Can Microsoft’s Windows Phone Stop Playing Follow the Leader?

When Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) reports earnings for its second quarter of the fiscal year on Thursday, analysts are expected to closely examine sales and revenue figures for the company’s Windows business because of the dismal results the unit produced last quarter. In the first fiscal quarter, Windows revenues decreased to $3.2 billion from $4.8 billion posted in the same quarter last year.

A report issued by Kantar WorldPanel has given analysts an indication of how well Windows Phone did over the most-recent three-month period. The firm’s compilation of worldwide smartphone sales showed that Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android-powered smartphones took the number one spot in Britain, China, Spain, Australia, and Germany, while Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone dominated markets in the United States and Japan.

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While the report did not comment specifically on the market share of Windows Phone devices, it showed that phones running Microsoft’s mobile operating system posted large sales gains, compared to the year-ago quarter, in several countries in the European Union. The phone accounted for 5.4 percent all sales in the region for the 12-week period ending on December 25. In particular, they represented 5.9 percent of sales in Great Britain, 13.9 percent in Italy, and 1.8 percent percent in Spain…

“It has been far slower than Microsoft would have liked, but Windows Phone is now starting to gain respectable shares in a number of key European countries,” commented Dominic Sunnebo, the firm’s global consumer insight director, in the report. “However, its performance in the Chinese and US markets remains underwhelming. As the two largest smartphone markets in the world, these remain key challenges for Microsoft to overcome during 2013.”

Microsoft’s gains came largely at the detriment of Research in Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry, but the company’s success may only be temporary. RIM will release two new phone designs running on its updated operating system later this month, an event that could halt Microsoft’s efforts to slide its operating system into the third-most-popular smartphone OS slot behind iOS and Android. Even with the declining popularity of the BlackBerry, Microsoft was unable to surpass the phone’s market share in all regions.

ComScore’s most recently-released smartphone sales tallies show a much more detailed breakdown of market share in the United States. The report, which takes measurements on a three-month rolling average, listed Apple and Google at the top of its results for November, with 53.7 percent share and 35.0 percent share, respectively. Behind the leaders were Research in Motion with 7.3 percent and Windows Phone with 3 percent.

Another measure of the phone’s success can be found in the number of Lumia phones that Nokia (NYSE:NOK) sold in the quarter. The Finnish manufacturer reported that it shipped 4.4 million of the smartphones, the primary Windows 8 device, in the last quarter of 2012.

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