Friday, February 22, 2013

Are Windows Phone and Windows RT Dead in the Water?

In an interview with Bloomberg Germany, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said Microsoft’s Windows Phone and tablet operating systems will gain “enough critical mass to keep going with their tablets and phones.” By this time, I had expect Windows Phone to have a larger market share, and I am having a hard time sharing Mr. Wozniak's optimism.

Windows Phone. Data from IDC shows that in Quarter 4 of 2012, Windows Phone accounted for just 2.6% of the mobile phones shipped worldwide. Thus is up from 1.5% in the Quarter 4 of 2011. The numbers are not all that encouraging.  

The 2.6% figure for the 4th quarter of 2012 represents 6 million smartphones. Another problematic figure is connect to this modest number. Of the 6 million Windows Phone smartphones shipped in Quarter 4 of 2012, 4.4 million were apparently Nokia Lumia phones.  

With Samsung and HTC having to share in the remaining 1.6 million phones shipped, there seems to be little incentive for them to continue. Still HTC has had a long history as a Microsoft partner, and Samsung is getting bigger in the PC business.

If Windows Phone is going to gain traction, it would have to do so in Quarter 1 of 2013. The current Windows Phone devices are four or five month old designs, which I do not expect to see update for another seven or eight months. By Quarter 2 of this year, you can expect the new Android phones to cause a surge in Android phone sales. Later in the third or fourth quarter of the year, a new iPhone will see a increase in iPhone sales.

Should Quarter 1, 2013 sales of Windows Phones be lackluster, developers will have to decide if Windows Phone is worth it, given that the last quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 are likely the peak period for Windows sales. 

Windows RT. Windows RT would appear to be in worse shape. Few of Microsoft OEM partners came out with RT devices. Total Windows RT device sales for 2012 appear to be less than 1 million units. 

Worse, Windows RT seems now to be a superflous operating system. Windows RT was designed to run on ARM processors. But Windows RT plus ARM processors do not seem to offer any advantages over full Windows 8 tablets running on Intel Atom processors.

So, rather than trying to rake on iOS and Android in the tablet market, it would seem that Windows RT's number one competition is actually Windows 8. 

So where does it go from here? Between Microsoft and Nokia Windows Phone will continue to exist for foreseeable future. Nokia is actually making money on selling phones again. What would kill Windows Phone quickly, is if Nokia decided to release Android devices. In the longer term, it will be developer support which will keep this platform alive, or end its life.

As for Windows RT, I would not be surprised if we do not see another Windows RT device released ever again. 

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