Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is off to a strong start, according to a new analyst report, suggesting a solid future for the smartphone platform.
Microsoft may be reluctant to reveal early sales numbers for
Windows Phone 7, but at least one analyst believes the new smartphone platform
has a solid chance of establishing itself in the marketplace.
"The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace reaching 4,000 apps two months after launch has to be one of
the most rapid ramp-ups in recent times, reaching
this milestone faster than Android, which took from October 2008 to March 2009 to
reach about the same level," Al Hilwa, an analyst with research firm IDC, wrote
in a Dec. 19 research note.
In the months leading up to Windows Phone 7's release,
Microsoft aggressively courted third-party developers to build games and apps
for the platform. In addition, the company struck deals with multiple
manufacturers to create devices that hew to minimum hardware requirements. "We
can say that for a company that just a few months ago was an also-ran in
mobile, having 10 smartphones released in 30 countries is not a trivial
achievement," Hilwa wrote. "I would not be surprised if Microsoft had the third
largest app portfolio in the industry by the middle of next year."
Microsoft hopes that a successful Windows Phone 7 will allow
it to reverse several quarters of smartphone market
share declines, and blunt criticism that the company has fallen behind
Google and Apple in mobile. Unlike Google Android and the Apple iPhone, which
offer users grid-like screens of individual apps, Windows Phone 7's user
interface aggregates Web content and applications into six subject-specific
"Hubs" such as "Games" and "Office."
While Microsoft has offered no hard numbers on early Windows
Phone 7 sales, TheStreet.com previously suggested that some 40,000 devices had
sold on Nov. 8, the platform's first day of U.S. release on AT&T and
T-Mobile. That number supposedly came from an unnamed "market research source
who tracks phone sales."
International news outlets such as DigiTimes have hinted at
strong Windows Phone 7 sales in parts of Europe and Australia, although a
separate report from U.K. retailer MobilesPlease suggested that the smartphones
were being significantly outsold by their Google Android and Symbian
counterparts in that country.
As with its Xbox franchise, though, Microsoft could very
well be willing to take years' worth of massive financial losses in order to
eventually create a robust and profitable product line. "They have really
strong application development tools and a strong developer ecosystem from
their PC universe and they have been putting in a lot of effort to bring them
over," Hilwa added in his research note. "No one expected WP7 to take the
market by a storm, but the role of the first release was to [put] Microsoft in
the game. To be clear this is a long term battle that will be pivotal for
Microsoft's long-term relevance."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.