So another analyst firm’s report has come out predicting a substantial slice of the mobile platform market share will go to Microsoft within the coming years. What is also interesting is that the same report is talking about the other hot topic of late -- the relative plateau of Android’s market share growth.
I wrote about a possible growth in Windows Phone at length this past winter and pointed out numerous factors that could contribute to a major mobile market share shift benefiting the perennial Redmond giant.
While the release of Windows 8 is still a few months out (PC and WP8 aka “Apollo”), other signs coming out of Microsoft are reinforcing the fact that the war for mobile dominance is far from over even though Microsoft is clearly beaten and bruised by numerous battles over the past few years.
Staying Relevant in the Post-PC Era
Let’s be honest, obtaining a 20-25 percent market share of 1billion+ device shipments is nothing to take lightly, especially as PC sales growth continues to slow to a relative snail’s pace. Microsoft wants and needs a major slice of the consumer mobility platform market share to stay relevant in the early stages of the Post-PC Era.
Technology analysts do tend to be wrong quite a bit, so for a moment let us assume the possibility that Microsoft is able to achieve a level of success with Windows Phone in line with the analysts’ predictions and instead focus on who can get them there. As we all know, Microsoft is not a mobile device manufacturer (RIP Zune), so would need the help of at least a few OEMs to capture a large chunk of the market.
There are only two current players in the consumer mobility world that have the ability to make Microsoft’s analyst-inspired dreams of massive growth in Windows Phone adoption -- Nokia and Samsung.
The Lone Contender
Nokia has already thrown all of their remaining unrotten and unbroken eggs into the proverbial basket with Microsoft, but Nokia is unlikely to be the panacea to Redmond’s market share woes. There are current, yet highly unlikely, rumors that Samsung may attempt to purchase Nokia.
Though this move should not (and most likely will not) occur, the rumors lend continued credence to the fact that Samsung is the force in consumer mobility device manufactures at the moment (aside from Apple) and who Microsoft needs to inspire to create flagship devices (note: Samsung Focus is mid-high level -- not flagship) and rally the consumer base around Windows Phone.
Samsung is in the unique position of being the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, developer of the top Android devices, OEM supplier to Apple and a strong Microsoft partner. They may certainly want to further diversify their mobile offerings by developing high-end Windows Phone devices as well as working to continue their success with iconic devices such as the Android-based Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets.
The real bottom line is that Samsung makes no money from the various App Stores and they may be just as happy to see a shift to HTML5 app dominance so long as buyers keep purchasing their devices.
Time for Samsung to Flex its Muscles
A great example of Samsung beginning to exert some its market influence is in regards to the upcoming release of the Galaxy SIII flagship device in the US. Jon Fingas at Engagdet clearly points out in his recent article that Samsung is taking a stand against the carriers and providing an identical user experience amongst the S3’s on each of the 5 carrier networks.
Even as recently as the Galaxy Nexus release, Samsung kowtowed to Verizon’s wishes and removed the Google Wallet mobile payment application. Additionally, Google blocked Wallet’s download from Google Play even though the Galaxy Nexus and its NFC radio were built specifically to support this type of application.
Users (such as myself) have easily “side-loaded” the Wallet app onto their Verizon Galaxy Nexus devices, but should they really have to go through that extra step -- especially when competing carrier Sprint ships the Galaxy Nexus with Google Wallet intact?
If Samsung succeeds at spearheading a movement to limit the fragmentation of the Android platform then a major move to push Windows Phone on top devices may not be in the cards and instead stay more of a “pet project” to fall back on in a rainy day.
The only real hurdle to continued success with Samsung’s Galaxy line for the foreseeable future is the continuous litigation with Apple over patent claims and intellectual property rights. Apple and Samsung have it in their collective best interests to stop the shenanigans, but a bit more posturing over the coming months or years is certainly not unlikely.
What does all of this mean to Microsoft and Windows Phone? The powers in Redmond need to be nice to the leadership in Korea and show them why they are a better platform partner for consumer mobility than Google. Finally, Microsoft needs to continue to create a robust management API that fits within the Bring Your Own Device paradigms more than the currently fragmented state of Android does. Then wish for luck -- a whole lot of luck.
As I have said before, mobile years are like dog years. The future may look different in 7-8 weeks, so stay tuned.
Image courtesy of Kathern (Shutterstock).
Editor's Note: To read more thoughts on the mobile landscape by Dan Lewis: