Since Microsoft launched Windows Phone in late 2010, the firm has struggled to come up with positive news for the platform, which by all accounts has achieved, at best, 3 percent market share worldwide. But comments this week about some Windows Phone successes have come under sudden and sharp attack, suggesting that the biggest issue facing Windows Phone isn’t so much unit sales but rather perception and deep-seated Apple bias.
It started fairly innocuously. Microsoft Communications Chief Frank X. Shaw wrote a blog post aimed at framing where the firm is in delivering its current-generation platforms, including Windows 8/Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012, and Office 365/Office 2013. Dubbed Looking Back and Springing Ahead, the post briefly discusses Microsoft’s progress and provides a few hints for the future.
But a single sentence about Windows Phone in Shaw’s post has come under an unusual amount of scrutiny, in part because Microsoft has to date been pretty silent about the platform’s performance—but also in part because the media won't allow any bad news (even delivered as implicitly as this one) about Apple to pass unnoticed.
“Windows Phone has reached 10 percent market share in a number of countries,” Shaw wrote, “and [it] has shipped more than BlackBerry in 26 markets and more than iPhone in seven.”
Windows Phone has outsold the iPhone in seven markets? Sorry, Mr. Shaw, but the blogosphere won't let that one stand. Eager to undermine the iPhone part of this claim, Apple-oriented bloggers, including those at The New York Times, sought to determine exactly in which markets Windows Phone was supposedly outselling their favorite phone.
In a report referring to Shaw’s post as a collection “factoids”—the word actually means “questionable, spurious, unverified, false, or fabricated statements,” in case you don’t understand the insinuation—The New York Times delivered a rebuke. But only for Apple and its iPhone: It never addressed the claims that Windows Phone has outsold BlackBerry in a whopping 26 markets.
It reached out to IDC, the source of Shaw’s unit sales comment, which does of course know the list of countries in which Windows Phone has allegedly outsold the iPhone: Argentina, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. But wait. That’s only six countries, you notice. Right: “A seventh ‘country’ where Windows Phone shipments beat iPhone is actually a group of smaller countries,” the New York Times explains, “including Croatia, that IDC lumps together in a category called ‘the rest of central and eastern Europe’.”
And no worries, iPhone fans, “Three of the markets—Ukraine, South Africa and ‘the rest of central and eastern Europe’—are small enough that there were fewer than 100,000 Windows Phone unit shipments in the fourth quarter in each of them.” Best of all, some of the countries in the list have “a very significant gray market” (as opposed to a normally significant gray market, apparently). So who can even trust these numbers? (As the New York Times notes, “it is hard to know actual market share in those places.”)
The New York Times also quoted an IDC analyst who says that Windows Phone “tends to thrive in parts of the world that are traditional strongholds for Nokia, Microsoft’s flagship handset partner. In many of those markets, there is less demand for the iPhone because of its high cost and the lack of carrier subsidies.” In other words, Windows Phone is a great solution in third world countries. For uneducated and poor people. Message? The well-heeled readers of The New York Times can relax, and get back to Instagramming their breakfast.
So! Crisis averted for iPhone fans! But I assume the blogosphere—and The New York Times—will now hold all similarly tossed-out Apple stats—sorry, “factoids”—to the same level of blistering reality check going forward. I can’t wait.