The measure of Windows Phone's failure is...

There are many measures, but one piqued my attention last week. According to Nielsen, Windows Mobile US smartphone market share, based on install base not unit shipments, is considerably higher than its successor -- 4.1 percent versus 1.7 percent for newer Windows Phone. Interpret however you like: Windows Mobile is so good, many Americans stick with it; Windows Phone isn't doing well after two version releases and 18 months of sales.

Nielsen's numbers are for first quarter, when Android share reached 48.5 percent, effectively from zero three years ago (the OS debuted on one smartphone from one carrier in Q4 2008). The next two places go to iOS and BlacBerry, with 32 percent and 16 percent share, respectively. In second quarter 2011: Android, 39 percent; iOS, 28 percent; BlackBerry, 20 percent; Windows Mobile/Phone, 9 percent. So Microsoft's overall share measured by both operating systems is down by one-third in just three quarters.

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Twelve days ago I asked: "Is there hope for Windows Phone?" based on modestly encouraging data from comScore that showed a brief arrest in declining market share. The analyst firm puts Microsoft's smartphone share at 3.9 percent, based on subscribers, which is flat quarter on quarter. That's actually an improvement.

BetaNews reader Christopher Micallef is puzzled by the negative reporting about Windows Phone: "Why do people always assume that falling sales with Windows Mobile means that Windows Phone is failing? Of course they are going to have falling sales, they cancelled a whole platform".

Analyst Mike Feibus opined for BetaNews last month: "Windows Phone will gain serious market share this year". He believes that Verizon supporting Windows Phone will hugely impact sales. I'm skeptical.

BetaNews reader Brandon Mills follows Feibus' reasoning:

To me, the real story is that the decision of who is going to be the third power in the cellphone wars seems to have been made by the carriers -- it's Windows Phone. Blackberry is pretty much up a creek without a paddle at the moment. They don't have a giant OS monopoly to push their platform forward with...

The writing is on the wall. RIM is gone. With less doubt about who the third power is going to be, along with leveraging Windows 8 itself and taking advantage over Android fragmentation frustration, I think Windows Phone is positioned to at least gain a moderate share in the next two years. I don't think it's going to knock Android or iOS out, but I think it'll gain enough share that it will become the established third power.

Commenter aretzios blames Windows Phone for Microsoft's misfortunes: "Microsoft signed its death warrant in the mobile space since the day it decided to abandon WinMo 6.5 to move to a totally incompatible system...From 25 percent of the market, Microsoft's share declined to 1.5 percent as WinMo users moved en mass to Android. Sometimes, when one breaks backward compatibility, there are consequences".

During the Bill Gates era, and even during Steve Ballmer's early tenure as CEO, Microsoft made backward compatibility a top-design priority. But the company started backing away from that tenet with Office 2007. Where there are dramatic UI changes, like Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Windows RT, backward compatibility isn't assured at all.

Reader Dan Goldberg is a Windows Phone fan: "I have used iPhones, Androids and now Windows Phones. I gotta say my windows phone rocks! It is quick (without having a hundred cores), better battery life, and more stable. Facebook and Twitter is integrated into the phone and is very fast to read and post messages. Don't forget my screen is much larger (4.7 inches ) and easier to read vs the iPhone".

But aretzios disagrees:

There is no or little hope for WinPhone 7/7.5/8. The reason is simple. Humdrum specs, humdrum hardware going against amazing devices such as the HTC One X/S and the Samsung Galaxy SII/SIII. Those who think that WP Phone is better than Android 4 are simply kidding themselves. Android 4 is extremely good and can provide anything that WP7.5 does and much more on top of that. In addition, most of the devices out there offer much more than any Windows Phone. And just wait, the iPhone 5 is not even out!!

Commenter keymaker remains optimistic about Windows Phone: "I think it's too early but one thing is for sure though, almost all customers reviews are all positive and these things being dirt cheap also helps a lot".

Photo Credit: Microsoft

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