Sorry Windows Phone, you just don't matter right now

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Sorry Windows Phone, you just don't matter right now
For a while, it really felt like Windows could become the true third option when it came to mobile devices. Even as recently as the last couple years, it sounded as though Microsoft would be putting effort in to improve the app ecosystem and unify Windows across platforms. And, that has been done to a certain extent, but even so, Windows Phone just doesn't really matter anymore.

I personally had high hopes from Windows Phone. Four years ago, I made the switch to Windows Phone to test out the OS and give it an honest look. Windows Phone 7 was a solid system and I even said at the time that "Windows Phone is simply very well thought out, and there are often features that you never would have expected," and that "the core Windows Phone system can certainly stand up to Android, and even surpass Google’s offerings in some key areas." I wasn't willing to stick with Windows Phone because my life is too deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem, but I certainly saw the value of it for those who weren't living la vida Google. 

Unfortunately, aside from the addition of Cortana, the Windows Phone experience hasn't made the same leaps that Android has between Jelly Bean (4.1) and Marshmallow (6.0). Microsoft bought Nokia, but has been lax about putting out new phones, and other manufacturers have essentially abandoned Windows completely. There was a lot of promise for Windows 10 on phones, but the rollout has been painfully slow, and while universal apps have helped the ecosystem to a certain extent, Windows Phone still lags behind Android and iOS. 

Then the hammer dropped with the latest smartphone sales numbers from Gartner which showed that in Q4 2015, Android made up 80.7% of smartphones sold, iOS took 17.7%, and Windows made up a very sad 1.1%. Even worse, Windows had accounted for 2.8% of sales in Q4 2014, so sales have officially gone down the drain. 

Is there hope?


I'd like to think that there is still hope for a resurgence by Windows in the smartphone market, but I fully acknowledge that I may be trying a bit too hard to be an optimist in this situation. Ultimately, I find it hard to completely discount Microsoft from the equation. Windows 10 has been doing well on traditional PCs and Microsoft has been doing everything possible to create the hybrid tablet/laptop market with the Surface line and solid offerings from OEM partners. Microsoft has enough money to throw behind Windows Phone that the platform might not be completely dead, but until Microsoft starts putting out new hardware on a more consistent basis and can lure other manufacturers back to the platform, things look grim. 

But, grim is not the same as hopeless. A lot of the potential with Windows rides on universal apps and how well Microsoft can convince users that convergence is the way forward. Any long time readers will know that I love the idea of convergence. That idea alone gave me brief hope that Ubuntu could make a dent in the mobile market, but Microsoft has been much faster at getting to a working model of convergence with Continuum than Canonical has with Ubuntu. We're already seeing Continuum on Windows Phone handsets, but with no one buying those devices, what does it really matter?


It matters quite a lot actually. Smartphones are already the most powerful computer that most people own. Only a select group of users still bother with desktops, laptops are quickly becoming niche devices, as are tablets; and globally, there are far more people for whom a smartphone is their primary (and in some cases only) computing device. In a world like that, Microsoft has both an advantage and a disadvantage. 

The advantage that Microsoft has been trying to play up as much as possible is that for those out there who have traditional PCs, the vast majority are Windows users. So, if Microsoft can get universal apps sorted out and prove to users that all they need is a Windows smartphone to be able to do everything in mobile use cases all the way to desktop, that's a powerful thing; it's something powerful enough to revive a near-dead Windows Phone market. And, you can be sure that Microsoft is working hard on doing just that. 

On the other hand...


The disadvantage that Microsoft has is that despite Windows' dominant position in the PC world, the PC world doesn't much matter anymore. As noted above, there are a huge number of people in the world for whom a smartphone is their primacy computing device, and Android dominates that segment. 

In May of last year, Microsoft estimated that there were 1.5 billion active Windows devices in the wild -- and to be clear, this includes all Windows devices from desktops, laptops, tablets, hybrids, and phones. For comparison, Google announced 1.4 billion active Android devices in the world in September of last year -- and to be clear here as well, that only counts Android devices with Google Play services, it doesn't count Android devices in China and Russia without Google Play, which is a large number in its own right. Microsoft said its aim was to have Windows 10 running on 1 billion devices within two to three years of releasing the OS and has offered the upgrade for free to anyone on Windows 7 or higher in order to more quickly reach that number. 


Microsoft's convergence dream still holds weight here, because although the company has seemingly failed in the smartphone space, that's really the only space where Google has an advantage. Google hasn't been able to make much headway in the tablet market where the iPad is still king; Google's attempts at breaking into the TV market have largely failed; and, Google is years away from having a version of Android to be used on laptops and desktops, though word is that Google will be creating some sort of Android/Chrome OS hybrid for that task by next year. Google hasn't always been able to get developers in line, so it could be an interesting race to see if Microsoft can get devs to make universal apps faster than Google can get devs to update Android apps for bigger screens (a task it hasn't done well at with tablets). 

