Windows Phone 7 Sales Suggest Competitive Smartphone

Microsoft's early sales numbers for Windows Phone 7 suggest a platform with the potential to compete with Google and Apple-if the early momentum can be maintained.

Microsoft finally offered some hard sales numbers for Windows Phone 7 this week, suggesting that mobile operators and retailers had purchased some 1.5 million devices from manufacturers.

"Our numbers are similar to the performance of other first-generation mobile platforms," Achim Berg, Microsoft's vice president of business and marketing for Windows Phones, mentioned in a Q&A posted Dec. 21 on the company's corporate Website. "It takes time to educate partners and consumers on what you're delivering, and drive awareness and interest in your new offering. We're comfortable with where we are, and we are here for the long run."

Unlike Google Android and the Apple iPhone, which present the user with grid-like screens of individual apps, Windows Phone 7's user interface centers on six subject-specific "Hubs" that aggregate Web content and applications. In the months and weeks building to November U.S. release of the device, Microsoft aggressively courted third-party developers to build applications for the platform. Today, the Windows Phone Marketplace features more than 4,000 apps.

The big question now is, how many of those 1.5 million devices have been purchased by consumers? A November report by suggested that 40,000 Windows Phone 7 devices had sold on Nov. 8, the platform's first day of U.S. release on T-Mobile and AT&T. Microsoft did not confirm that number to eWEEK, referring the question to the carriers. Compared with initial sales of Apple's iPhone 4, or the daily activation numbers for Google Android, Windows Phone 7 seems to be lagging: Hence, Berg's attempt to compare Microsoft's performance with that of other first-generation platforms.

Back in 2007, it took Apple's first-generation iPhone some 74 days to sell 1 million units. The Motorola Droid managed to sell 1.05 million in the 74 days following its November 2009 release.

Taking Windows Phone 7's average 35,714 daily units sold to carriers and retailers-based on Microsoft's 1.5-million figure for the first 46 days-and multiplying by 74, amounts to 2,642,857. Assuming that half of those units end up with consumers over that period, Windows Phone 7's marketplace sales appear to be a shade off 1.3 million. Assuming a third of those units sell, the final number comes to around 880,952-lagging the first generations of both the iPhone and Android's arguably most iconic smartphone, but still roughly within the same ballpark.

Those figures, of course, also presume that Windows Phone 7 continues to sell at a certain rate, something that's, obviously, not guaranteed. Yet it also suggests that Microsoft could be correct in its presumption that Windows Phone 7's performance is comparable to early Apple and Google smartphone efforts.

Will that be enough to compete against Android and the iPhone in their current, super-strong forms? In coming months, Windows Phone 7 will appear on Verizon's network, which should broaden its potential customer base. Microsoft executives will, in all likelihood, have their fingers crossed as they strive to maintain what there is of the smartphone's initial momentum.