the Windows Phone OS attractive, nor have I ruled out getting one someday. Since Microsoft released the first iteration of Windows Phone four years ago replacing the monolithic Windows Mobile, I've found the tile-based interface appealing. The fact that the Windows Phone OS has a small share of the smartphone market isn't the deal breaker. The problem is, despite making major inroads on the apps front, many are still only available for Android and iOS.

The latest forecasts for Windows Phone are more encouraging than prior ones, but IDC now expects Android-based phones to account for 78 percent of all phones shipped in 2018, compared with 14 percent for the iPhone and more than 6 percent for Windows Phone-based devices, according to IDC. But I often wonder if the market will shift in ways none of the forecasters now foresee.

One interesting new statistic by Evans Data shows about 68 percent of Android developers are targeting Windows Phone as an alternate platform, while slightly less are targeting iOS. While 85 percent of iOS developers see Android as their alternate platform, 50 percent of them are targeting Windows Phone.

This doesn't portend success for Windows Phone, but it's an encouraging sign for the platform. Unless Microsoft can win over OEMs and carriers, its Windows Phone presence will be limited, especially if it decides to scale back its hardware ambitions, just as Google did when it cut its losses with Motorola.

Regardless, Windows Phone is just one component of the "Universal Windows" strategy recently outlined by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. That effort to deliver forthcoming versions of Windows under one code base but different SKUs, also aims to deliver universal apps.

If the Windows franchise is to succeed in the new cloud/mobility era, Windows Phone must be part of the equation.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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