Apple has always been able to get its developers in line, which is why it has solid offerings in the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac OS. But, Apple has also made it clear that it has no real plans to converge iOS and Mac OS, which would mean Apple may not have a one-device-to-rule-them-all option for a long time. The smart money there would be that Apple will wait to see if Microsoft or Google can crack that market first, then Apple will come in later, as it tends to do. In the meantime, Apple users will have to buy separate devices to fit differing needs and use cases. 

The interesting test will be whether Microsoft can crack it from the top down - get PC users to buy into Windows Phone to have a unified experience - or Google can crack it from the bottom up and get smartphone users to want to use PCs again. Given the strength of the mobile market right now, I'd probably bet on Google in that race, but technology changes quickly so it's not a certainty. 

In the meantime...


No matter what happens in that race, it's hard not to feel like Windows Phone doesn't really have a place in the world right now. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been saying since he took over the company that Microsoft would be focusing on a mobile-first and cloud-first strategy. Microsoft's cloud services have certainly been getting a lot of attention, but aside from laptop/tablet hybrids, the same can't be said for the company's efforts with mobile. 

HP showed off a beast of a Windows Phone at MWC this week with the Elite X3, and the Lumia 650 also made an appearance, but the latter doesn't even support Continuum because it is such a low-spec device. Overall, that's not much for Windows fans to get excited about. 

One small change that Microsoft could make in order to help itself out would be to put a premium label on apps in the Windows Store that are universal. It doesn't do this right now, which not only makes it more annoying to figure out what apps will play well with Continuum, but such a label would act as a bit of a mark of shame for developers that don't have universal apps. We've seen efforts like this before by other companies and it tends to work, so Microsoft should consider it. Once the app story has a brighter message, Microsoft would have a much easier time selling Windows Phone as a viable alternative. But, until Microsoft really puts some muscle behind Windows Phone, the platform isn't even an also-ran anymore. We can hope the platform is just hibernating, but that assumes Microsoft will be able to wake it up at some point. 

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124 Comments

126. profperez1

Posts: 76; Member since: May 08, 2012

I just gave up my Windows phone--sad face---due to the fact At-Bat isn't being supported. So I dug out the 6+. We pretend the difference are extreme--but you know--you open the app--and get busy---so I don't have a great preference. The bezel is crazy big on this phone!

104. KangLee

Posts: 18; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

Microsoft kind of done this by themself with dull flagship phone. They should have made 950 and 950XL with really top quality material rather then cheap plastic. Buying Nokia Mobile division and retiring them was bad move by Microsoft. They should have kept Nokia as their manufacturing partner for Windows Phones.

121. bigcjm

Posts: 58; Member since: Jul 27, 2014

Its wasn't just the cheap plastic. It was that on top of the cheap plastic you have a pretty mediocre experience. I have to give Mac credit when they usually release i phones the key selling features are usually running pretty smooth. No saying they are perfect and without any bugs. However Microsoft was selling continuum as a prime feature and the reviews speak for them selves. The experience on continuum was buggy to okay when these phones released. They cant afford to drop half assed products. They admitted it was not quite ready. So how does that make windows 10 look when the the folks who made the OS cant get it right? Google gets every nexus right every time. I wanted a 950XL pretty bad but I can tell it'd be a downgrade from my Blackberry passport.

103. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

"PC's don't even matter anymore" WHAT???! can somebody just give the author a big slap please, stronger than how Batman slapped Robin

100. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

As WP sales go down maybe that could make room for BB10 to regain sales. But BlackBerry would need to put out a very nice 5.5 inch or larger touch screen phone to attract consumers.

97. GTNavy

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 13, 2014

Until you can create code on Android, you'll always need a PC. This so-called short minded blogger doesn't understand that the people who create his beloved apps use pcs. Android will never design buildings and aircraft. Android will never be used by people in cyber security. Android is only for consumer content viewing. You'll NEVER create with it.

96. bigcjm

Posts: 58; Member since: Jul 27, 2014

The thing is Microsoft missed the mark big time with the 950 and 950XL. I have to say I was waiting for those phones mainly because of the potential. Then when even sites like windows central got a hold of those two it just turnout to be a not so polished product. Truth be told the best thing to happen to Microsoft is that other manufacturers are moving into windows mobile and making products. When someone gets it right whether it be Microsoft or another phone maker I believe windows phone will probably take off. Continuum will be a serious feature when its buttery smooth at launch not 2-3 months later with firmware updates.

