This news that Microsoft is ending support for Windows 10 Mobile should come as no great surprise to anyone who has followed the company’s mobile efforts in the last few decades.
Microsoft dominated smartphones in the early 2000s with Windows Mobile, however this first mover advantage was restricted to the fact the market for such devices am small. When the first modern smartphones arrived later in the decade, it was BlackBerry, Google and Apple that benefited.
It was widely acknowledged that Microsoft has missed the boat if this came to smartphones however this didn’t stop it trying.
When Windows 10 arrived back in 2015, it had been positioned as ‘one operating system to rule them all’, able to running almost any system you may realise of. Naturally, this included desktop and laptop PCs, but also tablets, connected devices and smartphones.
Microsoft had set itself an ambitious target of reaching one billion devices – an objective which was rendered achievable the very fact Windows 10 was available as a free upgrade to many users – as it sought to create the widest possible install base to push its services and attract developers.
Windows 10 Mobile
For a brief period, the much-loved Windows Phone was a genuine alternative to Android and iOS. Innovative hardware in the likes of Nokia, integration with Microsoft applications, and the live-tile interface set itself in addition to the competition.
But Windows Phone never snared more than 10 % of the market and despite a number of critically-acclaimed Nokia flagships, the primary successes were in the mid-range segments in The european union.
Amongst other things, deficiencies in applications cited as one of the reasons for poor uptake. It had been hoped that cross-platform apps for Windows 10 would address this drought and drive adoption, however this critical mass never occurred.
It wasn’t until March 2016 that smartphone owners might get their hands on Windows 10 Mobile, with a quantity of select Nokia Lumia devices in a position to upgrade. But precious little new hardware was released, and Microsoft’s efforts were focused on getting its services on any as many devices as possible.
It absolutely was speculated that Microsoft would gear up for one last assault on the market using the oft-rumoured Surface phone, but such a device never materialised.
In late 2017, Microsoft confirmed what many had long suspected – there would be no new features or hardware. The organization promised that it would still fix bugs and issue security updates, but ongoing development had all but ceased.
Now those security updates will end in December 2019, giving users less than a year emigrate to iOS and Android – that’s if they haven’t done this already.
Why made it happen fail?
Experts believe that despite critical acclaim plus some brief success, Microsoft’s efforts to become major player with Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile were doomed to failure.
“Windows 10 Mobile failed for various reasons,” Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight tells TechRadar Pro. “Arguably the only biggest blow was that Microsoft was late towards the smartphone party. It just started putting significant effort into its mobile operating system many years after Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android were already well-established. This meant that it struggled to obtain traction with app developers leaving it lagging rival platforms with regards to the experience it could offer.
“Despite securing Nokia since it’s lead licensee, the products were never truly competitive and only having one large phone maker committed to Windows 10 Mobile was not enough to build broad platform support.
“Ultimately it always believed Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile were second class citizens to PC based Windows OS which meant features didn’t come suddenly and eventually it was not a strategic enough platform to justify the on-going investment.
What next for Microsoft?
Microsoft’s philosophy has shifted significantly since the launch of Windows Phone. It no longer wants to own the mobile platform, but rather really wants to get its cloud-based services on as many devices as possible – increasing revenues from subscription fees and advertising.
Microsoft Office, once considered a key differentiator for Windows mobile platforms, continues to be on Android and iOS for a while, while cross-platform versions of Cortana happen to be provided. A Windows Launcher for Android was also released and efforts to increase the install lower Bing internet search engine happen to be a priority.
While former CEO Steve Ballmer seemed committed to catching the last boat when it found mobile – most notably with the acquisition of Nokia – current leader Satya Nadella is comfortable with having missed the boat entirely. His tenure continues to be characterised the introduction of a cloud-first, mobile-first mentality over the entire company.
“Microsoft has pivoted to becoming a provider of cross-platform software and services for mobile devices rather than providing the operating-system itself,” explains Wood. “This is little surprise considering that Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms account for over 98 per cent of smartphones sold.
“The decision to offer Microsoft’s core products such as the Word, PowerPoint and Excel on these platforms has been an inspired move which has further bolstered Microsoft’s transformation for an ‘as-a-service’ software provider under the stewardship of Nadella.”
Microsoft’s bid to become “third way” has seemingly failed and the reality is that relatively few consumers and organisations is going to be affected by the end of support for Windows 10 Mobile. The company appears to have made peace with the proven fact that Apple and Google’s duopoly will continue.
“With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, it is recommended that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device,” says Microsoft. “Microsoft’s mission statement to empower every person and each organization on the planet to achieve more, compels us to aid our Mobile apps on those platforms and devices.”
Its likely that fans of Microsoft’s mobile platforms could be more sentimental and affectionate in their own epitaphs than the company continues to be.