A nitpick with the “Microsoft’s mobile phone share is plummeting” argument.
For every positive article about Microsoft locking up a new partner, releasing some great hardware or landing a great app, there’s another that points out they have “rapidly declining market share.”
The latest is Dan Frommer at ReadWriteWeb, who thinks Microsoft’s “mobile comeback” is “looking terrible.” He points out they were at 36% market share in 2007 in contrast with their current 3.9%.
In 2007, Palm OS, Symbian, Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile ruled the smartphone roost. All of those are now gone or irrelevant.
But it’s important to remember: in 2007, smartphones weren’t for “average consumers.” In the minds of the 2007-era consumer, smartphones were for people who wore suits and traded stock. Apple changed all that with their iPhone. And now in 2012, the era of business-class devices, pushed top-down from IT departments, has given way to the bring-your-own-device culture. IT departments have been reminded that employees and businessmen are also consumers, ones who couldn’t resist the allure of the iPhone and Android.
Palm is gone. Symbian serves the faithful. Blackberry struggles with internal politics as they try to re-align themselves. Of that pack, only Microsoft has successfully re-launched their brand as a total consumer play, ignoring their usual modus operandi and shaking off the need to be backwards compatible. All this while they still have thousands, tens of thousands, even millions of Windows Mobile devices still active in the field.
No new Windows Mobile devices are being sold, and Windows Phone is a scrappy underdog that has only recently secured a faithful, capable and committed hardware partner. The “Microsoft smartphone market share” plummets as aging Windows Mobile devices are swapped out, and nobody at Microsoft had any delusions they’d convert those folks to Windows Phone users. The logical next step for those users is Android. Microsoft doesn’t serve them anymore. They’ve re-invented.
While it makes a great fatalist headline, try to keep it in perspective when you read the horrors and see the graphs that show a number dropping from the high 30s to a scant 2 or 3. It’s just not a proper comparison. This is a new business that has to grow. And of all the old stodgy tech companies, few can grow a consumer brand quite like Microsoft. Just ask Sony.