Can Windows Phone Survive?

Is Microsoft just down or completely out? IDC's latest study shows that Android and iOS commanded 96.3 percent of all smartphone shipments in 2014, with Windows Phone taking just 2.7 percent market share. But with Windows 10 expected to bring new features to Microsoft's ailing mobile OS later this year, the tide may finally start to turn.

According to IDC's data (published Feb. 12 2015), Android's market share grew from 78.7 percent in 2013 to 81.5 percent in 2014, while iOS dropped 15.1 percent to 14.8 percent. Windows Phone saw its market share fall from 3.3 percent to 2.7 percent. But market share isn't the be-all, end-all indicator, said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer platforms and devices at Current Analysis.

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"Apple has a wildly profitable phone business with a minority of the global market share," Greengart told Tom's Guide. "If Microsoft can build a profitable, sustainable business around Windows Phone, it almost doesn't matter what their market share numbers are."

Referring to Apple's success with the Mac back in the '90s -- despite Microsoft's dominance with Windows -- Greengart said, "Simply having a dominant player does not spell doom for everyone else. It's possible for Microsoft to carve out a profitable niche, and that's what it has to do"

IDC's Ramon Llamas believes Microsoft has a shot. "It's laid the foundation to be in a much stronger position than it has been before," Llamas told Tom's Guide. He noted the company's acquisition of Nokia, partner vendors in emerging markets, abolishing fees to license the Windows Phone OS to make it more accessible as positive signs. "Put together, it looks better to me than it has been," Llamas said.

Both Llamas and Greengart agree that Windows 10 looks like a step in the right direction. 

"Windows 10 is impressive, and it fixes a lot of the issues a lot of people had with Windows 8," said Greengart, "It breathed new life into Microsoft's software efforts."

Llamas called out the new universal apps in particular, saying, "Having apps that work similarly enough from one device to the next is going to make adoption that much easier."

Both analysts also agree that Windows 10 may also improve the company's ability to attract developers and create innovative apps that might eventually draw users to the system. However, of course, there's a big "but."

"Even if Windows 10 is a success and more apps are available for Windows Phone, that does not change the overall mobile dynamic of iOS at the high end and Android everywhere else," said Greengart.

Staff writer Cherlynn Low is tempted by Windows 10. Follow her @cherlynnlow. Follow Tom's Guide at@tomsguide and on Facebook.