After the launch of Windows 8 10 days ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has sounded optimistic about the prospects for Windows Phone 8.

During the launch of WP8 in Tel Aviv yesterday, Ballmer said: “With the work we have done with Nokia, HTC, Samsung and others … there is now an opportunity to create really a strong third participant in the smartphone market“.

Microsoft entered a strategic partnership with Nokia – once the world’s leading cellphone maker – to move to Windows Phone 8. This was followed by agreements with HTC and Samsung, two of today’s most powerful players.

The problems though are the current duopoly of Google and Apple, with Android and iOS far outstripping other smartphone OSs. Experts acknowledge this is a high mountain for Microsoft to climb.

Research company IDC reported that 136 million units of Android-based smartphones made by Samsung, HTC and other vendors were shipped in the third quarter. This nearly doubled third quarter sales in 2011.

Android’s share of the worldwide smartphone market rose sharply to 75% from 57.5% a year ago. Apple’s iOS market rose to 14.9% during the third quarter, from 13.8% a year earlier.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile accounted for only 2% of the market in the same period, with Windows Phone 8 starting at zero.

The question therefore is whether Microsoft can become a major player in the smartphone market. Paradoxically, I think the best weapons in Microsoft’s push is not Microsoft but HTC and Samsung, giants in the smartphone market.

The problem however, is that both OEMs also make Android phones, which are on a tear. How long they are willing to stick with Windows Phone 8, if early adoption numbers are weak is anyone’s guess.

CNNFn talks about a possible XBox analogy with WP8;

… few phone shoppers are willing to stray from the iPhone-and-Android duopoly.

Microsoft says it’s willing to be very, very patient. In its Redmond, Wash., headquarters, the Windows Phone story sounds awfully similar to that of Xbox — a perennial money loser that spent the better part of a decade mired in third place behind Nintendo and Sony. Xbox debuted in 2001 but didn’t turn a profit until 2008.

After establishing several successful video game franchises and launching its Xbox Live service, Xbox was able to overtake its rivals late last year. It’s currently a close second in global sales behind Sony’s PlayStation 3, according to industry tracker VGChartz.
With Windows Phone, Microsoft is hoping for another Xbox moment.

Does his analogy make sense? Can Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 become a third major player in smartphones?

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  • Hervé Maas

    Microsoft needs to leverage it’s various ecosystems and merge them at a blistering pace. Within a few years you should be able to turn off your PC and continue where you were on your phone and do the exact same things.

    Merging the mobile and desktop, gaming and mobile ecosystems is their best card for the comming years. because it will give users a real advantage since Apple and Google do not have a presence in all these worlds.