Windows Phone steps up, has iPhone in sight

Microsoft mobile operating system push set to challenge established players

New figures from IDC have come out of the US indicating Windows Phone 7 will be more popular than the mighty iPhone in 2015. How is this even likely? It’s all about the operating system, of course.

According to IDC, market share numbers for 2011 and 2015 are predicted as Symbian dropping from 20.9 per cent to only 0.2 per cent and Windows (Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile) will rise from 5.5 per cent to 20.9 per cent.

That’s quite a dramatic turn around for both of those operating systems.

The iPhone is predicted to go from 15.7 per cent to 15.3 per cent and BlackBerry will decline from 14.9 per cent to 13.7 per cent. Android will jump from 39.5 per cent market share in 2011 to 45.4 per cent in 2015.

We can expect Microsoft to use its other consumer products to promote its resurgent mobile business in a big way. But it doesn’t end there

At this stage anything is possible because, according to IDC, the smartphone market is still growing a furious rate – 450 million smart handsets will ship this year alone, up from 300 million last year.

Ever since I blogged about Microsoft’s second attempt at mobile operating systems and how much market share it can achieve, it’s been interesting to watch the rise of Windows Phone.

Will it overtake the iPhone so soon? IDC has made a bold prediction, but like Android, Windows Phone’s advantage is that is a software-only product that can be used by any handset manufacturer.

Sure some may choose one or the other – Motorola has made a strategic decision to go with Android and Nokia is going with Windows – but HTC, LG and Samsung have a foot in both camps. Even Dell is shipping handsets with both operating systems.

There is the assumption Nokia’s adoption of Windows will boost its market share, and no doubt it will, we can’t be certain at this stage Nokia’s WP handsets will be overly popular.

A big problem for Nokia is it essentially needs to make a “fresh start” with Windows and by the time it eventually does get a handset to market it will be competing with a plethora of existing low-cost WP devices from other manufacturers.

So it’s a little premature to assume Nokia will be the big boost WP needs to overtake the iPhone.

Another point to note is the emergence of low-cost Android handsets which are set to shake up the whole meaning of what a “smartphone” is.

Only this month Telstra announced a $99 Android handset. Is that a “smartphone” according to IDC? It certainly falls within its mobile operating system shipment category.

If developments like that are happening in 2011 it hate to think what the mobile landscape will be like in 2015.

The mobile industry is so fast-paced and unpredictable I’ll leave the predictions to the experts.

And, finally, IDC’s numbers don’t account for any surprise developments from our friends at Apple. The iPhone 5, 6, Mini anyone?

Apple ignited the smartphone revolution so I doubt it will give up market share too easily. The iPhone may never have the market opportunity as a software-only product, but that doesn’t mean it can’t ship in even higher volumes with low-cost alternatives to the flagship handset.

The Halo effect

There actually is a pun intended in that heading.

When the iPod first arrived on the scene there was talk of an iPod “halo effect” that would translate into more sales of Apple’s other products.

With the iPod, Apple reached out to a new market and the same can be said about the iPhone.

Can Windows Phone benefit from the Microsoft “Halo effect”? You bet.

As I wrote in my last blog, Microsoft has resorted to giving way Xbox consoles and games with WP7 phones sold on Contract through Vodafone. The Halo effect with a capital H if you like.

We can expect Microsoft to use its other consumer products to promote its resurgent mobile business in a big way. But it doesn’t end there.

There’s also the business market, for which Microsoft also has significant marketing power.

Which mobile platform do you expect Microsoft’s office, messaging and business applications to work best with? Even if we disregard any specific integration options that may appear (Exchange working better with WP7 than iPhone or Android, for example) Microsoft can still do a lot of cross-promotion work.

It could easily offer sweeteners for mobile CRM in the business market as it does with mobile gaming for consumers.

That’s the positive side of the equation for Windows Phone. Sure it faces a level of competition not experienced by a Microsoft operating system in more than 20 years, but the stage is set for a fashionably late entrance – raw market share figures aside.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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