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Did Microsoft Back-pedal from Claiming Windows Phone Win Over iPhone in China?

wp china

On Friday tech blogs big [1] and small were running a story citing Microsoft as the source of an interesting factoid. The stories all varied in their phrasing, of course, but most of them were pointing to a post by Dutch website Emerce.nl which had the headline that Windows Phone in China is bigger than the iPhone [2], to the tune of seven percent market share. That claim was said to come from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and its Greater China COO Michel van der Bel.

And as much as we love interesting market share figures, this one just smelled a little bit funny. Windows Phone looks like a great mobile operating system, and very well could overtake the iPhone eventually. But this quick? It only launched two months ago, and my colleagues in China tell me they haven’t seen very many in the wild yet. I suppose it is possible given the current stage of the iPhone life-cycle [3], and the fact that Windows Phone is brand new in China.

So we got in touch with representatives from Microsoft for Greater China by email on Friday and then by phone today asking if this market share figure originated from Microsoft. Just now the company has issued the following statement, in English and Chinese:

While we are encouraged by the progress Windows Phone has made since its launch in China two months ago, Microsoft does not give out marketshare information.

So does this mean that Microsoft nor its Greater China COO Michel van der Bel did not recently say it had more market share in China than the iPhone? We immediately followed up on this directly, but Microsoft has not replied, despite generally being prompt to answer before now. That leaves us to draw our own conclusions, and I can only assume a possible mis-statement or mis-quote was made at some point perhaps, leading to the subsequent flood of reports hailing a possibly premature victory for Windows Phone in China.

As for the actual market share, we don’t have any figures for the last two months, but numbers for Q4 2011 from Analysys International last month put iOS at 5.7 percent, and the Windows Mobile (not to be confused with Windows Phone) at 1.2 percent. Android has the largest share of the market with 68.4, according to that report.


  1. This one got pretty wide coverage on a lot of sites we really admire, including CNet, engadget, Computer World, and The Next Web to name just a couple. Although we’re happy to see Jon Russell pick up the ball for the TNW team this evening, apparently conversing with Microsoft reps as well on this point. Update 5/22: Even Forbes has run this story now, having picked it up from The Register.  ↩

  2. Or in Dutch, “Windows Phone in China groter dan iPhone.”  ↩

  3. The iPhone 4S launched back in January, so it’s not quite as late in its life-cycle (so to speak) in China as it is elsewhere. In addition to China Unicom, it is now also carried by China Telecom. Talks with China Mobile about cooperative efforts are apparently still ongoing.  ↩

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