Future for Windows in smartphones is grim, Gartner says

Smartphone users will continue adopting Android phones and iPhones

Microsoft's Windows 10 OS in the Lumia 950 XL smartphone

Microsoft's Lumia 950  XL smartphone has Windows 10

Credit: Microsoft

Gartner is predicting a grim future for Microsoft's Windows mobile OS, saying it won't make its mark in consumer smartphones, remaining relegated to enterprise users.

Microsoft's Windows 10 mobile OS, formerly named Windows Phone and now called Windows 10 for mobile, is just now reaching devices. But prior versions haven't fared well. Windows Phone was in just 5.9 million smartphones shipped during the third quarter this year, declining from 9.0 million in the same quarter a year ago.

That pales in comparison to Android, which was in 298.8 million units shipped during the third quarter (with a 84.7 percent global market share), increasing from 254.4 million a year ago. Apple's iOS was shipped in 46.1 million iPhones, rising from 38.2 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Windows 10 won't make things better for Microsoft in smartphones, and any adoption will remain enterprise-focused, said Roberta Cozza, a research director at Gartner.

The Windows operating system is primarily used in Microsoft's Lumia smartphones, whose shipments also declined in the third quarter. The company was in third place behind Samsung and Apple, with phone shipments of 30.3 million units, a decline from 43.1 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Worldwide mobile phone shipments totaled 477.9 million units during the third quarter, increasing by 3.7 percent, according to Gartner. The numbers include smartphones and regular phones.

Smartphone shipments overall rose due to growing demand for affordable smartphones in emerging nations, where local -- some little-known -- brand names are emerging. Lower-coste smartphones typically have slower processors and sacrifice advanced features found in top-line phones from Apple and Samsung.

Most low-price smartphones run Android, but Microsoft is making an attempt to put the Windows 10 mobile OS in low-cost smartphones by partnering with companies like Acer and TCL.

Microsoft has also partnered with Intel to put Windows 10 in low-cost mobile devices running on x86 chips. Intel similarly partnered with Google to make an x86-compatible version of Android, but its uptake has been minuscule.

Samsung remained the world's top smartphone vendor in the third quarter, selling 102 million units, an increase from year-earlier shipments of 93.6 million, and holding a 21.4 percent market share. The release of new Galaxy handsets four months ago helped boost shipments during the quarter.

Apple's shipments totaled 46 million units (a 9.6 percent market share), growing from 8.3 percent in the year-earlier quarter. Apple shipped new iPhones at the end of the September, and that will boost shipments for the company's handsets in the fourth quarter.

Several Chinese companies -- including TCL (which sells under the Alcatel brand), ZTE, and Xiaomi -- were in the top 10. India's Micromax, whose smartphones have taken India by storm, also made its way into the top 10. Gartner said little-known brands like Oppo and BBK were also flourishing in emerging markets. The little-known brand names are rising as smartphone sales soar in countries like China and India.

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