A new report out today says that smartphones running the Google Android operating system are the best sellers in the world this year and will stay number one through 2016, but devices running Microsoft Windows Phone are expected to be the fastest growing segment of the smartphone market going forward.
A report Dec. 4 from the research firm IDC predicts that smartphones running Android will finish 2012 capturing a 68.3 percent share of the global smartphone market, based on operating system, followed by Apple iOS, which powers iPhones, at 18.8 percent and BlackBerry OS from Research in Motion in third place at 4.7 percent.
But number four — “with a bullet” as they say * — is Windows Phone, which should finish 2012 with a 2.6 percent share. That doesn’t sound like much but IDC forecasts Windows Phone to grow at an industry leading compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.3 percent to reach 11.4 percent share by 2016, surpassing BlackBerry, whose share is forecast to drop to 4.1 percent.
Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7 (WP7) in 2010 as a top-down redesign of its moribund Windows Mobile platform that was long ago eclipsed by Android and Apple iOS. WP7 still only sold modestly and uptake didn’t improve much when Microsoft inked a deal with Nokia in 2011 to make Windows Phone the replacement OS for Nokia’s Symbian platform. But in October, Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8 along with a number of new smartphone models from Nokia, as well as models from Samsung and HTC.
Notably, sales of the new, and critically well-received, Nokia Lumia 920 running WP8 have been strong and even prompted a 30 percent spike in Nokia’s stock price in late November. But further analysis raises questions about whether sell-outs at various carriers and retailers are due to high demand or short supply. Other reports also point to supply shortages of WP8 phones from Samsung and HTC.
Nonetheless, assuming those supply shortages are resolved, WP8 could become a clear third place player, said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.
“Windows Phone stands to gain the most market share as its smartphone and carrier partners have gained valuable experience in selling the differentiated experience Windows Phone has to offer,” said Llamas.
The “differentiated experience” he refers to is the unique user interface Windows Phone offers compared to that of Android and Apple iPhones. The iPhone was introduced in 2007 with Apple’s compelling array of icons on the home screen representing multiple applications for e-mail, messaging, the Safari Web browser or the hundreds of thousands of third party apps in the App Store. When Google Android devices first appeared starting in 2009, the home screen UI followed Apple’s lead. But Microsoft went a whole different route.
It’s UI is based on what it calls “Live Tiles,” various squares of different colors that can be configured to different sizes based on the importance of the app to the end user. The tiles also can provide a sneak preview of the data delivered by the application that the tile represents. A stock market app could have a tile with the Don Jones Industrial Average of the moment, while a weather app could have the local temperature and a symbol indicating whether it’s cloud, sunny or raining.
That way, the end user could get some information at a glance just from viewing their home screen.
Whether that UI is compelling enough to boost WP8 device sales remains to be seen but IDC says it could happen, especially with Nokia, whose sales are currently weak, but which remains a strong global brand.
Another wild card, however, is RIM and the BlackBerry 10, its long-delayed new OS due in January. The question is whether BB10 will be compelling enough for BlackBerry to gain back some of the market share ground it has lost in recent years.
*BTW, the expression “with a bullet” dates back to the days of Top 40 radio when weekly lists charted the Top 40 record singles getting the most airplay. (“Records” were the predecessor to MP3 files.) If a song was rising in the charts rather than falling it was marked with an up arrow, dubbed a “bullet.” Ask your grandparents. Thus, Windows Phone is at a 2.6 percent share “with a bullet.”