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While mobile handset makers and Windows Mobile developers are waiting on pins and needles for Microsoft's new smartphone OS, which is due out in time for the holiday sales season, users are already losing interest in its predecessor, Windows Mobile 6.x, according to the latest figures from a leading analytics firm.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will provide more details of its highly-anticipated Windows Phone 7 Series operating system at next week's MIX 2010 Web developers' conference in Las Vegas.
In the three months from the beginning of November and the end of January, however, Windows Mobile lost four percentage points of smartphone market share in the U.S. -- down from 19.7 percent to 15.7 percent, according to comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR).
In comparison, Research in Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) operating system share grew 1.7 percent to total 43 percent, while Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone system picked up 0.3 percent to reach 25.1 percent share.
That leaves Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5, which began shipping on new handsets in October, and its predecessors, in a weak third place -- and coming up fast from behind is Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android smartphone system.
Android gained 4.3 points of market share, a strong play to move up given that it started the three month period with a puny 2.3 percent share and finished with a respectable 7.1 percent.
That doesn't surprise Philippe Winthrop, former director of the global wireless practice at research firm Strategy Analytics, and author of the Enterprise Mobility Matters blog.
"Microsoft has a problem maintaining sales of Windows Mobile 6.x while, at the same time, building excitement about Windows Phone 7 Series," Winthrop told InternetNews.com.
"It's doable but it is a challenge to continue momentum for one OS that's on its way out," he added.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer debuted Windows Phone 7 Series last month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but barely mentioned Windows Mobile 6.5.
Windows Mobile 6x hanging on
As far as uncertainty over the older operating system goes, It probably doesn't help that another Microsoft executive, Andy Lees, senior vice president for Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, told financial analysts in February that 6.5 will become the operating system for less-expensive smartphones over the next 18 to 24 months.
Neither does it inspire confidence in users, OEMs, and developers that Windows Mobile 6.x applications won't run on Windows Phone 7 Series devices.
"The 6.x series just isn't as competitive [as Windows Mobile 7]," Winthrop added.
A Microsoft spokesperson provided a more upbeat assessment to InternetNews.com. "Mobility is one of Microsoft's top investment areas and we are 100 percent committed to Windows Phones - now and in the future," the spokesperson said in an e-mail.