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Microsoft to host unveiling of new Windows Phone handsets

John Cox | Nov. 4, 2011
No one expects Windows Phone to leap over Google Android and Apple iOS in a single bound, but industry analysts have been revising their projections for Windows Phone, now forecasting a dramatic surge in sales over the coming 12 months. Other data finds growing consumer awareness of and interest in the Microsoft platform, almost exactly a year after the first Windows Phone handsets became available on all major U.S. carriers.

At Monday's event, it's possible that some of Microsoft's newest manufacturing partners such as Lenovo and ZTE may unveil their first phones for the OS. Images purporting to be of a Lenovo Windows Phone handset recently appeared on a Chinese website.

The market share data for Windows Phone is confused for several reasons. One reason is that none of the carriers, manufacturers, or Microsoft itself has released data on Windows Phone handset activations. Another reason is that most market data includes both Windows Phone and the older Windows Mobile platform.

Gartner's latest projections for 2011 suggest that Windows Phone may have been popular enough to stop the declining unit sales of Microsoft-powered smartphones; in 2010, Windows mobile device sales worldwide to end users totaled 12.4 million units; for 2011, Gartner is now projecting 12.8 million (about half of what Gartner was projecting in April 2011). Because the smartphone market as a whole has soared, Microsoft's market share dropped this year to 2.7% compared to 4.2% in 2010.

But next year, Gartner thinks Windows Phone devices could come close to 64 million units, a growth rate of nearly 400%. That's roughly equal to Gartner's forecast for RIM's BlackBerry smartphones, but of course far less than projected iOS device sales, at more than 128 million, and Android units of more than 300 million.

Strategy Analytics recently forecast that Microsoft will double its market share next year in Europe. "We forecast Microsoft Windows Phone to be the fastest growing major platform next year, doubling its share of the Western European smartphone market from 6% in 2011 to 12% in 2012," according to Tom Kang, a director with the technology research firm. "Increased distribution and marketing support from major hardware partners such as Nokia, Samsung and HTC will help to drive growth for Microsoft."

A bigger and savvier marketing push can help, but people have to be willing to buy Windows Phone handsets over better-know rivals. And there's some data that suggests they are.

The NPD Group's Connected Intelligence service released in September data from a consumer survey. One set of numbers confirmed that Android continues to account for about half of all smartphone purchases in the U.S. in the last three quarters.

As writer Ingrid Lunden noted, in covering this survey, "[H]ere's a curious fact: when all mobile users who either owned a smartphone or intended to purchase one were asked about what kinds of devices they want to buy next, 44 percent also said that they were considering Windows Phone 7 devices -- meaning that the door is open for significantly more sales of Windows Phone 7 devices, if Microsoft and OEMs (and specifically its newest and biggest OEM, Nokia) get their acts together."


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