Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 can gain market-share throughout 2011 and beyond, provided it continues to add capabilities and applications, according to a new research note from IDC.
Much of that potential growth will rely on Microsoft'a expanding Windows Phone 7's portfolio to CDMA-based (Code Division Multiple Access-based) networks such as Verizon Wireless. The platform is currently available on GSM-based AT&T and T-Mobile.
"CDMA phones are expected to arrive in early 2011, ensuring that WP7 devices are available on all four U.S. carriers, thus helping increase device shipments," Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, wrote in a Dec. 29 research note. "To bring the platform rapidly to a level of parity with other major mobile platforms, Microsoft will need to deliver several key features in the first quarter of 2011."
Those features include multitasking support, copy-and-paste and increased hardware support for augmented reality applications such as business card scanning. "Down the road, Microsoft's success will be measured by the speed at which it can broaden its country, carrier and device portfolios, and the pace of delivery of new capabilities in its software," Hilwa wrote. In the meantime, "IDC believes that it will have a seat at the small table of the top two or three mobile application platform players in the next five years."
Earlier in December, Microsoft announced that some 1.5 million Windows Phone 7 smartphones had sold during the platform's first six weeks of release, breaking company executives' previous reluctance to share any hard data on sales. However, that figure represents sales from manufacturers to mobile operators and retailers, not consumers.
Despite some fuzziness in the actual number of Windows Phone 7 devices in those consumers' hands, Hilwa seems upbeat on the platform's prospects based on the number of applications available in its marketplace.
"Released in October, WP7 ends 2010 with over 5,000 apps in its marketplace, a milestone it reached quicker than the Google Android platform, which took almost three times as long to reach the same level," he wrote in his note. "Of course, the circumstances for such comparisons are never identical, and Google followed a more gradual and tentative launch for Android compared to Microsoft's well-orchestrated big-bang approach."
But when compared wirh the hundreds of thousands of activations per day for Google Android and Apple iOS devices and the hundreds of thousands of applications available for both platforms' marketplaces, Microsoft may be forced to take a longer-term view on whether Windows Phone 7 will ultimately prove successful.
"It is precisely the broad launch and sure-footed execution that allows us to predict long-term success for WP7 at this early stage," Hilwa added. "Microsoft's aggressive developer management behind the scenes has been visibly effective in producing a compelling smartphone alternative platform in an otherwise crowded space."
Reports suggest that Microsoft is preparing a Windows Phone 7 update, including cut-and-paste for January, followed by another major software update later in the year.