Early this morning, Nokia finally took the wraps off its long-awaited Windows Phone, the Lumia. It goes on sale in Europe next month and the U.S. in early 2012.That means it’s time for Microsoft and its defenders to stop making excuses for Windows Phone’s tiny (and decreasing) market share, and to begin talking about how Windows Phone is doing in the marketplace.
Let’s review some reasons why Windows Phone is so far behind, with less than 2% market share in the 2nd quarter of this year (as per Gartner), and why those excuses will soon be invalid.
- It was late. Microsoft began working on its answer to the iPhone in early 2008. It took more than two years to get Windows Phone out the door (after a few false steps, like Kin). But in the meantime Android came out of nowhere to become the leading smartphone platform in just two years. (Android 1.0 launched Sept. 2008; it became the number one smartphone platform by volume by Q4 2010, according to Canalys.) Windows Phone been on the market for a year now. The “platform transition” excuse is getting old.
- The first release had some glaring gaps, like lack of copy and paste and multitasking. Those gaps are all fixed thanks to a series of updates, including the (quite good) Windows Phone 7.5 or Mango. That excuse is gone.
- Its hardware partners weren’t committed. Microsoft’s first crop of Windows Phone partners were also major Android resellers, which gave them only so much incentive to bet on Windows Phone. Nokia, on the other hand, has bet its entire future on Windows Phone. You can’t get more committed than that.
- A lot of retailers didn’t do a good job of pushing Windows Phone — in fact, a lot of clerks at carrier stores didn’t even know about it. But Nokia is the third-largest smartphone vendor in the world (it used to be number-one until earlier this year when Apple and Samsung passed it). Nokia is planning to seed the market with more Windows Phones than it’s ever done in its history. By this time next year, Microsoft shouldn’t be able to use this excuse, either.
Microsoft has been known to ask for a lot of mulligans when it tries to break into new businesses. It started competing with Google in search way back in 2005 with MSN Search (which was then rebranded Windows Live Search, then Live Search). But it only really started talking about its progress in search after it launched Bing.
Let’s call today “Bing day” for Windows Phone. That means Microsoft should soon start talking about Windows Phone sales figures, market share, or (ideally) revenue in earnings calls. Just like it does with Bing.
If it doesn’t, then it’s safe to assume that the numbers are not good.
If Microsoft is still silent a year from now, then Windows Phone deserves to be taken no more seriously than the Zune — another product that launched late, went through multiple iterations, and never gained more than a couple points of market share.
And this battle is a lot more important to Microsoft’s future than the battle over portable music players.