Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer admitted yet again that sales to end users of the company's Windows Phone devices are not what the company had expected, though he said he has high hopes for where the platform is going.
"We haven't sold quite as many as I would have liked in the first year," Ballmer said at the company's meeting with financial analysts. The comments echo ones he made in July at the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. According to research firm Gartner, Microsoft commanded just 1.6 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, down from 4.9 percent in the year-ago period. Microsoft has consistently refused to specify what its sales to end users have been.
"I'm not saying I love where we are but I am very optimistic on where we can be," Ballmer said. "We've just got to kick this thing to the next level."
To get to that next level, Microsoft is rolling out Windows Phone 7.5, dubbed Mango, which includes a slew of enhancements, including third-party application multitasking, improved Live Tiles to deliver more real-time information to the device's homescreen, an improved browsing experience as well as new enterprise-focused features. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) committed this week to launching three new Mango phones, including two from Samsung and one from HTC.
Ballmer said in the year since Microsoft commercially launched Windows Phone devices with its partners, it has developed into "a very strong third ecosystem" to compete with Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS. There are now more than 30,000 applications for the Windows Phone platform, which is still dwarfed by Apple's 450,000 and Android's 250,000 apps.
However, Ballmer pointed to the forthcoming introduction of Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Windows Phone devices as a catalyst for more development of the Windows Phone ecosystem. "With Nokia we have a dedicated hardware partner that is all-in on Windows Phones," he said. "They are not doing something on Android or [any other operating system]."
Nokia intends to release its first Windows Phone device in the fourth quarter and then follow with more devices at a variety of price points next year. Nokia also plans to make a big push in the U.S. by working more closely with carrier partners, pushing its devices in carrier retail stores and unveiling a large marketing effort.
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