Steve Ballmer seems to be full of bluster these days. In his latest potshot at the iPhone, the Microsoft CEO says, “the future of the mobile handset business will primarily depend on software influence rather than hardware.” In other words, Apple’s hardware approach to sales won’t work and Microsoft’s software approach is better. Let’s take a real look at the success of Windows Mobile’s software-drive success, shall we?
Fellow bloggers Stephen Wellman and David DeJean quoted a passage from Ballmer yesterday in which he says he’d rather have Microsoft software on 60% or 70% of the phones in the world than meet the hardware sales goals of Apple’s iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at the iPhone’s launch that he would like to see the iPhone represent 1% of all mobile phone sales by the end of 2008. That’s 10 million devices. So he’s giving Apple 18 months (assuming a June launch) to reach that goal. I won’t say that it isn’t an ambitious goal. Given Apple’s success at selling iPods, I will reserve judgment for now on the iPhone’s real potential.
With the smartphone market approximating 10% of all mobile phone sales, it amounts to roughly 100 million devices sold per year. Of those 100 million, Windows Mobile appears on 5.6%, or 5.6 million of them. So, in the 5 years that Windows Mobile has been around, it has barely cracked 0.6% of all mobile phone sales. Ballmer has a long, long way to go to reach his target of 60%.
In light of Windows Mobile’s success, or lack thereof depending on your point of view, I’d say Ballmer doesn’t have all that much to crow about. In fact, if Apple does meet its hardware sales goals by 2008, which would best the number of Windows Mobile-powered devices by about 4 million, Ballmer will be forced to eat crow.