Oh, the irony -- Microsoft has spent $600 gazillion to market its Windows Phone 7 devices and is paying $1 billion to Nokia to get the foundering phone maker to adopt the low-capability OS. But it's been outsold significantly by a mobile OS you never heard of: Samsung's Bada.
According to data from market researcher Canalys, in the first quarter of 2011, Microsoft's hardware partners sold 2.5 million Windows Phone 7 devices worldwide, of the 101 million smartphones sold in total. Samsung's Bada-based line of Wave smartphones sold 3.5 million units in Europe and Asia, despite tepid reviews. (For the record, 36 million Androids, 24 million Symbian devices, 19 million iPhones, and 16 million BlackBerrys were sold during the same period globally.)
About a year ago, Samsung decided to open-source its proprietary cellphone operating system, resulting in Bada (Korean for "sea"). Samsung uses it in its Wave devices, and that's pretty much it. Bada is also a very limited mobile OS -- I hesitate to call Wave devices smartphones, as Bada units aren't much more than the "feature phones" that existed before the iPhone arrived: mobiles with a few primitive apps such as games. But it is more than those devices, offering a real Web browser in addition to social neworking clients and a smattering of feature-phone-style games and apps.
Bada is meant to appeal to those who don't want their phone to be a computer, but do want to access the Web and keep in touch with their friends via Facebook and Twitter. There's no notion of security or enterprise manageability -- no business would consider a Bada device to be anything other than a cellphone.
What's ironic, of course, is that Windows Phone 7 doesn't offer much more than Bada. Its focus also was on Web access and social networking, and there's a collection of games and other apps (admittedly often more sophisticated than Bada offerings). Its security and manageability are also more than Bada's -- but not by much.
In its marketing, Microsoft has played up the social and personal aspects of Windows Phone 7, not the all-around computing aspects that Apple highlights in its iPhone ads or that Android device makers advertise. The reality of Windows Phone 7 and the marketing of Windows Phone 7 are more like that of Bada.
Despite Microsoft's enormous brand recognition and intense marketing efforts -- and global availability -- it's beaten in sales by the operating system most people haven't heard of and which is not available in North America.
Of course, neither Windows Phone 7 nor Bada have much sales share: 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, in the last quarter, according to Canalys. But the fact that Bada has outsold Windows Phone 7 tells me two things: One, Microsoft's reputation in mobile is pretty bad, with little carryover from its Windows PC business. Two, by not pretending to be anything other than a fun, Web-capable "feature phone," Bada honestly appeals to those who still view cellphones as phones.
This article, "The OS you never heard of trounces Windows Phone 7," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.