It is official: Microsoft is on the march to dominate yet another platform, the smartphone. IDC’s latest forecast places the desktop giant’s Windows Phone 7 (WP7) operating system in a two horse race with the Google Android’s multi-platform approach, with Apple’s iOS in a distant third place by mid-decade (2015.) To get there, the company will hit a whopping 67.1% CAGR and end that year with 20.9% worldwide market share to Android’s 45.4%, if the IDC numbers are on the mark.
In case you have any doubts about the IDC prognostication, keep this in mind. As in other forays into technology dominance, the company will not go it alone. Microsoft is depending heavily on its newest alliance with Nokia, a company that last year, made and sold 1.2M cell phones a day (452M units) with 100M in the smartphone class.
Unlike the good old days of the desktop PC, "it was business leading consumers," said Harvard Business School’s Thomas R. Eisenmann in a NYT Sunday article on April 2nd. "This is a different game: consumers leading business."
Ultimately, Microsoft will gain prominence in the smartphone OS space but jettisoning the methods it used to gain dominance on the desktop. One key new element: turn to its 30M strong Xbox Live gaming community. This is one reason why all Windows Phone 7 users must register for a Windows Live account.
In addition, rumors are flying about the company’s new Xbox Apps store, and that its Silverlight app development framework is being ported to the Xbox game console. Here’s how Joe Minihane put it on his T3.com blog: "Word is that devs [ISDs] would be able to use Silverlight to help them bring versions of their Windows Phone 7 apps to the Xbox 360," he said, and presumably Xbox 360 games to the WP7. "The Xbox 360 and WP7 already play nice over Xbox Live, so using Silverlight to bring their app stores closer together makes sense," Minihane said. The game community is expecting an announcement from Microsoft at the upcoming MIX11 event in Las Vegas next week.
And speaking of WP7 apps, Microsoft is actually out performing Google on that score. This is not surprising given the company’s experience in working with independent software developers. According to Andrew Lees, president of Microsoft’s mobile communications business, there were 5K apps available for WP7 just two months after its Oct-10 launch. "…a milestone reached three times as fast as Google," according to Al Hilwa of IDC. Today, Lees said the company has over 11K apps for WP7 phones.
Suffice it to say it’s tight integration with the Xbox 360 community, the extended software apps development on WP7, plus the hardware alliance with the largest cell phone maker on the planet, that will work to insure Microsoft’s relevancy (and survival) moving into the next decade. Last October, when Microsoft first launched WP7, we asked if a dinosaur could evolve… from the looks of things, they may have just sprouted wings. Steve Sechrist