In the midst of a dramatic overhaul of its smart phone efforts, Microsoft shouldn't be surprised to see its current platform, Windows Mobile, dropping market share. But despite this transformation and the worldwide hype machine behind Apple's iPhone efforts, a curious fact emerges: Windows Mobile still performs well against the iPhone when you look at actual usage. But in the European Union (EU), for example, Windows Mobile is tied for second place with the iPhone. And in the United States, Windows Mobile is a solid number three, with double the usage share of Google's Android.
The figures come courtesy of two comScore studies, one examining smart phone trends in the United States and one in the EU. In the United States, there were 234 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2009, comScore says, with 42.7 million of them using smart phones. Research in Motion (RIM) is the market leader in the United States, with 43 percent of the market, while the Apple iPhone comes in second with 25 percent. Windows Mobile is third with 15.7 percent, but that figure is double Android's share of 7 percent. (Palm is in fifth place with 5.7 percent share.)
The European numbers are quite different. In the EU, there are 51.6 million mobile subscribers with smart phones. Looking at the five biggest markets there, Symbian is the largest smart phone platform with 61 percent usage share. But Apple and Microsoft are in a virtual tie for second place, with the iPhone accounting for 14.5 percent of usage, compared to 14 percent for Windows Mobile. (RIM is in fourth place with 8.3 percent; Android has 2 percent.)
Smart phone usage, of course, is rising steadily. In the United States, comScore says that smart phone usage grew 18 percent over the previous three months, while EU smart phone usage rose 32 percent. But look at individual EU countries, and there are some standouts: UK smart phone usage rose a whopping 70 percent during this time frame.
For Microsoft, the numbers likely represent many subscriber holdouts and enterprise users, and there's little doubt that the trend is down. Meanwhile, platforms such as iPhone and Android are still on an upward trend (in the case of Android, a sharply upward trend). Microsoft's hope, of course, is that it can stem the tide of users by shipping Windows Phone as quickly as possible. Currently, the plan is to deliver the first devices by September 2010, six months from now. My expectation is that Windows Mobile will cede market share and usage share—to RIM, iPhone, and Android—during this time.