Windows Phone: Is Relief in Sight?

Windows Phone: Is Relief in Sight?
The latest Mobile Subscriber Market Share report from comScore shows Microsoft's average share of smartphone subscribers in the U.S. has fallen yet again, from 5.7 percent in the three months ending August 2011, to 5.2 percent in the period ending November 2011. It's a significant hit, specifically because comScore measures the total number of subscribers, not the number of new phones purchased, and the number of Windows Phones purchased in the U.S. is approaching oxymoron territory.

A Microsoft planning graphic leaked last week has brought a ray of hope to the Microsoft faithful, but the situation for Windows Phone is bound to get worse -- much worse -- before it gets better.

And the downward trend through the end of November pales in comparison to what happened over the holidays, when the market had Android and iPhone written all over it. Windows Phone didn't even rate a cameo as Ghost of Christmas Past.

Back on Dec. 21, Android head Andy Rubin tweeted that Google was activating 700,000 Android devices a day. One week later, Andy tweeted that Google had activated a total of 3.7 million new devices over the two-day period Dec. 24-25.

Windows Phone: Is Relief in Sight?
We haven't heard officially from Apple, but a company called Flurry Analytics claims to be able to track total activations for Android and iOS, via mobile applications that use their services, and they pegged the total activations for both platforms combined at 1.5 million per day during December, peaking at 6.8 million on Dec. 25. Give or take a bit, Flurry Analytic's numbers indicate iOS and Android activations were in the same ballpark in December, and all together Android and iOS added 50 million or so new devices.

Windows Phone fans have reason for some optimism. Windows Phone enthusiast site WMPoweruser leaked a small graphic that appears to confirm Microsoft's Phone "game plan" as of last October. The graphic lists the Windows Phone 7 initial launch in the fourth quarter of 2010, and the Mango update in the fourth quarter of 2011. It then lists a new effort called Tango in the second quarter of 2012, aimed at "Products with the best prices," and a fourth project called Apollo in the fourth quarter of 2012 with three objectives: Increase overall volume; competitive superphones; and business.

But the fact that the graphic seems to represent the state of Windows Phone planning prior to Windows Phone President Andy Lees' demise should add a large grain of salt to any analysis. The Tango project, subject of rumors for many months now, looks like it'll kick off at CES next month. If the graphic is accurate, it sounds like an excuse for Nokia to get back into the low-end market, and nothing more. The Apollo project states the obvious -- Microsoft will try to get back in the phone game by the end of 2012 -- but surely the game plan for Apollo changed markedly with Lees' departure. I'm still betting that Windows Phone will get hitched to the Windows 8 juggernaut, most likely with Windows honcho Steve Sinofsky in charge of the mobile platform as well.

Windows Phone: Is Relief in Sight?
"Windows Phone 7 Secrets" author and Microsoft observer Paul Thurrott claims to have seen internal documents that say three handsets running Windows Phone 7 will run on AT&T's LTE network "before the middle of 2012." Paul says the less-capable Nokia Lumia 710 is due on T-Mobile next week and on Verizon in April, though it's unclear whether the Lumia 710 will run Mango or Tango. To some that sounds like a hopeful development. To others it smacks of me-too and also-ran.

Can Microsoft pull it off? Consumers have shunned Microsoft phones in droves. Carrier retail reps scoff. There's no sizzle, no buzz. The one gaping market -- enterprise, which seems to have been shunned by RIM -- could use a new champion. But Microsoft certainly isn't ready to fill RIM's shoes. Six or eight months from now, a re-branded Windows Phone 8 launched in conjunction with Windows 8 might turn a few IT heads. But then it becomes a question of whether IT champions can convince legions of iPhone, iPad, and Android users to abandon their well-entrenched devices... for what? Better security? More corporate control? A bigger big brother?

Would you, personally, buy a version 1 Windows 8 phone or tablet when you could have an iPhone 5 or iPad 3 or an Android Koconut?

Microsoft's going to have a helluva tough sell.

This story, "Windows Phone: Is any relief coming?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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