Microsoft’s brand hasn’t been linked to too many successes in the past year, with less-than-stellar Surface tablet sales and CEO Steve Ballmer’s resignation after admitting the company had failed to adequately enter the mobile tech market. But good news from Nokia — the Finnish handset maker that carries the majority of Windows Phone-based smartphones — could have both companies singing a slightly different tune.
Nokia’s business has been lagging too — Microsoft agreed to purchase its mobile handset division this year. But research shows that sales of Nokia’s mid-range smartphones — mostly the Lumia 520 and 620 — have boosted the adoption of Microsoft’s mobile operating system in Europe overall. The Lumia line of phones was initially praised for its ease of use and innovative design at its 2012 launch, but Lumia’s support for Windows Phone only was considered a potential obstacle in user adoption. Windows Phone now owns nearly 10% of the mobile OS market share across Europe.
Android is still king in Europe, holding 70% of market share. But iOS holds 16% in Europe, putting Windows Phone in or close to the same league. And the Windows platform’s number is nearly double year-on-year, forecasting the beginnings of a potential comeback should Lumia handset sales continue apace.
Still, it will be quite some time and many more smartphone sales before one can see stable success for either Nokia or Microsoft in Europe, but Nokia has made important moves in targeting markets where more expensive smartphone sales lag (ahem, Apple). Nokia’s mid-priced handsets appeal to younger users, especially in markets where carrier pricing does not allow for discounted iPhones with multi-year contracts. While there is no debate around the global dominance of Android as the favored mobile operating system, Windows Phone has surprised with this strong growth concentrated in the U.K. and France.