Can Apollo Make Windows Phone an Over the Moon Success?
David is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
A recent report from IDC projected that Android’s growth would slow starting this year and that the new growth platform in mobile operating systems will be Microsofts (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone. Further they predicted that by 2016 Windows Phone would claim 19.2% of the mobile operating system market. This would put Windows Phone behind Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android but ahead of Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and Research in Motions (NASDAQ: BBRY) Blackberry. Android is expected to drop to 52% of the total market. Remaining the top mobile operating system on sales from companies like Samsung, HTC and Google’s recently acquired Motorola. This projection also has Apples iOS market share shrinking slightly to come in third place by 2016 behind Android and right behind Windows Phone.
Whether this exact projection comes to pass, Windows Phone will begin a slow but steady rise in market share this year. This will be in large part because of the Nokia (NYSE: NOK) built Lumia line of phones which are rolling out globally under the Lumia brand and include four models the 610, 710, 800 and 900. This long term partnership with Nokia allows Microsoft to launch a global brand for Windows Phone with the Lumia line and gain traction at several different price points. The budget models, the 610 and 710, will be more appealing in developing markets or to anyone on a budget. The higher end 900 will be more appealing in developed markets and people who are used to paying hundreds for their smartphone. Lumia 900 sales have remained steady on AT&T. The heavy advertising campaign for the AT&T 900 could well be boosting sales of other Lumia’s being sold in the US such as the Lumia 600 on T-Mobile. Best Buy has also reported that Lumia sales remain decent, though they are not as strong as sales of the top tier Android phones.
A Microsoft executive also stated recently that Windows Phone had captured 7% of the Chinese market after just two months on sale there, a very good sign moving forward. There are over a billion mobile customers in China and hundreds of millions more will be coming online across Asia in the coming years. With this in mind Microsoft has a 2,500 team dedicated to optimizing Window’s Phone for the Chinese market. Apple has also had issues getting the prices of the iPhone low enough to appeal to customers in developing markets, though this has changed somewhat with the low priced iPhone 3GS. Additionally the iPhone is currently missing from China’s largest mobile operator China Mobile due to China Mobiles use of proprietary wireless technology. Should Apple strike a deal with China Mobile that would create additional competition for Android and Windows Phone in China.
Microsoft has a long term deal with Nokia to produce a full line of high quality Windows Phone smartphones all under a unified brand. They are seeing decent sales in the US and they have a team in place to work in their global success, especially China. Microsoft is also rolling out new features for their products, including Windows Phone. One of the latest announcements is called SmartGlass, this connects Microsoft products and would allow you to resume a movie on any windows device you owned. But SmartGlass goes well beyond that, if you were watching a TV show on your Xbox you could get additional information on your Windows Phone or Windows tablet like a map of where the characters in the TV show are. SmartGlass is designed to give your further information around ‘activities’ such as the map of the TV scene, or designing a play on your Windows Phone to be used on your Xbox NFL video game.
Microsoft is hoping that content providers will use SmartGlass as a platform to provide additional content and information while you’re playing a video game or watching a movie. If they do, this could set windows up with a connected ecosystem that includes your phone, TV (through an Xbox) tablet and PC.
Microsoft is also previewing the next generation of Window Phone, Windows Phone 8 later this month. Microsoft is keeping tight lipped on what we can expect from Window Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, but it is likely that the next version of Windows Phone will support multi-core processors. This would be a big step forward in allowing Windows Phone to compete with Android and iPhone. Blackberry is also launching its new operating system, Blackberry 10 later this year and Blackberry already has a global brand and is available globally. The question is whether Blackberry 10 will be good enough to grow their 78 million and shrinking user base. Alongside Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone 8, Android’s new operating system will be previewed this month named Jelly Bean as will Apple’s new version of iOS.
With new versions of virtually all the mobile operating systems launching this summer or fall Windows Phone will face continued tough competition. With new features, a new version of Windows Phone and excellent hardware and branding provided by Nokia, Windows Phone will see growing success in 2012. iOS and Android will continue to grow, both spurred on by new versions of their operating systems and the potential for an iPhone 5 and a full line of stock Android devices sold directly from Google under the Nexus brand. Windows Phone will continue to be more successful in China than it is in the US where Nokia’s international reputation is strong. One place Windows Phone may pick up customers is from corporate and government employees who may want to drop their Blackberry’s for another platform if Blackberry 10 is not successful. For these customers security is paramount and Microsoft could leverage their large corporate and government contracts to help them sell Windows Phone as part of a package.
The IDC report projecting Windows Phone will have a .2% (19.2% for Windows Phone and 19% for iOS) edge over iOS in four years is pretty much a shot in the dark. Especially because a report from IDC a few weeks earlier showed a drop Windows Phone market share from last year. Windows Phone will grow, slowly and steadily going forward and will be part of a complete platform that is taking shape from Microsoft, but the exact success remains unknown.
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