Currently struggling to claim even a five per cent share of the Smartphone market, many analysts have come to question whether the newly revealed Windows 7.5 "Mango" update will be enough to reverse the ailing OS's fortune.
A report from research group Gartner, released just before Mango's announcement, revealed just how badly the Windows Phone OS has been doing. According to the research not only is the OS yet to account for even ten per cent of the smartphone market, but since the launch of the Windows 7 version, its share has actually dropped.
The report highlighted how since the release of the OS's Windows 7 version, by the end of Q1 2011 the OS's share of the market had fallen from 6.8 to 3.6 per cent.
This revelation has led many, including the IBTimes, to question how and why despite Microsoft's near bottomless pockets and numerous world class developers on staff, the Windows Phone OS could be doing so badly?
Late to the party
A standard line used against the Windows Phone OS is that the company was quite simply too late to join the smartphone party.
Microsoft only released the operating system mid-2010. By this point Google's Android OS and Apples iOS had already been available to consumers for three whole years -- Android and the iOS's precursor the iPhone OS where first distributed mid-2007.
For this reason many analysts have speculated that Microsoft missed the critical window of opportunity where customer brand loyalty could be created. This meant that by the time the Windows Phone OS was released, customers had already become accustomed to one of the existing smartphone operating systems.
Because of this -- either through brand loyalty, or a desire not to have to learn a whole new OS's interface and quirks -- it is possible that by the time the Windows Phone came out, customers were simply less willing to try something new.
Playing catch up
Another standard argument why the Windows Phone has struggled, suggests that the OS doesn't contain enough original features.
The argument stems from the fact that outside of its Xbox LIVE features and Microsoft Office support, the OS doesn't actually bring anything new to the smartphone table. In short, the argument accuses Microsoft of a lack of innovation, choosing to simply play catch-up with Apple and Google rather than concentrate on creating something new.
Sadly, if one were to look at the list of features promised in the forthcoming Mango version, this argument is not without merit.
A good example of this is Mango's promised inclusion of Multitasking support. This feature centres around the users ability to run and switch between multiple programmes and applications simultaneously. Touted as a major addition to the Windows Phone OS, multitasking is a feature its rival Apple added months ago when it launched its iOS version 4.
Lack of handsets
While the same criticism could be thrown at Apple -- which intermittently releases one or two new or updated versions of its iPhone handset once or twice a year -- another key criticism against the Windows Phone is its lack of compatible handsets.
To date, while more and more phones are being released using the Windows Phone OS -- including some from smartphone gurus Samsung and HTC -- the numbers pale in comparison to those using its Android competitor.
Additionally, nearly all of the handsets fall into the mid to high price range of the smartphone market. The LG Optimus 7, which is one of the more reasonably priced Windows Phones, sells sim-free for around £380. This lack of diversity and high price tag could well explain why people aren't willing to take a risk and try a Windows Phone.
Luckily, this is one of the criticisms Microsoft have actually answered. Through a recent deal with Nokia, Microsoft has secured numerous new handsets, potentially including some with a more manageable price-tag.
Indeed, Microsoft's pact with Nokia could well grant its smartpone operating system several advantages. Perhaps the biggest being the possibility of taking over the Symbian OS's share of the market.
Taking over Symbian
In its recent deal with Microsoft, Nokia has agreed to ditch its own-brand Symbian OS.
This could potentially be good for Microsoft. Symbian currently speaks for an estimated 27.4 per cent of the smartphone market. It holds onto this share despite the overwhelmingly negative response the Symbian OS has recieved from both consumers and critics alike.
This indicates that customers may in fact be loyal to Nokia's handsets rather than its operating system. If true, then a significant number of the customers Nokia currently command may well choose to stay loyal, even with the changed operating system. This would mean that in a best-case scenario for Microsoft, the Windows Phone OS could potentially jump from a 3.8 per cent to a 31.2 per cent share of the market -- though this is seriously unlikely to happen.
Will Mango succeed where Windows 7 failed?
The Mango update will undoubtedly add a host of new features to the Windows Phone.
Unfortunately, given the fact that most of the features currently confirmed are already on many of its competitors smartphones and the fact that the iPhone 5 already has consumers close to frenzy, it is unlikely that the update will be the key factor to change the OS's fortune.
It is far more likely that Microsoft's new ally Nokia will play an instrumental role in boosting the Windows Phone OS's market share during the coming months.
While it would be naive to assume that every current Nokia owner will remain loyal and upgrade to one of the company's new forthcoming range of Windows Phones, it would be equally foolish to dismiss the brand loyalty the Finnish phone maker currently enjoys.
Nokia is one of the oldest and most trusted phone providers in the world. It has managed to retain a large customer base despite releasing a mobile operating system that is, for lack of a better work bad.
This market power, while not enough to shoot the Windows Phone OS to the same levels of success enjoyed by Google's Android OS -- which this year became the most used smartphone OS on the market -- may well allow allow Microsoft's OS to at least recover some ground.
How large this gain will be remains to be seen.