It’s been quite a year for Microsoft and Windows Phone. The mobile OS started off strong, but soon hit some bumps. Microsoft worked hard to put those mistakes behind them and is ending the year on a positive note. Read on for my overview of Windows Phones in its first full year of existence.
Microsoft started off the year on a positive note. The Redmond company unveiled Windows Phone at the end of 2010 and the first handsets were in the market. Enthusiasm was high, and sales (of licenses) were already in the millions. The Comscore report from January 2011 shows that Microsoft had 8% of the mobile handset market. Some of these handsets were Windows Phone, and some were leftover Windows Mobile handsets still on the market.
Early in the year, Microsoft and Nokia confirmed the circulating rumors and announced a partnership. As part of this agreement, Nokia would phase out its Symbian smartphones and replace them with Windows Phone handsets. The Nokia faithful criticized this move and questioned Elop’s allegiance. Prior to taking over as Nokia’s CEO, Elop worked for Microsoft as head of its Business Division.
Early updates were rocky
The honeymoon was soon over when Microsoft released its first update. This first update was a maintenance one intended to prepare the handset for the actual update expected to roll out early in 2011. The update was filled with drama when some Samsung handsets entered the update fully functional and left it as a brick. Microsoft and Samsung issued a patch, and the whole thing was smoothed over.
The first significant update to Windows Phone landed in the second quarter of 2011. Known as Nodo, this update brought copy/paste, Facebook integration, camera improvements and more. Though later than expected, the update hit handsets with minimal problems. Opinion was still mixed about Windows Phone at this point. Some customers liked the progress Microsoft had made, while others expected more.
During this first half of 2011, Microsoft’s market share fell from 8% to 5.8% in June. Lots of factors contributed to this slide, including the arrival of the Verizon iPhone 4, rumors of the iPhone 4S/5 and the appearance of 4G LTE handsets powered by Android.
The Promise of Mango
The second half of 2011 was comeback time for Windows Phone and everyone was talking about Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. The update brought significant changes, 500 to be exact, that significantly improved the platform. Now, Windows Phone users could multi-task, get turn-by-turn voice directions, and marvel at third-party live tiles. Along with the software came new hardware including the Samsung Focus S, the HTC Titan and the first Lumia handsets from Nokia. Early reviews on Mango were promising, and consumer interest in Windows Phone was on the rise. Sales were stagnant, especially in the US. In October, Microsoft only captured a 5.4% share of the US mobile phone market. Android had 46.3% and Apple had 28.1%.
Nokia and the Lumia explode onto the scene
In November, Nokia launched its first Windows Phone handsets – the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Lumia 710. The Lumia 800 landed in Europe starting in November, and the 710 will land this month. The early response to the phone has been positive. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive, and initial sales are brisk. It’s too early to say these handsets are the “saviors” that’ll turn Nokia and Microsoft around, but the idea has crossed my mind.