By Neelabja Adkuloo
In the early years of the smartphone market, various market research companies forecasted that by 2017, Microsoft would become the third major mobile operating system (OS). By the end of 2016, Microsoft’s phone OS market share fell to less than 1%.
The signs are clear
Microsoft ended all support for its Windows phone 8.1 on 11 July 2017. In other words, the move means there will be no new security updates, non-security updates or free or paid assisted support options.
The recent suggestion that the Lumia era was truly over, appeared in Microsoft’s press release. The company hinted that while it would continue to update software for its Lumia smartphones, it would develop no new Lumia hardware. What’s left of the business suffered its final blow by the latest round of layoffs of around 1,850 engineers.
According to statistics, it turns out Windows 10 mobile is being used by only about 16% of Windows cell users. If 84% of customers chose to stick with the older operating systems, then it’s safe to say something went wrong.
What went wrong?
Several believe that the lack of apps was a major reason for the failure of the phone. Many developers did not produce apps for Windows Phone OS because they did not have a strong user base. Project Astoria was an ambitious mobile project started by Microsoft that would allow Android apps to run on Windows phones. But Microsoft gave up on this idea with giving a reason.
Some people believe that Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile weren’t supported by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which in turn provided customers with only a few choices when looking for devices running the platform. On the other hand, the operating system of the phone proved “too buggy, clunky, and unintuitive” to win consumers over. Customers were fed up with the phone routinely and repeatedly crashing.
Microsoft introduced a unique Live Tile interface to the world with Windows Phone 7, but it never progressed because of constant software reboots. Windows Phone’s repeated reboots were part of a strategy to get a single version of Windows across PCs, tablets, and phones. Phone makers were also less inclined to pay for a license to use Windows Phone, and it took Microsoft years to make it free to truly compete with Android.
By the time Windows 10 was released, Windows Phone OS introduced new features like Continuum where you can plug a monitor, keyboard and mouse to your Windows 10 phone for a PC-like experience. However, Microsoft had better luck selling it to the corporates instead of the personal mobile market.
The company’s mobile strategy has been hard to comprehend. It has preferred a “scattergun approach”, launching a range of different smartphones and then waiting to see which ones find favour—in contrast to the measured approach of Apple.
Microsoft’s mobile matters
Passionate Windows phone fans are still clutching on to the dream of a Surface phone. Without an app ecosystem though, any new hardware efforts (like the Surface phones) will continue to fall flat. Taking this into account, Microsoft is focusing on building up Universal Windows Platform apps on other devices, such as PCs, Xbox consoles and Hololens. The point is to enable easy app development across device types. If Microsoft can build a thriving UWP app ecosystem and comes back with strong smartphone hardware soon, it may finally have some success in getting developers to make Windows phone apps.
Recently, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared an “ultimate mobile device” vision that Microsoft is working on. Clearly, this example from Microsoft’s leadership reveals that the company is actively involved in developing Windows on phone. But when companies lag behind, consumers are quick to punish them. Only time will tell if Microsoft can bounce back into the mobile market.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
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