Windows Phone may have settled into a comfortable niche with developers, who recently rated the platform third behind iOS and Android, but ahead of Blackberry. But the market researchers at Gartner say Windows Phone still has a ways to go with the audience that matters most: Customers. And in the third quarter of 2011, sales of the platform weren't just flat, they were down from the same quarter one year previous.

According to Gartner, Windows Phone accounted for 1.5 percent of the market for smart phone OSes, behind Android (52.5 percent), Symbian (16.9), iOS (15), Blackberry (11), and Bada (2.2). But it was well ahead of Others (.9 percent). That's down from the 2.5 percent of the market it controlled in the same quarter one year before.

I assume customers were simply waiting for the release of Windows Phone 7.5. Come on, you know that's the type of excuse Apple fans use. In fact, Gartner actually said as much:

"Android benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM," Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza said. "[And] Apple's iOS market share suffered from delayed purchases as consumers waited for the new iPhone."

But seriously, folks.

Windows Phone isn't exactly setting the world on fire. And it's unclear whether solid-but-not-legendary new devices from Samsung, HTC, and, eventually, Nokia can change that. Oddly, the best chance Windows Phone has going forward may very well be with Windows 8. And that's because, should Microsoft's next desktop OS really take off, customers may want to get something very similar on their phones as well. We'll see. Certainly, Windows 8's presumed success isn't a lock either. And I'll have more to say about that later today.