It was a little over 7-years ago when Stephen Fry took to the stage in London to introduce a new mobile OS. Called Windows Phone, as a tech geek it clearly excited him. And he had good reason to be, as Microsoft’s foray into the world of iOS and Android was what the industry needed. Fast forward to just over one week ago, and it appears, it’s all gone wrong for the operating system. No more new features are planned, meaning its effectively dead!
Windows Phone Mixed Messages
Mixed messages about sums up Microsoft’s recent behavior, what with the The Register getting a statement. In which the tech giant said it would continue to develop the OS, and support devices such as the Lumia 650, 950, 950 XL, and more. However, just a few days later, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Windows, Joe Belifore let the cat out of the bag.
In response to a question on twitter he replied:
“Of course, we’ll continue to support the platform.. bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw isn’t the focus.”
This was the first clear indication that Windows Phone is dead. Although, it wasn’t the first time that a shift in Microsoft’s strategy towards it had been indicated.
What Went Wrong?
Before we look at the negatives, let’s remind ourselves of what the original WP7 was. In its early days, it was, ahead of its time, an OS that broke the mold.
What with an interface without static icons, you got tiles with live information. A messaging app with attention-grabbing snippets of information, a keyboard superior to those at the time on iOS and Android. Plus the promise of new and innovative applications for the business and casual user, everything, seemed bright.
However, while the industry revealed in its difference to the status quo, and Nokia jumped onboard. It seems as though three key demographics were not happy.
Consumers Didn’t Like it
The first being consumers, yes, they liked the idea of a mobile OS that was different to the already familiar Android and iOS. But, the vision behind it, according to feedback, labeled it too different, and alien for them.
And it was this feedback that led to Microsoft not continuing to develop the OS to its original vision. Instead, it changed the novel design, compromising and watering it down. Meaning its distinctiveness was gone, it would now become more familiar.
Not Enough Third-party Apps
One of the most documented problems of the Windows Phone platform has been its struggle with third-party developers. Since day one, it had to deal with questions, such as “when would there be apps like Instagram and YouTube?”
Unfortunately, the likes of Google actively prevented its property from ever appearing on the OS. Meaning a huge gaping hole was left, with no other app able to pick up the slack.
Where’as Microsoft’s in-house developers were churning out quality first-party apps. Apple and Google’s app stores continued to grow with masses of games, services, and unique apps. This meant the Windows Phone user felt left out, not able to play popular games. As such, the OS could not gain enough traction to compete with its rivals.
While the OS started out with what seemed like a readily available amount of handsets to support it. Examples of this were the Samsung Omnia 7, HTC 7 Surround, and Dell Venue Pro. Problems in this area began when Microsoft chose to work with Nokia. When that happened, its once happy hardware partners began to feel overlooked.
In fact, this was the reason behind Samsung and HTC’s abandonment of the OS. Something which spurred Microsoft to change its plans again. This time it decided to purchase Nokia outright and embark on a re-branding exercise.
However, the problem for Microsoft was this series of unfortunate decisions would have terminal consequences. As would, the elephant in the room, a severe lack of apps.
An Inevitable Demise
Yes, the writing has been on the wall for some time for Windows Phone, a litany of bad decisions ultimately doomed the OS. However, what it managed to do in its hay day (if there was one,) was to bring about design changes. Handsets that adorned its Logo were often between 2010/14 the epitome of modern design.
However, the likes of Samsung, and HTC, soon realized, that coupled with Android’s increasing popularity, and gorgeous design. They could outmaneuver Microsoft, and take its custom. And of course, that’s what happened, with the assistance of Google, Samsung at least, has grown to be the biggest handset manufacturer in the world.
Microsoft now concedes that Windows phone handsets are expensive to manufacture, and do not represent good business. It now acknowledges that Android and iOS phones are the future.
Come and share your thoughts, were/are you a Windows Phone user, what did you like or dislike about it?