Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took a few moments during his company’s financial analyst meeting to put a brave face on its smartphone efforts.
“It was under a year ago that we launched the first Windows Phone,” he told an audience of media and analysts gathered to hear Microsoft executives run down the company’s financials and strategy. “We haven’t sold quite as many probably as I would have hoped we would have sold in the first year.”
Nonetheless, in keeping with his role as chief executive, he expressed optimism about the platform’s chances. “I think with a little bit more effort, a little bit more energy, the level of enthusiasm from the customer base is high enough we’ve just got to kick this thing to the next level,” he said. “And I think we’re in absolute good shape in order to be a very strong third ecosystem in the smartphone world.”
As in, third alongside Apple’s iPhone and Google Android, the latter of which is present on a growing number of devices. For the past few quarters, Microsoft has embraced a strategy of corralling manufacturers such as HTC into paying royalties for each Android device they produce, or face a patent-infringement lawsuit.
Microsoft hopes that its upcoming Windows Phone “Mango” update, which includes some 500 tweaks and added features, will help attract additional customers to the platform. Ballmer cited Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia, in which the latter will port Windows Phone onto its upcoming devices, as another cause for hope.
“With Nokia, we have a dedicated hardware partner who is all-in on Windows Phone,” he said. “They’re working with us in exactly the way we described, to try to get into new markets, find new price points, take a look at new hardware design.”
It’s no secret that Windows Phone has struggled for adoption in a crowded smartphone marketplace, although Microsoft has remained steadfastly reluctant to share any hard sales data with media or analysts. The platform received largely positive reviews from vendors, but research firms such as comScore have estimated Microsoft’s smartphone market share as gradually declining over the past few months. During a July 11 keynote speech at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, Ballmer described Windows Phone’s market share as “very small.”
In addition to Nokia, Microsoft has secured commitments from Samsung, HTC, LG Electronics, Acer and ZTE to build devices preloaded with the Mango update. Those additional manufacturers could help increase Microsoft’s ecosystem presence, although Nokia has bled market share at a startling rate ever since announcing it would abandon its homegrown smartphone software in favor of Windows Phone.