Microsoft's Windows Phone Lags iOS, Android In Consumers' Eyes: Report

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is running behind Apple's iOS, Android and RIM as a desired smartphone for consumers, says a new Nielsen Company research note.

Windows Phone 7 lags behind RIM's BlackBerry franchise, Google Android devices, and Apple's iOS among desired smartphones, according to new data from The Nielsen Company.

That comes despite recent data suggesting that Microsoft's latest smartphone platform is seeing some traction among third-party developers, whose apps are considered a vital part of any smartphone's appeal.

For the period between January and March, some 31 percent of consumers indicated they wanted an Android smartphone as their next device, up from 26 percent from Nielsen's July-September 2010 survey. Meanwhile, Apple's iOS scored 30 percent, down from 33 percent, and RIM's BlackBerry came in third at 11 percent (a dip from 13 percent).

The combined Windows Mobile/Windows Phone 7 scored 6 percent, a slight downtick from the 7 percent in Nielsen's last reading. Microsoft managed to beat out Palm/webOS and Symbian. Around 20 percent of respondents weren't sure about the brand of their next smartphone, up from 18 percent.

"Consumer preferences can be fickle," cautioned an April 26 posting on Nielsen's blog.

According to recent data from analytics firm comScore, Microsoft's share of the smartphone market dipped to 7.7 percent for the three months ending in February, down from 9 percent in November 2010. That placed the platform behind Google Android, Apple's iOS, and RIM's BlackBerry. During its MIX11 conference in Las Vegas, however, Microsoft executives insisted that third-party developers were busy adding high-quality apps to Microsoft's app storefront, and that the upcoming "Mango" software update would introduce essential features such as multitasking and Internet Explorer 9-both indications, apparently, that the platform was on the way up.

On April 21, Microsoft and Nokia also announced a definitive agreement to partner on Windows Phone 7, a relationship that could radically alter the mobility landscape in years to come. Under the terms of that agreement, Nokia will manufacture phones loaded with Windows Phone 7, receiving billions of dollars in return from Microsoft. (Nokia also remains publicly committed to supporting its Symbian OS through at least 2014, with new Symbian phones slated to hit the market in 2011 and 2012.)

"With the definitive agreement now signed, both companies will begin engaging with operators, developers and other partners to help the industry understand the benefits of joining the new ecosystem," read a joint statement. "At the same time, work will continue on developing Nokia products on the Windows Phone platform, with the aim of securing volume device shipments in 2012."

According to a recent research note from IDC, that Nokia partnership could propel Windows Phone 7 past RIM and Apple to become the second-ranked smartphone operating system in the world by 2015. "The new alliance brings together Nokia's hardware capabilities and Windows Phone's differentiated platform," IDC analyst Ramon Llamas wrote in that statement. "IDC expects Windows Phone to be number 2 operating system worldwide behind Android."

That could take a bit more desire than the Nielsen numbers indicate.