Report: Microsoft's Windows Phone will capture 4% of U.S. market this year

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone will see its share of the U.S. smartphone market creep up this year--but only slightly--as competitive pressure from Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS limit its gains, according to a new forecast from research firm Strategy Analytics.

According to the report, Windows Phone's share of the U.S. smartphone market will inch up from 3 percent in 2011 to 4 percent in 2012. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), HTC and Samsung are likely to be the key drivers behind any growth in market share, the firm believes. Overall, the U.S. smartphone market is expected to grow 21 percent this year from 102 million units in 2011 to 123 million units in 2012.

Still, Microsoft is expected to power only 5 million out of the total 123 million smartphones sold in the U.S. market this year. "To grow further, we believe future versions of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 platform will need to dramatically improve support for advanced technologies like multi-core chipsets, enhance the Marketplace app store, expand the number of phone models available from major partners like Nokia or Samsung, and consider reducing the license fees it charges per unit to smartphone makers," said Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston. 

The Strategy Analytics report is in line with other recent measures of Microsoft's smartphone market share. According to comScore data, Microsoft's U.S. smartphone share stood at 4 percent in April, a fraction of Android (50.8 percent), iOS (31.4 percent) and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry (11.6 percent).

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) have all voiced support for Windows Phone 8 and plan to launch devices this fall. For Microsoft, getting strong and sustained carrier support (and marketing) for the new version of the platform will be crucial to generating interest among consumers. So far, AT&T and T-Mobile have been the biggest U.S. supporters of Windows Phone, though Verizon has said it wants to do for Windows Phone what it did for Android several years earlier in terms of sparking consumer desire.

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