1 Place Windows Phone Is Catching Up to iOS

Germany may be known for its love of well-tuned automobiles and David Hasselhoff, but according to new Kantar Worldpanel data, the Windows Phone operating system should also be added to the list. The latest numbers have Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) smartphone OS just 1 percentage point behind Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) for OS market share sales in the country.

But it's not just in Germany where the OS gaining traction, the five biggest European smartphone markets seems to be warming to Microsoft's smartphone operating system as well.

What a difference a year makes
Last year, in the three-month period ending in August, Windows Phone captured a total of 5.1% smartphone OS market share sales in Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. But during the same time this year, that share had jumped to 9.2%, while iOS took 16.1%.

Great Britain gives Windows Phone the most love with a solid 12% of OS market share sales over the past three months. That's in stark contrast to U.S. consumers who handed over just 3% market share sales to the Windows Phone OS.

But the most important data coming from Kantar is that although Android took about 70% of European smartphone OS sales market share over the past three months, the research company thinks the little green droid has reached its saturation point in developed countries. As Kanta points out, "After years of increasing market share, Android has now reached a point where significant growth in developed markets is becoming harder to find."

The research company said that over the past three months Windows Phone achieved double-digit sales market share in two European countries – Great Britain and France – for the first time ever. This move coupled with iOS gains is expected to bring a slight retreat of the Android OS going forward. Part of the shift has come as Samsung has reached a saturation point in Europe and other OEMs move in.

Source: Kantar.

Judging by the graph, Apple and other vendors still have a long way to go before catching up to Samsung, though.

Wind in the sails, but storms ahead
Kantar isn't the only one seeing gains for Windows Phone OS, thanks to Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) . Last month, research firm IDC said in a press release that, "Nokia has clearly been the driving force behind the Windows Phone platform and we expect that to continue. However, as more and more vendors enter the smartphone market using the Android platform, we expect Windows Phone to become a more attractive differentiator in this very competitive market segment."

With Microsoft's pending acquisition of Nokia's devices and services segment, the company has the opportunity to build on the momentum it's gained in Europe. The big question is whether Microsoft can tap into the two the largest smartphone markets, the U.S. and China. Though the OS made a slight gain over the past three months in the U.S., it fell to just 2.1% in China from 4.7% the same time last year.

While Windows Phone gains in Europe are good news for Microsoft investors, gaining traction in the U.S. and China are going to be extremely difficult. This year, China will ship nearly one-third of all worldwide smartphone shipments, and it's imperative Microsoft make this market a top priority. Last month, Microsoft's VP of advertising and online, Frank Holland, said at a conference in Germany, "We are going to spend a lot of time in the next 12 months building a real presence on the low-end smartphone market with developing countries." Let's hope that means China sees a significant portion of that money to build the Windows Phone presence in the country. Though European market share is good, China is where the real growth is and Microsoft can't afford to pass it up.

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