Microsoft says Windows Phone will surpass Apple in China (yes, really)

windows-phone-chinaMicrosoft may have modest goals of becoming the third most popular smartphone platform in the United States, but China is another story. Windows Phone will become more popular than the iPhone in the country, according to the Redmond software maker’s Chinese chairman and CEO, Simon Leung. Bloomberg reports that Leung told reporters in Beijing that because of the low prices Windows Phone can achieve and new partners like Nokia and Samsung, defeating the iPhone is possible. 

“We will continue to drive the price down,” said Leung. “Our goal is number one. Having a goal to be number two is not really a goal.”

If price determines success in China, he may have a good shot. Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone devices will retail for around 1,000 yuan ($158), which is in a completely different class as Apple’s expensive  4,988 yuan iPhone 4S. Of course, premium prices haven’t stopped Apple from dominating markets around the world for more than a decade now, so it’s hard to say how much Chinese consumers will be willing to pay for their phones. 

Windows Phone currently holds a 7.5 percent share of the Chinese market, far less than Apple’s 12 percent, but notably better than its 2 percent share in the United States. Of course, like the US, Android is the true threat in China. Google’s operating system holds 70 percent of the smartphone market there. Even if Microsoft manages to catch up or surpass Apple, Android is another matter entirely. Android phones are a varied lot and already come in comparable prices to Windows Phone.

“Windows Phone will have a lot of equipment manufacturing partners and more device choice at more different price points,” said Teck-Zhung Wong, who works for IDC research. “That alone, as opposed to what Apple is doing, will give Windows Phone an advantage.”

IDC also speculates that Windows Phone will surpass the iPhone by next year. But Android? No. Simon Leung may claim Windows Phone is headed to the top, but it has a long road ahead of it.