Windows Mobile Is Dead – or Just About

Despite the best efforts of Microsoft, its consumer mobile platform just can’t break through. Does it still have a chance, or is it dead in the water?

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Microsoft was a fairly big player in the mobile market for a long time. Windows CE-based PDAs and Windows Mobile-based business devices were big business in 1990s and early 2000s. However, Apple and Android turned the mobile world on its head from 2007, and the onetime giants Microsoft and Nokia, with Windows Mobile and Symbian OS respectively, found themselves struggling to keep up.

Relaunch

In 2010, Microsoft relaunched its mobile platform aiming it at the consumer market, with Windows Phone 7. It was a huge revamp, completely leaving its old system behind, and it featured a whole new tile interface. However, it failed to make a massive impact. It was early days, and it looked promising.

In 2012, Microsoft released Windows Phone 8, a continuation over Windows Phone 7 and a huge improvement. However, it required new hardware. No Windows Phone 7 handset could upgrade to 8. This was Microsoft’s first big mistake.

They tried to compensate by offering the 7.8 update containing a lot of features of 8. It annoyed a lot of users. Two-year-old handsets were suddenly cut off, ditched for the new OS.

In 2015, Microsoft announced Windows 10 Mobile, the successor to Windows Phone 8/8.1. A beta program brought a test version to many handsets, and in late 2015 some new flagship devices – the 950, 950XL, and 550 – shipped with Windows 10 Mobile.

This time it looked like Microsoft would roll it out to existing handsets. The final version was released in March 2016. However, Microsoft decided to only bring it to a handful of existing handsets, cutting off over 70% of existing kit (even some that ran the beta) with no clear reason or requirements. They even cut off some of its most popular handsets and some high-end handsets. It sent anger through those few loyal followers. This was another huge mistake by Microsoft.

Operating System

The Windows Phone/Mobile operating system is highly optimised. Even on low-end hardware, you get a fantastic smooth experience. It’s fast and very responsive. I quite like the OS. It is consistent and easy to use, and the live tile interface is a intuitive spin on a mobile OS. Over the years it has matured well.

App/Gaming Choice

The biggest problem facing Windows Phone/Mobile users was app choice. App developers just didn’t take to the platform quick enough. This caused a catch 22 situation: Users won’t buy into the platform because of lack of apps, and developers won’t commit to the platform because of lack of customers.

While the situation has changed a lot by 2016, we are still only seeing around 70% of apps from iOS/Android reach Windows Phone/Mobile.

Of these apps, they also tend to lag behind in terms of new features. iOS/Android get them updated faster.

While the majority of big app developers are producing versions for the Windows Phone/Mobile, gaming is an area that still lags way behind.

No Google Apps

Google does not offer any of their apps on the Microsoft Phone/Mobile platform, which is a big killer for Android switchers and those that use Google services on their computers. Microsoft rely on their own versions of apps such as Microsoft Mail, Maps, and browser to compete.

It’s a Good Package

Microsoft have tried hard. They produce solid hardware – originally from Nokia and then Microsoft branded – from low-end to flagship devices. The OS is solid and well designed and has come a long way in the past few years. It performs superbly on even the lowest hardware, and I personally find it an easy OS to use.

Quality hardware combined with excellent performance is a great combo, but add to that very competitive pricing, and it should have been win-win for Microsoft – but it just hasn’t been.

Microsoft Only

HTC were a huge player with Windows Phone 7, producing a lot of handsets and some flagship Windows Phone 8 handsets, such as the 8x and One (M8) For Windows. But no non-Lumia device will receive Windows 10 Mobile – despite both being high-end and the One (M8) For Windows being just over a year old.

This hasn’t helped either. Apple are the only company to successfully build a phone/OS combo. People aren’t always keen on buying a Nokia/Microsoft handset – they like the other phone makers.

Dying Platform

Slow app development, lack of handset makers, and a new OS experience put a lot of people off. iOS and Android grew up together and progressed and developed side-by-side, often copying features and bouncing off each other.

By 2010, when Windows Phone came on the scene, both iOS and Android were well established and highly polished. Microsoft hit the ground three years behind with a weak OS initially and poor app support.

It’s a Shame

I would love it to succeed. I would love it to make a huge turnaround. I have been a secret follower, and my children have Windows Phones too, because of the power-to-price offered. I have also recommended them in the past to others looking for a cheap powerful smartphone, but that might change from now on.

Conclusion

Despite their constant push, Microsoft never peaked and have always been mocked by the mobile industry. The tiny market share Microsoft managed to claim is now declining rapidly. The upgrade mess and annoying devices customers had hasn’t helped.

Unless Microsoft does something drastic, I can see the platform folding in under a year – and it seems others are predicting it too. I just can’t see what they could do to turn it around.


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