It is far too early to call success or failure on Nokia’s (s nok) strategy to build devices with Windows Phone(s msft), but the handset maker is already shipping more Microsoft smartphones than its rivals. On Friday, research firm Strategy Analytics said that in the fourth quarter of 2011, Nokia accounted for 33.1 percent of all Windows Phone shipments. While shipments don’t equate to actual sales, this data point might catch other companies asleep at the wheel.
First, it is not terribly surprising that Nokia is making more Windows Phones than Samsung, HTC, LG and others. The fact that the company has been laser-focused on its partnership with Microsoft — to the reported tune of more than $1 billion in revenue for Nokia — meant that at some point, Nokia would surely ship the most Windows Phones. But for it to happen so quickly with just 900,000 shipments is enlightening.
Part of the reason has to be that Nokia’s competitors are beating one another up as they try to differentiate themselves with Android phones. Samsung has a wide range of Androids based on its Galaxy line and TouchWiz user interface. HTC is retooling its Sense UI and spent $300 million on Beats audio for improved sound quality, while LG is clinging to glasses-free 3D technology to stand out. And all the while, Nokia just keeps building and shipping Microsoft-based handsets.
Why is this important? Two reasons. First, some of the Android makers are losing momentum. HTC’s sales, for example, aren’t growing as quickly as they used to, because on the one hand, the Android market is finding new entrants in ZTE and Huawei, and on the other hand, Samsung is gobbling up market share. Second, if Windows Phone gains a reasonably big audience — something that is debatable but likely, in my opinion — Nokia will be best suited to dominate sales, because others have been so focused on trying to milk profits out of the much larger Android landgrab.
Put another way, How ironic would it be that as Android makers consumed themselves by trying to one-up one another with dozens of extremely similar handsets, Nokia — which overextended by creating hundreds of Symbian devices — wins heaps of Windows Phone market share by being the only vendor that really cares about the platform?