LG handsets running Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5 in 2009.

The year is now 2012, which means that Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system is enjoying a resurgence that started with the 2009 release of Windows Mobile 6.5 and its “fresh-looking” honeycomb start screen. Benefitting from a pivotal deal with LG, the world’s No. 3 handset maker, Windows Mobile now enjoys more than 15 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, poised to reclaim the No. 2 spot in the industry — second only to the Symbian operating system.

What? That’s not how it turned out?

Um, no. Not even close.

As we know, Google’s Android dominates the market today, based on shipments, followed by Apple’s iPhone. For all practical purposes, Windows Mobile doesn’t even exist anymore, having been replaced by Microsoft’s completely overhauled Windows Phone — which is currently hovering somewhere beneath 2 percent of the global market.

Microsoft is pinning its hopes on Nokia, which has put its weight behind Windows Phone on its smartphones, shifting away from its longtime use of Symbian.

That rosy projection for Windows Mobile was iSuppli’s view of the 2012-2013 smartphone market, as detailed in projections from the research firm back in October 2009. The forecast was described in a news release titled, “Reports of Windows Mobile’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated.”

iSuppli's 2009 Windows Mobile projections

This is relevant today because IHS iSuppli is the research firm now predicting that Microsoft’s Windows Phone will overtake Apple’s iOS for the No. 2 slot in worldwide market share by 2015, benefitting from Microsoft’s pivotal Nokia partnership and the “flashy set of features” on the new Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.

“This hot product represents Nokia’s first step to reclaim its market share,” says Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS, in the latest news release. “Combined with Nokia’s efforts to drive the development of the Windows Phone ecosystem, the Lumia 900 and its successors will help Microsoft to reclaim its No. 2 ranking in smartphone operating system market share in 2015.”

Sure, it could happen. Who knows? But that’s exactly the point. No one does.

This is not to pick on iSuppli, or to cast unwarranted doubts on Windows Phone. Research firms Gartner and IDC have issued similar forecasts of their own for Windows Phone. Certainly Microsoft got lots of positive buzz at CES about Windows Phone and the new devices from Nokia and HTC. CNet named the Lumia 900 the best smartphone at the show.

But one of the most interesting parts of the mobile industry right now is that it’s extraordinarily dynamic. Who knew back in 2009 that Android would be the dominant player? For all we know, the smartphone market in 2015 could be ruled by someone we’re barely even considering at this point.

For our take on the 2015 smartphone market, check back in 2015. In the meantime, take all of these confidently worded predictions with a huge grain of salt.

Thanks to GeekWire reader Steven Noyes for pointing out the 2009 iSuppli report in the comments on our earlier post.

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Comments

  • Anonymous

    As a WP7 user and fan, it’s hard for me to believe this projection will bear fruit.  However, I do believe in the long run (probalby 2017), WP will be close to Apple if there is more carrier support besides AT&T and Tmobile and more phone model variety at various price points. I believe M$ will not abandon WP because it is intimately part of their Windows 8 unification strategy across devices. Sure it will be a bumpy and painfully slow growth similar to the Xbox, but M$ somehow figures it out even though they are late to the game.

  • Guest

    I think it’s perfectly rational to be optimistic about Windows Phone 7. Microsoft has a gorgeous operating system with all the apps customers need (and none of the superfluous fart/RSS apps they don’t) and the most powerful hardware available. As Apple sinks into a complacent stupor, led by a man who received $400 million in stock for introducing iPhone 4S and iBooks 2, I believe that their position as the #2 smartphone platform is very much in doubt.

    Not a Microsoft employee, not a Microsoft stockholder.

    • Anonymous

      Microsoft has a gorgeous operating system with all the apps customers need (and none of the superfluous fart/RSS apps they don’t) and the most powerful hardware available.

      I’m guessing you’ve never used WP7, nor know the hardware it runs on.

