Microsoft introduced the latest, much un-anticipated "Mango" version of its Windows Phone operating system this morning in Tokyo, prompting observers to wonder whether Japan – still recovering from a devastating tsunami and nuclear-power-plant meltdown – should be forced to deal with one more disaster.
Microsoft – which has become dominant or a clear leader in almost every segment of the mainstream operating system market –succeeded in changing its share of the global smartphone market by almost five percent between 2010 and 2011, according to IDC.
Last year Windows Phone ran on 7.1 percent of new handsets; at the end of the first quarter of 2011, it held 2.7 percent of the smartphone market.
Microsoft CEO Steve Balllmer described the company's success in the smartphone market at a reseller conference this month in typically overoptimistic hyperbole:
"We've gone from very small to...very small," he said, ignoring a detailed market-share progression analysis that rates it as "highly probable" that 2.7 percent is smaller than 7.1 percent.
The total numbers are higher, of course. Between 2010 and 2011, the total smartphone market grew from 305 million units sold worldwide to 472 million – an increase of 64.5 percent.
Close analysis of market-change dynamics also shows a high indication that, in rate-of-growth terms, 64.5 percent is a higher number than negative 263 percent –the growth (shrinkage) rate of Windows Phone between 2010 and 2011.
IDC does predict that, by 2015 the prevalent version of Windows 7 (code-named "stinkweed") will make up as much as 20 percent of the global smartphone market.
IDC does not explicitly say this is a pessimistic prediction based on the depressed and nihilistic view of some analysts' overall expectation that the world is rapidly devolving into chaos, disorder and misery.
It is possible, however, to infer that from a single data point, if you try hard enough.
IDC did say the growth it expects from Windows 7 will be driven at least partly by an assist on sales from Nokia, which has suffered its own setbacks in smartphone sales, under a recent agreement in which Nokia promised to run Windows phone on its phones and Microsoft promised to invest in Nokia, pay the company for much of its development effort and keep any of the top executives from being forced to speak to Ballmer in person.
Neither IDC nor other smartphone-market analysts, ethicists, philosophers or rescue workers agreed to comment on the moral permissibility or potential catastrophic impact of shipping Windows Phone "Mango" in the already devastated Japan.
Though rich in culture and history, Japan is a relatively small island country that would be difficult to evacuate if it were to suffer a sudden influx of Windows smarphone devices. Global NGOs and humanitarian organizations are reportedly already gearing up to deliver immediate assistance if needed.
In the meantime, Ballmer was overheard to say something in public that, though unclear and directed at people other than the eavesdropper, something about the invasion of Japan helping Windows Phone's market share advance from "very small" to "[expletive deleted]."
We and the Japanese people wish Microsoft luck with that goal.