Is Microsoft Really Outselling The iPhone In These Markets?

nokia lumiaMicrosoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 operating system has not received the best reviews, in fact, it is often not even mentioned in tallies of top mobile platforms. This reality makes an announcement made by the company’s public relations head, Frank Shaw, on Tuesday a rather encouraging — if not surprising — revelation.

Windows Phone has had difficulties finding traction in a smartphone market dominated by Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. However, in an official blog post published earlier this week, Shaw wrote that Windows Phone outshipped the iPhone in seven countries: Argentina, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, and group of smaller nations that includes Croatia and the “rest of central and eastern Europe.”

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To be exact, he said that “Windows Phone has reached 10 percent market share in a number of countries, and according to IDC’s latest report, has shipped more than Blackberry (NASDAQ:BBRY) in 26 markets and more than iPhone in seven.”

At a very superficial level, this data indicates a positive growth trend for Microsoft, but the noticeable limitations of this simple comparison beg for a closer inspection of the numbers. New York Times contributor Nick Wingfield asked IDC, the research firm that provided the statistics, to elaborate. Analyst Kevin Restivo, added some context that slightly diminished Microsoft’s success in those countries. Three markets — Ukraine, South Africa, and the “rest of central and eastern Europe” — are so small that the company shipped fewer than 100,000 units to each one in the fourth quarter, numbers that will hardly boost total shipments significantly.

In addition, IDC’s numbers only reflect the official number of imported cellphones. According to Restivo, some countries like Argentina have high government taxes that create a “very significant gray market in cellphones.” IDC does not track these figures, according to the Times.

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Windows Phone numbers are actually quite consistent with typical patterns. Restivo told the Times that Microsoft’s platform tends to thrive in parts of the world that are traditional strongholds for Nokia (NYSE:NOK), whose handsets account for the majority of the devices running the operating system. In many of those markets, the demand for the iPhone is low because of its high cost and the lack of carrier subsidies.

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