Wednesday, 5 June 2013

I am the three percent

Three percent is the market share for Windowsphone in the USA right now. Of that around seventy five percent is the share for Nokia. A big fish in a three percent pond. For Microsoft this is a reversal of position in a specific technology market it used to own. Microsoft dominated micro computing and mobile leaving pretty much every other manufacturer a long way back in a distant second place. Windows mobile was a leader just a few years ago.

My own phone is a Nokia Lumia 820. This makes me the owner of a device that is a minor player in the mobile space. If you want to know about it just check one the video reviews below.


I don't have the exact figures to hand but the mobile phone space is dominated by Google's Android operating system followed by a favourable showing by Apple in the 18-20% range and then the scraps of remaining sales are made up of Windowsphone and Blackberry. In the Android market itself the dominant player is Samsung with most other manufacturers trying to find space in a 'me too' phone market.

Of course it has to be said that making a phone call is one of the least likely activities you will probably perform on your smartphone. Listening to music, taking pictures and surfing the Internet are much more important. Looking back with hindsight it's easy to see that Windowsphone was late to the party and is still struggling. The history of mobile could leave you laughing at Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who was very negative about the iPhone at launch only to see it become the fashion phone of choice.


Ballmer was right in many ways. When he made the comments Windows Mobile was the leading OS in the mobile space along with Blackberry. However it was focussed on the business user. The business user often had no choice in his or her device instead an IT department choose what worked best with enterprise software such as Exchange email. The iphone and Android experiences built on consumer services such as email, music, video and developed an 'ecosystem' of products that was already locking in customers. The iphone was the ipod that could make calls and Android was the Google experience on the move.

Microsoft was, at the time of the iphone launch, a failing online services brand. It's entertainment offerings were not in the mobile space and, more importantly, were tied to the Xbox brand associated with gaming. Hard core gaming is a significant but small market. The Microsoft attempts at selling music were problematic. The digital rights management to prevent piracy had led to cumbersome software and hardware that were not easy to use and came up with obscure error messages when customers copied music between their own devices. The 'plays for sure' logo had a number of problems of which perhaps the most significant was that devices made by partners were not interoperable and didn't actually play for sure. In contrast Apple and Google had gradually developed products that just worked for consumers.

One of the great Windowsphone advances is the belated admission that ecosystems are important. It is an admission that came from creating a better ecosystem via the Microsoft account id, cloud storage, etc all together with the hardware.  They still haven't got music and entertainment services right but perhaps that is coming.

Windowsphone itself may be saved by their OEM partner Nokia. Nokia have been carefully creating lots of Lumia devices at a variety of price points and they are not 'cheap looking' devices. With tiny proportions of people in many markets being able to afford the premium priced iPhone and with Nokia strong in markets outside the USA it might be that Windowsphone growth could now happen almost entirely outside the USA.

Apple could produce a cheaper iPhone for some markets but they have generally been unwilling to drop from a premium price. As long as Microsoft continually improve their new mobile OS and don't shoot themselves in the foot the Nokia link might be the thing that means that I may own a device that makes up more than three percent of the mobile market sometime in the future.

 

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