But uptake has slowed.
Android looms large over Microsoft's Nokia buy
If Nokia had chosen Android instead of Windows Phone, would the company have achieved its goal of creating a more competitive, vibrant mobile phone market?
Shortly after Nokia announced its intention to use Windows Phone, CEO Stephen Elop explained why the company didn’t choose Android.
“If you combine the current market share of Android with the market share that Nokia could deliver to Android over the next couple of years, it’s a very large number. One could believe the mobile industry thereafter would be some form of duopoly,” Elop said at the time.
Going with Windows Mobile would instead create “a three-horse race,” he said.
At the time, just two and a half years ago, the market was very much in flux. Apple and Android were dominating, but there was still a sense that anything could happen.
Fast forward to today, and the market is far more settled.
In fact, it is essentially a duopoly and Nokia’s interim CEO said as much this morning during the press conference announcing Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business. “The industry is becoming a duopoly with the leaders building significant financial momentum not seen before,” Nokia’s interim CEO Risto Siilasma said, according to a Techcrunch story.
According to IDC, Android has 80 percent market share, followed by Apple with 13 percent. Windows Phone comes next with under 4 percent.
In the ensuing years since Nokia made its operating system choice, it clearly hasn’t become that third contender that it hoped to.
In fact, it’s become increasingly difficult for any third player to grab real market share. While Microsoft trotted out some nice graphs showing the growth of Windows Phone since its launch, the overall smartphone market has grown so quickly that Nokia has actually slid backwards. ABI Research reports that while Windows Phone shipments were up 77 percent in the second quarter this year over last year, Nokia’s share of the smartphone market declined, from 6.5 percent to 6.1 percent.
How might things be different had Nokia chosen Android instead of Windows Mobile? It’s impossible to say. But there's a good chance that Nokia would be in much better shape than it is today.
Ben Thompson, a former Microsoft exec who writes the Stratechery blog, argues that Elop made a huge mistake in not choosing Android. Thompson contends that Elop simply didn't understand the value in Nokia's experience in design plus its distribution and supply chain.
He actually goes further to speculate that Nokia was either planning to switch to Android or go bankrupt and that Microsoft's only choice was to buy the company to prevent either scenario.
If Nokia had gone with Android initially, there’s a chance that Samsung would not be such a dominant force in Android. IDC found that Samsung had almost 40 percent of the Android market in the second quarter. Everyone else was in the single digits.
If Nokia had chosen Android, we’d probably have an even stronger duopoly. But the Android ecosystem might be more vibrant. Perhaps Samsung wouldn’t be so dominant, with Nokia in the mix. In that scenario, would it be so bad to have a duopoly?
We’ll never know. Instead, we’ll watch a combined Microsoft/Nokia try to reach the same goal that Nokia had when it first chose Windows Phone: to become a real third place contender. The only difference now is that’s even more difficult today than it was more than two years ago when Microsoft and Nokia were trying to reach that same goal as partners.
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