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Sales show WinPho 7 off to a flying start

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Smartphone market watchers have generally focused on the battle between the big boys - Nokia, Apple, Research in Motion (Rim) and the Android crowd - in their analysis of the last quarter's sales.

But the quarter's biggest launch was Microsoft's attempt to get back in the game, with Windows Phone 7, the smartphone platform built out of its Zune media player operating system. How well did it do?

Now we can say, thanks to US research company NPD, which this week noted that WinPho 7 managed to take two per cent of the smartphone sales in the States during Q4 2010.

NPD tracks retail and carrier sales to end users, rather than shipments from vendors, so it's numbers present an accurate view of what punters are buying.

Now, two per cent doesn't sound very much, not when, according to NPD, Apple and Rim each accounted for 19 per cent of the market, and Android took 53 per cent. But WinPho 7 handsets didn't go on sale until the middle of the quarter.

Despite that late launch, WinPho 7 powered as many smartphones as the rather more well-established HP Palm WebOS managed during the period. HP too took two per cent of the market, NPD said.

That shows starkly what a minority interest WebOS, now two years old, is. That may change with the debut of HP's WebOS-based tablets, one in March, another in September, since HP is, like so many of its rivals, entering a brand new market.

Back to smartphones, and there's no reason why Microsoft can't boost WinPho 7 sales beyond those of HP, especially if it delivers much-promised extra functionality and rides on the publicity this will generate for the platform.

It certainly needs to do so. While WinPho 7's Q4 2010 market share looks good alongside HP's, it's doesn't compare favourably with the four per cent share its archaic-seeming predecessor, Windows Mobile 6, managed to work up during the quarter.

WinPho 7's arrival had been well-signalled, yet plenty of buyers - almost certainly all corporates - bought into the older platform instead. This is the OS, WinPho 7 really needs to beat. ®

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