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Windows Phone: Coming Up Fast on the Outside

So, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Android has more than 80 percent of the smartphone market for the first time ever -- 81 percent, to be exact.


I'm not surprised by that, as Android has been a runaway locomotive for years now in this space. And Apple has -- for now -- maintained its hold on second place, with iOS at 12.9 percent market share for the third quarter of 2013. Apple might be a bit uneasy; although it sold more phones than ever, its slice of the market is shrinking. That's not news, either.

Then we come to Microsoft, and things get interesting. Very interesting. Although still in third place, it saw a gigantic year-over-year increase in market share, going from 2 percent to 3.6 percent. Now, 3.6 percent of the market wouldn't normally be something worth trumpeting. But consider that it represents a 156 percent jump in share, and the number becomes a lot more significant. Compare that to a 51.3 percent gain for Android, and a 25.6 percent increase for iOS, and Windows Phone suddenly seems more important.

Of course, Microsoft had a lot, lot, lot (to infinity) of room for growth. But that doesn't mean those gains are trivial. I read it more as Windows Phone is starting to finally carve out a niche, and get on more consumers' radar. I agree with what IDC Research Manager Ramon Llamas said in a press release:

"Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter. Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price... Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward."

For .NET-focused developers, which is the vast majority of those reading this, I think this is fantastic news. Windows is a platform you know well, and has the best tooling in the industry (led, of course, by Visual Studio). If the Windows Phone market becomes viable, many more of you will consider building apps for it, as you'll have more confidence that you can make some money, and will be building for a device with a future. That will lead to the upward cycle of more apps-more buyers-even more apps.

Developers can, and will, still build for Android and iOS, even using Visual Studio to do it with the help of cross-platform tools like Xamarin. But if the gains IDC reported today continue throughout this and next year, Microsoft could even find itself eclipsing iPhone in time, which some have predicted (to derision from other quarters). But these figures show that Windows Phone is no longer a laughing matter.  

Posted by Keith Ward on 11/12/2013

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