Windows Phone 7: 1.5 Million Devices Sold, But Not To Consumers


Credit: Tricia Duryee

In the last six weeks, there has been a lot of speculation over just how many Windows Phone 7 handsets have been sold since the devices hit the market. Now we have a number, sort of: 1.5 million, revealed by Microsoft’s new VP of business and marketing for Windows Phones, Achim Berg. But it turns out that this isn’t the actual number of devices sold to consumers…

The number, detailed in a soft-ball interview on Microsot’s own News Center, notes that there have been 1.5 million phone manufacturer sales: in other words, “phones being bought and stocked by mobile operators and retailers on their way to customers.”

This will go some way towards making sure the devices have the necessary retail presence needed to be sold — which has been an issue for Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in some places like London where someone working for the mobile portal MobilesPlease tried to buy a Windows Phone 7 device in Carphone Warehouse and couldn’t find one on display.

But more importantly, it still doesn’t give us a clear idea of how many of them actually have been bought.

It’s frustrating that the company still is keeping silent on actual numbers; but even if you are looking at the number as devices bought in by retailers, the numbers are not huge. Compared to the current rate of Android-based phone activations daily — 300,000 — or the number of iPhones sold in the first week it went on sale in 2007 — 500,000 — Microsoft is having a somewhat slow start.

Berg’s defense (which, I guess, doesn’t take into account the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) numbers): “Our numbers are similar to the performance of other first generation mobile platforms. We introduced a new platform with Windows Phone 7, and when you do that it takes time to educate partners and consumers on what you’re delivering, and drive awareness and interest in your new offering.”

Where Microsoft seems to be doing better, at least in terms of building up a marketplace and ecosystem, is in its apps. Berg confirms the 4,000 apps number released by IDC, which we wrote about yesterday. It doesn’t mean that those apps are being used, but it does point to a growing community and potential interest in the platform.

That could go some way to making Windows Phone 7 into a possible partner for Nokia (NYSE: NOK), a rumor currently making the rounds that is no doubt helped by the fact that Nokia seems between platforms right now with Meego and Symbian, and is looking to shake up its strategy since it picked up a new ceo, the ex-Microsoft exec Stephen Elop.

Most significantly, Berg says Microsoft is in mobile for the long haul. The company is planning further rollouts with “several more mobile operators around the world” in 2011 and Microsoft is planning on expanding its portfolio of devices at different price points. “We know we have tough competition, and this is a completely new product. We’re in the race – it’s not a sprint but we are certainly gaining momentum and we’re in it for the long run.”

The devices first went on sale in Europe and Asia Pacific on October 21 and were then rolled out in North America on November 8. They are being manufactured by a number of handset makers including Dell, Samsung and HTC.

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