Move Over, Apple: Microsoft Wants In on China

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As much as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) has been riding China's growth waves lately, and with massive iPhone opportunities within the world's most populous nation, longtime archrival Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) wants a piece.

South Korean powerhouse Samsung is still leading the pack, though, with Gartner estimating its market share to be more than three times as large as Cupertino's. Apple's smartphone share in the country sits at roughly 7.5%, compared with the 24.3% that Samsung has garnered.

The country is expected to overtake the U.S. this year in smartphone shipments, which are projected to increase by 52% to 137 million units. Mobile market researcher Flurry just announced that China has just surpassed the U.S. in new iOS and Android device activations as further evidence to this trend.

In a recent Bloomberg report, Microsoft saysthat its Windows Phone operating system will speed past the iPhone on its way to toppling Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android's lead. Microsoft's head of Greater China, Simon Leung, referred to overtaking Apple as an "interim goal" and said the company will "continue to drive the price down."

It will tap its standard slew of hardware partners in what it presumably hopes would play out like the PC market decades ago. Mr. Softy would be looking for ubiquity and market share with a wide range of OEMs and low price points.

Just yesterday, the software bellwether said popular gadget OEM HTC has just started selling the first Windows Phone within the country, codenamed HTC Eternity.

I think this order is too tall to fill. Windows Phone may be able to grab market share with low-cost offerings and multiple partners, but I doubt locals will camp out all night to get their hands on one and subsequently riot (complete with a SWAT team being called in for crowd control) when that prospect gets called into question.

Apple now has two of the three largest wireless carriers under its belt: China Unicom (NYSE: CHU  ) and China Telecom (NYSE: CHA  ) . Just one more to go for Apple.

Sorry, Microsoft, but if your market share in China ends up even remotely resembling its global counterpart, there's not a lot of hope for beating Apple or Google any time soon.

Microsoft probably isn't a great way to play the mobile revolution -- but component plays are. Check out this new special free report on 3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution for starters. What do you have to lose? It's free.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On March 22, 2012, at 11:00 PM, FreeRange1 wrote:

    MSFT is so so laughable. As an American living in China I can tell you that China, and other parts of Asia, are some of the only places in the world where people pay for MSFT bloated buggy products what they are actually worth, about $2USD on the street. Further, nearly all of the consumer and business PC users in China currently run windows XP. There is no way in hell that MSFT is going to come into favor and leapfrog these obstacles. As far as Samsung's marketshare, most of their phones sold in China are cheap stripped down models, not competition to Apple. Their marketshare numbers are totally misleading.

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