released sales data on its newly launched mobile operating system Windows Phone 7...well, sort of. Instead of revealing actual numbers regarding phone sales to consumers, it has announced that its partner handset manufacturers have sold over 1.5 million devices to carriers and retailers in the first 6 weeks the phones have been on the market.Microsoft has finally
That helps Windows Phone 7 "build customer momentum and retail presence," says Achim Berg, Microsoft's VP of business and marketing for Windows Phones.
Great, so what does that really mean in terms of platform success?
The short answer: not much. It shows that carriers are willing to give the handsets a chance, stock them on their shelves. It demonstrates carrier confidence. And yes, if the carriers are on board, that can help any new mobile OS get a good start. Windows Phone 7 has a better chance than say, the Microsoft KIN did, for example.
Carrier Sales Don't Equal Market Share
But manufacturer to carrier sales tell us nothing about real market share. You can't infer from this figure how many phones are ending up in consumers' hands. And let's be really clear on one thing - if that figure was something to brag about, you know Microsoft would.
Instead, we can just wonder. The only "real" consumer sales data came out in November, when a single online U.K. retailer MobilesPlease reported on its blog that Android phones were outselling Windows Phone 7 devices by 15 to 1. The press, of course, glommed onto that number as evidence of a Windows Phone 7 failure to launch.
But there are several things wrong with that. For one, that report was from one retailer. One retailer in the U.K. And one retailer who sells phones online. Most mainstream users aren't going to buy a WP7 phone sight unseen from a website - they're going to go to a store to get their hands on one first. (Just ask Google how well those Nexus 1 online sales went).
But WP7 Has Apps!
So what data do we really have, then, on the Windows Phone 7 platform?
Well, IDC analyst Al Hilwa said this week that the WP7 Marketplace is off to a good start, reaching 4,000 apps just two months after launch - a faster ramp up than even Android saw. (It took Android from Oct. 2008 to March 2009 to reach this same level, Hilwa said).
"I would not be surprised if Microsoft had the third largest app portfolio in the industry by the middle of next year," Hilwa concluded.
Sounds promising, right? Unfortunately, no. This data amounts to a whole lot of nothing, too. As Engadget's Chris Ziegler rightly pointed out, Android launched on the T-Mobile G1 alone, and it wasn't until the first half of 2009 that additional markets and devices came online. Windows Phone 7, however, has launched on devices from HTC, LG, Dell and Samsung across North America and Europe. This isn't a fair comparison, in other words.
In addition, WP7 developers come from an already established .NET and XNA developer base - they didn't have to learn new tools, development environments, libraries or languages.
So WP7 reached an app milestone quicker than Android? No surprise there. It certainly should have.
The only real number that matters to this platform's success comes from consumer sales data. But Microsoft isn't talking about that, despite increased pressure to do so. And that's perhaps the most telling reveal of all.