Is Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 a viable platform?
The company's recent deal with Nokia, which will see Windows Phone 7 ported onto the latter's smartphones, suggests that the software will have a market presence for some years to come. And ahead of its MIX11 conference, Microsoft has taken to the public channels to tout Windows Phone as the ideal environment for developers.
But new numbers from analytics firm comScore suggest that Microsoft's share of the smartphone market dipped to 7.7 percent for the three months ending in February. That's down from 9 percent in November 2010, and enough to place Windows Phone far behind Google Android, Apple's iOS, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry franchise.
Windows Phone 7's growing pains have been well documented. A February software update, designed to help with future updates, stalled a small number of users' smartphones and sparked two days' worth of drama on Microsoft's online help forums. In the wake of that mini-incident, Microsoft seemed to take a more cautious route with "NoDo," its March update.
"After careful consultation with the team and our many partners, we've decided to briefly hold the March update in order to ensure the update process meets our standards and that of our customers," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a March 10 email to eWEEK. "As a result, we will plan to begin delivering the update in the latter half of March."
Besides adding cut-and-paste functionality, "NoDo" features tweaks to Messaging, WiFi, Outlook and application loading. But for many users, the latter half of March ticked by without an update-forcing Microsoft to issue a pair of charts detailing the update status for devices in both the United States and around the world. The chart broke the update path into three categories:
Testing, i.e., the update is undergoing network and quality tests.
Scheduling, i.e., Microsoft is scheduling the update for delivery-a process the charts suggest will take "10 days or less."
Delivering, i.e., the smartphone could receive the update within the next "several weeks."
By March 27, no Windows Phone 7 devices in the United States had reached the "delivering" stage for either the March or the revised February update. That ignited a fresh round of user anger, which Microsoft executives tried to extinguish.
"We know the table would benefit greatly from more detail, and we are hoping to add more to it by working with the operators who own the -testing' phase to get more clarity," Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president and director of Windows Phone program management, wrote in comments posted on the Microsoft-owned Channel 9 Website. "If your phone is shown in -scheduling,' it'll be worth checking the tablet next week."
By the beginning of April, all Windows Phone 7 devices in the United States had entered the "testing" or "delivering" stage. Some analysts had also begun suggesting that developers were indeed looking at Microsoft's platform as a viable one for development. But other challenges doubtlessly await. Microsoft can take some hope in the recent prediction from research firm IDC, that Windows Phone 7 will eventually surpass both RIM and Apple to become the second-ranked smartphone operating system by 2015.