      As Apple sinks into a complacent stupor, led by a man who received $400 million in stock for introducing iPhone 4S and iBooks 2, I believe that their position as the #2 smartphone platform is very much in doubt.

      ::sigh::

      Not a Microsoft employee, not a Microsoft stockholder.

      Yeah, sure.

      • Guest

        I have. I know. I am not.

    • Lynne

      I also support WP. I am an Xbox Live and ZunePass subscriber, multiple email and soc media accounts and no one integrates it quite as well as MSFT with Windows Phone. However, Apple’s iOS also has a great UI, but more: huge iTunes user base and tons of great apps (I’m talking biz and productivity apps).

      It is a huge uphill battle for MSFT and as a mobile industry vet I would advise them to develop different strategies and offers for enterprise and consumers (bundled offers with ZunePass, for one). They should also staff the mobile unit with experienced mobile industry pros and develop marketing plans that target carriers and manufacturers. It’s a complex marketing effort and unless execs at MSFT get some experienced mobile leaders on board (and listen to the), they won’t make it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alec-Spyrou/1512501654 Alec Spyrou

        Well put. Most aspects are there but offers and very good marketing are needed otherwise it will struggle. So 2 years Zune pass for the price of one. Buy 1 WP7 device and get another one free. Credits on Xbox live for every phone or app purchased. Offer Enterprises 100 phones for the price of 10. Get sales channels to prove the incentive scheme is actually being used.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the premise of this story, but in defense of iSupply, I think their prediction would have been pretty sound if Android had not come along to disrupt the market so dramatically. 
     
    According to Wikipedia, in Q2 2009 Android had only a 2.8% share of worldwide smartphone shipments. So in 2009, you would have had to have a pretty sizeable crystal ball to predict the rapidity with which Android has pushed out other platforms; not just Windows Mobile, but Symbian and Blackberry as well.
     
    It’s too late for Windows Phone to be disruptive in the same way, but let’s see what comes of the Nokia push; by the end of 2012 things may look a bit different than today. I still think Microsoft and Nokia have a chance to create a viable third ecosystem.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      I agree with you. The weird thing to me is how definitive the analysts are in these forecasts. Here’s the opening line from the 2009 report. “Despite intensifying competition and the loss of some high-profile licensees, the usage of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile operating system in smart phones will nearly triple from 2009 to 2013, allowing it to reclaim the No.-2 position in the global market … ”

      To me, an “if, then” analysis would be much more useful … even if not quite so attention-grabbing.

      • Lynne

        Written that way to sell the in depth report ;-).

      • Anonymous

        Steve & Todd are to be congratulated for shining the light of factual reality on  these absurdly whimsical and hopelessly optimistic forecasts by analysts who should  know better.

        The question is how can firms like iSupply, Gartner and IDC jeopardise any credibility they might still have by making these ridiculous forecasts?

        The suspicion has to be that some of the hundreds of millions of dollars Microsoft are using to try to get developers to create Apps for their mobile offerings have found their way to obtaining favourable forecasts, however far fetched and ludicrous, so as to somehow try to persuade developers there is a huge market for Apps on their Windows mobile. platforms.

    • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

      Actually, no crystal ball was needed.  The iPhone was already tearing up the charts with 600% growth YoY and Android was right behind it with manufactures like Motorola, Samsung and HTC offering support.  Had the year been 2007, iSuppli’s prediction may have made sense but in 2009, WinMo was already in its death bead (hence the title of the write up).
      The issue is most analysts are amazingly clueless on making prediction more than 1 month out.  For example: RIM will always grow and Apple will always shrink:

      http://www.asymco.com/2011/12/22/who-is-being-reasonable-now/

      Microsoft will always win everyone else will loose.  Component systems will always win out of integrated systems.  These are simplistic views but are repeated ad-nausim in the tech blogs with little historical basis.

      That said, WP7 is a great design and if I was not already invested in iOS, picking WP7 would present a very inciting option.  If MS really wants to win, however, they need to start thinking about buying market share with SPIF.

