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Is Microsoft losing the mobility race?

By Shannon Williams, 03 Feb 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Microsoft has taken the biggest hit from the shift to mobility, according to new figures from Canalys, which says its share of the total mobility market is sitting at just 12%, behind Google and Apple at 70% and 17% respectively.

According to Canalys, 1.74 billiob smart phones, tablets, two-in-ones and notebooks shipped in 2015, a year-on-year increase of 5%.

The analyst firm says growth was driven by two-in-ones and smart phones, while tablets and notebooks declined.

Shipments of mobility products running Linux-based operating systems increased by over 200%, albeit from a small base, the company says.  This was primarily driven by YunOS shipments, which became the third largest smart phone platform in China in Q4 2015.

“In the notebook space, there are similar shifts in the OS landscape,” comments Wilmer Ang, Canalys analyst.

“Chromebook shipments were up 22% annually in 2015 and the number of notebooks shipping without Windows is increasing,” he says.

“Opting for an alternative OS, such as Ubuntu, can significantly reduce the cost of a notebook,” Ang adds. “This is an attractive proposition for low-income consumers.”

Canalys says the industry is also grappling with other shifts in dynamics. Android grew only 6% as tablets went into a decline, denting the 10% growth from its smart phones alone, which was driven by Alphabet’s vast base of ODMs. Conversely, despite Apple also suffering heavy declines in tablets, iOS grew 10% and OS X notebooks 7%.

Tim Coulling, senior analyst at Canalys, says the tablet market declined throughout 2015 as replacement cycles lengthened.

“Tablet vendors need to get people excited about the category once again,” he says.

“A good start would be to make these products more versatile. Apple is now emphasising productivity on tablets, an area where Microsoft arguably leads and Android trails.

“Apple is off to a good start with the iPad Pro, which outsold Microsoft’s Surface in Q4,” Coulling says.

“There is work to be done to maintain this momentum, and numerous trade-offs must be made when trying to use the iPad Pro as a notebook replacement, which Microsoft’s Surface undoubtedly is.”

Microsoft grew shipments year on year for two-in-ones and tablets, but this was offset by the declining notebook market and a change in attitude toward its acquired smart phone business, according to the analysts.

“Smart phones running Windows fell by 20% as Microsoft shifted focus from devices to services during 2015,” Coulling says.

“The future for Windows 10 Mobile is now in question. Microsoft desperately needs to attract high-profile OEMs and generate consumer pull.

“Creating a premium Surface Phone might generate some buzz about the platform, but it will be risky and repeating what it has achieved in the tablet space will be tough,’ he adds.

‘It must get OEMs to buy into a platform in decline as well as convince consumers to switch from an iPhone or high-end Android smart phone.”

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