June 03, 2013, 6:15 AM — Microsoft's mobile computing initiatives have been written off as DOA for years. But something has been happening while you weren't looking: Microsoft is beginning to show flickering signs of life in the mobile sphere.
Up to now, Microsoft's failures to get a foothold in mobile computing have been spectacular. It had a smartphone operating system and a tablet years before Apple, but it could never capitalize on that head start. Internal turf wars, technology false starts and a lack of understanding about how people really want to use mobile devices all played a role in Microsoft's mobile demise. The company's low point may have been the 2010 release of the Kin, a phone that required a data contract but couldn't run apps. After less than two months on the market, Microsoft mercifully pulled the plug. It was an expensive and embarrassing venture; Microsoft had paid an estimated $500 million or more to buy the company that made the Kin, and it took a $240 million write-off for killing it.
Of course, Microsoft is nothing if not persistent when there are markets to be conquered. It's still taking a whack at mobile, with Windows Phone and the Windows 8 and RT tablets. Still without much traction, though. The obituaries have been written, if not published. But it may be too soon to call for the last rites: People are starting to buy Windows 8 tablets and Windows phones.
Microsoft's mobile numbers aren't at the level it's accustomed to in areas like desktop operating systems and productivity suites. Windows tablets are at 7.5% market share, according to Strategy Analytics. IDC says Windows Phone 8 devices were at 3.2% in the first quarter. Those figures aren't likely to worry Apple and Google too much -- yet. But they're on the rise. The Microsoft mobile corpse has been reanimated.
Let's put those numbers in perspective. Microsoft's tablet share is dwarfed by Apple's 48.2% and Android's 43.4%. But a year ago, the Windows numbers were so insignificant that Strategy Analytics wasn't even tracking them.