      Todd, Great write up. Made me laugh how you presented it.

    • Guest

      Android was able to disrupt the market because MS took so long to respond to iPhone 1. WM 6.5, 7 that never came, and finally WP which arrived three years later and is still missing several basic features.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathanf Jonathan Fingas

    Part of the problem is that analysts still think it’s 2002, or maybe even 1998 — they still subscribe to the Microsoft-as-inevitable-leader theory.  It’s the assumption that, because Windows and Office have such commanding share, Microsoft will always find a way to get a large amount of share in any field it participates in.

    Mobile is different, and while Windows Phone is good, it’s not going to rock the Android or iOS boats just because Nokia’s name is attached to it.  Even a star player can’t always change the game if he comes in with five minutes left, and I’m not convinced Windows Phone has that kind of fight in it.

    • Anonymous

      If some financial analysts think that Microsoft is an “inevitable leader”, most Silicon Valley tech bloggers seem to think Microsoft is totally irrelevent (apparently because all their friends have Macs and use Gmail).

      As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. 

      Re. the star player end of game scenario: the question is, what quarter is it really?  To those who think Android is the be-all, end-all OS for mobile, then the game is won. Microsoft thinks the game is still in the first quarter.  Time will tell which is right.

      • Guest

        There are 7 billion people on the planet.

        About 500 million (M) people own a smartphone.

        What quarter do you suppose we’re in?

        • Anonymous

          Exactly.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alec-Spyrou/1512501654 Alec Spyrou

          I understand, scale etc. But how many are capable of buying smart phones (some too young? 1-2 billion, too poor 1 billion, don’t want a smart phone 1 billion)

          However confirming that we are still in the first quarter is the fact that it is going to take quite some time to go from 500 million to a 2 billion and then a lot longer to get to 3 billion.

          • Guest

            It was once accepted wisdom that poors could not have mobile phones. In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile phones are ubiquitous and are opening up new worlds. It’s not much longer until smartphones, which are already trickling down the economic strata, end up in the hands of those who today cannot afford them.

  • Allen Weiss

    WP7 is most poised to become the new Blackberry as the enterprise choice.  All starts with the carriers, though.  That Verizon only has one WP7 phone offering is just foolish.

    • Guest

      “WP7 is most poised to become the new Blackberry as the enterprise choice.” – There is no empirical evidence to support this, and in fact many existing Windows Mobile enterprise users abandoned WP7 due to LACK of enterprise support.  iOS and Android are both making huge inroads in enterprise (this industry trend is referred to as the “consumerization of IT” while MS is being left behind.

  • Anonymous

    OMG, someone is threatening the domination of iPrecious!  What is the world coming to?  This must not be allowed.  Let’s publish tons of rubbish and slurs to nip this challenge to our beloved underdog in the bud.

    • Narmstrong55

      Don’t be so defensive and sound like an unthinking (and illiterate) hater. Where in the article does the author say anything about iPhone dominance? He first mentions Apple as following Android in market share (shear fact in numbers), and then mentions Apple in reference to iSupply’s report that MS will overtake Apple’s number 2 spot (a quote). He is just noting in fact Android is dominating the market share. The point of the article is that no one can predict with any certainty the state of the mobile market 3 years out, and showing an example of a prediction so completely wrong from just 2 years ago.

      What part of the article do you infer “threatening the domination of iPrecious.. this must not be allowed…tons of rubbish and slurs…” and so on. Re-read the article and replace all the references to the companies involve with something you don’t have so much emotional baggage attached to (I don’t know, something like Hostess, Little Debbie, Entenmann’s and then re-read your post. You are going to feel foolish.

    • Asherpat is a fucking moron

      Fuck you, Fandroid.

  • asok.14215

    These “consultants” are just like fortune tellers. They’re charlatans who take your money to tell you what you want to hear. Brilliant!

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