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Can Microsoft's Windows Phone OS surge in market share?

Matt Hamblen | April 2, 2014
Version 8.1 and two Nokia phones expected at Build conference, but are they enough to boost WP market share?

The Windows Phone store had more than 240,000 apps in late February, with more than 500 added each day, according to a blog from Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Phone.

By contrast, Google Play and Apple's App Store each have more than 1 million apps.

Windows Phone was late to the smartphone game, and that hasn't helped with app development. Moorhead gave the example of how Android and iPhone users grew accustomed to using a range of apps that aren't in the top 100 but are still deemed important.

"Say I have a club soccer team app on either Android or iOS and don't have it on Windows Phone to check scores," he said. "That's an issue. Only a small percentage of people need that app, but if it's you, it's important."

When Windows Phone first emerged, HTML 5 Web-based apps were seen as a quick way for Windows Phone to catch up with Android and iOS apps. But HTML 5 hasn't lived up to its promise, partly because it's hard to get snappy performance from HTML 5 Web apps. Future updates to HTML 5 could help, Moorhead said.

"What Microsoft most needs to do is remove the main objection to their phones, which is the number of apps," Moorhead added. "Customers must wait for the Microsoft ecosystem of apps, or wait for a more mature version of HTML 5, or Microsoft must support Android apps."

Moorhead said Microsoft could gain significant market share with technology he calls "modularity" that would include a quick and easy way to connect to Microsoft apps and services from devices of various sizes.

"If I could set my Windows Phone on a charging mat when I get home, then it wirelessly connects to a big monitor and keyboard and — voil — I can start typing," he said. "Instead of seeing only five or so tiles on my phone, I'd be able to see 50 tiles on the larger screen. That's something I would hope would demonstrably increase market share for Windows Phone."

Moorhead said one of Build's biggest insights will be ways that Microsoft further aligns itsWindows Phone 8.1 with the desktop OS Windows 8.1. "But to me, that's not something that demonstrably moves the needle in terms of Microsoft's market share," he said.

Belfiore noted in his blog that research firm IDC had seen Windows Phone growing by 91% year-over-year, but the mobile OS still starts from a small share. Even in the enterprise market, Windows Phone is "slowly losing the opportunity to be meaningful because both Samsung and Intel are banking on a very enterprise-worthy Android," Moorhead said.


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