Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer says that despite the hefty lead of rivals, the company is entering the smartphone market early with Windows Phone 7 and is fully committed to making the operating system successful.
Ballmer told attendees at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference Thursday that the smartphone market is still young, and there's plenty of time for devices running Microsoft's new mobile OS to grab market share.
"Yeah, we're early. There's no question we're early," Ballmer said during his keynote.
Some analysts do not share Ballmer's optimism. Researcher Gartner predicted this month that Windows Phone 7 would barely move the needle on Microsoft's dismal share in the smartphone OS market.
Windows Phone 7, which is available in phones in Europe now and in the U.S. next month, is expected to bump the company's worldwide market share from 4.7% in 2010 to 5.2% next year. However, Microsoft's share will ultimately decline to just 3.9% by 2014, Gartner says.
Those numbers mean Microsoft will be far behind the other major mobile OS developers. Symbian is expected to continue leading the market in 2014, with a 30.2% stake, just barely ahead of Google's Android. Gartner sees Android's share ballooning to 29.6% from 17.7% in 2010 and just 3.9% in 2009.
Nevertheless, Microsoft is going to put "muscle" behind WP7 in terms of marketing and sales, Ballmer said.
"Make no mistake about it, when it comes to Windows Phone, we're all in," he said about the company. "I've gotten asked various questions: What we will do with this or that, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Boom, baby! That's what we're going to do, continue to work, continue to drive, continue to improve."
Microsoft, which has billions of dollars in cash reserves, has fought its way to a leadership role before in markets where it entered as an underdog. However, despite being in the mobile phone market for years, it has failed to make a dent, unlike Google, which has seen Android grow dramatically in just three years.
Microsoft's most recent failure was the Kin, an advanced mobile phone meant to attract a younger, social networking-oriented audience. Microsoft stopped work on the device after just six weeks.