SEATTLE Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) expects license
sales of its Windows Mobile operating system to outpace the
overall growth in advanced mobile phones known as smartphones
over the next few years, a top company executive said on
Microsoft entertainment and devices division president
Robbie Bach said he expects phones running Windows Mobile to
gain market share as the overall smartphone market nearly
quadruples in size over the next 3 to 4 years to around 400
"I certainly think you should expect us to continue to gain
share," said Bach in an interview with Reuters. "The market is
starting to take off within the category that we really play
in. In this case, we have a clear opportunity to grow share."
Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, has
predicted its Windows Mobile license sales will reach 20
million in its fiscal year ending in June, nearly doubling its
sales from a year earlier. It hasn't issued a forecast for the
next fiscal year.
The market for smartphones, mobile phones with
computer-like features like e-mail and Web browsing, is growing
crowded. Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has rolled out its iPhone and
Research in Motion's RIM.TO Blackberry device maintains a
loyal following among business users.
Meanwhile, Britain's Symbian operating system leads the
market with almost two-thirds market share due in part to
extensive use of its software by mobile phone leader Nokia
NOK1V.HE and Linux could get from a boost from Google Inc's
(GOOG.O) open-source mobile phone platform called Android.
Still, Microsoft has made progress getting Windows Mobile
on more phones and on more operators. The latest to sign up
with Windows Mobile was Sony Ericsson (6758.T) (ERICb.ST),
joining Motorola Inc MOT.N and Palm Inc PALM.O as offering
devices with the Microsoft operating system.
Instead of offering both the hardware and software like
RIM's Blackberry or Apple's iPhone, Microsoft sees a better
opportunity by offering the software platform for other handset
makers to run.
It is a business model that was successful for Microsoft on
the PC where Microsoft worked with many hardware manufacturers,
but less so on portable media devices like Apple's iPod.
"(Gaining market share) is going to happen, in our view, as
a platform play. The way for us to be successful in that is to
get big numbers and a bigger percentage of that pie," said
Analysts estimate that Microsoft generates license revenue
of $8 to $15 per handset, depending on configuration.
(Editing by Richard Chang)