Microsoft very much needs Windows Phone 7 to succeed-something illustrated by the most recent market share figures from research firm Gartner. In the 12 months leading to the third quarter, the company's share of the worldwide smartphone market declined from 7.9 percent to 2.9 percent.
By contrast, Google Android saw its market share during that period rise from 3.5 percent to 25.5 percent. However, Research In Motion's BlackBerry franchise, Apple's iOS and Nokia's Symbian all experienced market share dips of varying severity.
Overall, Gartner's most recent analysis suggests that quarterly smartphone sales grew 96 percent year-over-year, and accounted for 19.3 percent of overall mobile phone sales.
"This quarter saw Apple and Android drive record smartphone sales," Carolina Milanesi, a research vice president at Gartner, wrote in a Nov. 10 research note. "Apple's share of the smartphone market surpassed Research In Motion (RIM) in North America to put it second behind Android while Android volumes also grew rapidly making it the No. 2 operating system worldwide."
That combination of record smartphone sales and rapid-fire technological innovation, however, puts all the companies involved at risk of falling behind, should they misstep.
"Smartphone OS providers have entered a period of accelerated platform evolution, stimulated by more regular product releases, new platform entrants and new device types," Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, wrote in the same Nov. 10 research note. "Any platform that fails to innovate quickly-either through a vibrant multi-player ecosystem or clear vision of a single controlling entity-will lose developers, manufacturers, potential partners and ultimately users."
No pressure, in other words.
Microsoft hopes Windows Phone 7 will reverse its market-share declines. The smartphones officially hit store shelves Nov. 8, offered on both AT&T and T-Mobile. AT&T is marketing the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround for $199 with a two-year contract, while T-Mobile's device, the HTC HD7, retails for the same price with a data plan.
Some 40,000 Windows Phone 7 devices sold during that first day of release, according to an unnamed "market research source" quoted by TheStreet.com. Neither Microsoft nor AT&T offered exact figures when contacted by eWEEK, although an AT&T spokesperson said the carrier was "encouraged by early demand from customers in stores and online."
Early reports indicate strong Windows Phone 7 sales in some international markets, including Australia and parts of Europe. In the U.K., news outlets have reported lack of device supply at carrier Orange. Microsoft and its manufacturing partners are reportedly experiencing supply problems in some regions.