WimMo Runs The Wrong Way In Smartphone Race

There is more evidence this week that Windows Mobile is headed the way of the dodo.
There is more evidence this week that Windows Mobile is headed the way of the dodo.Canalys, a tech-industry market research firm, has published its latest snapshot of the smartphone market. Apparently, no one bothered to tell the world's smartphone vendors -- or their customers -- that business stinks: Nokia's global shipments grew more than 40 percent over the past year, with Apple and RIM also boasting solid double-digit growth.

Break down the global market by OS, however, and one finds some interesting trends. RIM and Apple both gained substantial market share over the past year, while Android grew from nothing to nearly a three percent share (and outstanding short-term prospects).

Yet two mobile OSes lost market share: Symbian and Windows Mobile. In terms of units shipped, Symbian isn't doing too badly, dropping around two percent and still dominating the smartphone market.

WinMo is a different story.

According to Canalys, the number of handsets shipping with Microsoft's OS dropped nearly 29 percent over the past 12 months. WinMo's market share during that period dropped from over 14 percent to nine percent.

As I pointed out last week, other market-share estimates offer different numbers but tell the same story: WinMo is sinking in a market where every other smartphone platform is either thriving or (in the case of Palm's WebOS) at least building positive momentum.

Microsoft's recent agreement to offer Microsoft Office for the soon-to-be-open-source Symbian OS looked like a tacit admission that Windows Mobile is a platform without a future. Canalys' numbers certainly don't suggest otherwise.

At this point, I have another question: Will the smartphone boom extend to a new generation of ultra-portable, low-power netbooks? Dell, for example, is pondering whether to introduce a new class of hardware that fits nicely between today's netbooks and smartphone handsets, and a host of other companies are already jumping into the same space.

Thanks to the chip architecture driving many of these new ultra-portable netbooks -- Dell calls them "smartbooks" -- this is a market that Linux would dominate by default. If this turns out to be the sweet spot where the smartphone and netbook markets finally merge, Microsoft might regret watching Windows Mobile slide into irrelevance.