It’s the New York Times turn this time, and they see some promising signs emerging from the European market. For example, European telecom Orange lists the Lumia 800 as one of their best-selling devices in Austria. Vodaphone reported that the Lumia 800 sold out in Ireland. And in the U.K. Microsoft’s promotion of giving away an Xbox 360 with purchase of a Nokia Windows Phone device drove demand, and WP7 devices claimed 2.2% of smartphone sales in the country in December of 2011.
While 2.2% may not sound like a triumph, every new platform has to start somewhere, and Windows Phone is at least posting growth in European markets year over year. In the U.S. the story is somewhat hazy, as the contracting Windows Mobile market has totally overshadowed the paltry number of devices being sold on U.S. shores, but the long and short of it is there aren’t many WP7 devices selling on this side of the pond.
Nokia hasn’t released a top-tier Lumia for the U.S. yet of course – that will happen with the debut of the Lumia 900, which is expected to launch as an exclusive to AT&T, possibly in mid-March. The panoply of WP7 devices from Samsung and HTC have otherwise failed to inspire U.S. customers so far, and if the Lumia 900 fails to gain traction it’s unlikely that we’ll see significant movement until Windows Phone 8 ships in the second half of 2012.
The elephant in the room of course is whether the rate of growth in Europe is high enough to keep Windows Phone in the game, and whether the platform will ever gain traction in the U.S. In the U.K. WP7 sales grew at a faster rate than the smartphone market as a whole, but it would take years of that sort of growth before they made a sizable dent in the market share of Android or iOS, and it’s safe to imagine that Apple, Google, and the Android OEMs would pull out the stops to try and prevent that.
It will take years for this to play out, but at least we should know in a few months whether Nokia and WP7 have what it takes to attract U.S. consumers. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date as the vaunted “third platform” tries to break into the U.S. in 2012.