Microsoft “Too Invested to Let Apple Win” Mobile Gaming

Microsoft isn’t planning to just let Apple walk away with the mobile gaming space, what with its iPhone and its iPad and iPod touch. No, Big Redmond is “very serious” about Windows Phone 7, and Kieran Connell, Development Lead for Microsoft Game Studios, said at the Evolve conference in London Wednesday that there are too many players in the market to let Apple take that market without a fight.

“I think there are too many people with too much money invested to let Apple win in terms of flooding the entire market,” Mr. Connell told listeners, according to a report from “You’d better believe Microsoft is very serious about Windows Phone 7, and protecting their part of the business. It’s going to be an interesting time - that’s for sure.”

What part of the smartphone business Microsoft has to actually fight for at this point wasn’t mentioned, but the company is trying hard with Windows Phone 7, which was released earlier this Fall.

At this point, however, Android is the largest smartphone platform (43.6% market share) in the U.S. in terms of of the number of devices being sold, while Apple has the single most popular smartphone device and a #2 position in operating systems (26.2%). Research In Motion’s BlackBerry is #3 (24.2%), while Microsoft is a distant #3 with 3% of the market.

On the global stage, Gartner said in September that Nokia’s Symbian is still the dominant #1 smartphone OS (40.1%), followed by Android (17.7%), BlackBerry (17.5%), and iOS (15.4%), in that order. Windows Phone (as a whole) is #5 with 4.7% of the market.

Those figures are for the entire year, however, and both Android and iPhone surged throughout the second half of the year. In the September quarter, for instance, Apple shipped 2 million more iPhones than RIM shipped BlackBerrys, That doesn’t change the fact, however, that Microsoft is all but a bit player in the smartphone market.

That means the company is not defending its turf, but trying to assault a market dominated by two other players, Apple and the Open Handset Alliance (an umbrella group for the Android platform). When it comes to apps and games, Symbian and Windows Mobilephonewhatever are hardly even also-rans.

Of course, it would be foolish to discount Microsoft from anything, especially the gaming market. Big Redmond has always taken care of developers better than every other company, both in computers and in the gaming console business. With the Xbox platform, for instance, Microsoft was seen as a longshot, but the company quickly established itself as a major competitor (thanks in large part to Bungie’s Halo, but that’s another story), surpassing Sony’s PlayStation platform.

At the same time, however, the company can throw all the money it wants at mobile gaming and it won’t matter much if no one buys Windows Phone 7 devices, and there’s simply no indication yet that this will happen. Zero. Nada. The rules of the smartphone market simply aren’t the same as for the computing or console markets, and Microsoft’s mobile offerings have never been taken all that seriously in this space.

The company is in for the fight of its corporate life if it wants to see the smartphone market become a four way race between itself, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry, and this could be one of the first major and irrevocable defeats Microsoft has faced. Android and iOS are that much better and that much stronger. Heck, Research In Motion has a better chance of gaining (back) significant market share than Microsoft does.