95. GTNavy

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 13, 2014

People will always need a pc to code and create programs.

94. tokuzumi

Posts: 2031; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Google won't build their native apps for WP (gmail, chrome, hangouts, voice, youtube, etc). Since I'm a google voice user, I can't switch to WP, because I won't be able to send texts from my GV number. I won't even consider WP until I have access to my Google apps.

93. raiter

Posts: 39; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

I have been fan of the WP, since WP7. Still use it, and never have been at IoS and Andro ecosystem (however, in family I have seen and used both). The first dissapointment where, that all OEMs left the WP. I where forced to lay down the HTC (becuase old OS WP 7), and left with no choice but Nokia. I see all the beautiful Android devices form HTC, Samsung, LG, Huawey (last models are just perfect), and I am so sad that WP users still need to hold the plastic MS phones with low specs :( The Microsoft must have make some advert on WP, work ewith phone dealers, bring mofe OEM to the WP platform. The integration with Win10 ecosystem is great idea. But in reality the only hope for WP to survive is, if Andro and IoS will make mistake mess up something with their products, and lose the trust of customers.

88. avishekmukherjee

Posts: 362; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

As a windows phone user Windows phone will never die

84. Piyath_ale

Posts: 79; Member since: Nov 02, 2015

Y so paragraphs? This is the exact few words have to be told. Windows phone OS was not intuitive and beautiful. Sometimes it's less practical than others too. Low app count plus ungly UI + fierce competition made windows phone os RIP. Android is cheap and functional for the most part. IOS is beautiful and has many many quality apps even though it's expensive. That's why people continue to live with Android and IOS. Keep in mind, iOS is beautiful than android and it has the app advantage too over android. Android is more functional than iOS and way cheap than iOS. Windows phone OS is just ugly, no apps and less functional.

83. 7thspaceman

Posts: 1597; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

It seems there is always someone who just does not get it. folks how many car Manufacturers are there selling automobiles more than 2 last count I took. So why can't there be more smart phone makers other than Android or Apple. for instance there is talk of an Ubuntu tablet or smart phones coming I say bring em on. Some people will buy an Ubuntu tablets or smart phones and like Them. folks there are Millions of People who like me who own and like Windows smart phones. why should we give up what we like because a lot more people like Iphones or Android smart phones. Windows smart phones are the best smart to integrate and use with the greater World of full Windows 10 Computers of various types that 180 million plus in number and more are coming every day.The Android OS and Apple iphone OS are not compatible With Windows 10 Computers that make up 80 to 90 percent of the Desktop/Laptop PC's in the World. For that reason alone Microsoft will keep Windows smart phones alive even if they only make 4 to 6 models of Windows smart phones a year. Millions of People will continue to buy Windows smart phones so Aple and Andriod Fans get REAL Windows smart phone will stay alive despite low sales Volume

92. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

I wouldn't say like....the stories I hear daily from either apple or android users is one of...well the service guy said it was great...or my friend said. I look at their phone and they have a note 5 running facebook...

78. riteshrkm

Posts: 165; Member since: Apr 15, 2015

i mean what do u mean " PC world doesn't matter anymore" which land u r in DREAMLAND LOL . PC is light years ahead . there is no smartphone which can match PC in power N MUltitasking. Smartphone doesnt evn do multitasking properly. Nt even in near future can smartphone match PC.

74. gremsems

Posts: 3; Member since: Feb 24, 2016

Michael H. You are an idiot... Windows Phone is no more, everybody knows this but you.. It's Windows Mobile!! Get your facts straight before going on a pathetic rant, you uninformed, no facts knowing pathetic looking idiot!

76. S.R.K.

Posts: 678; Member since: Feb 11, 2016

But WM died in 2010, they revamped it back.

62. OdysseasP

Posts: 67; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

I absolutely agree with the writer.

54. SIGPRO

Posts: 2819; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Hahah PC world does not matter anymore.....sorry to say but that is just bullcr@P! Yes Windows Phone is dead.....it is Windows Mobile now jeeezzzzz

49. Ankit_27

Posts: 25; Member since: Feb 20, 2016

That HP device is nice, but Microsoft sucks as a company. A company needs an extraordinary man/woman at the top. He lays down the vision for the company. He is the software for the other employees. Microsoft has got no Larry Page or Elon Musk. Even Apple which was coasting on Steve Jobs legacy is begining to wheeze now. Choose your CEO carefully fellows.

45. Odeira

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 29, 2012

Satya Nadella RUINED Microsoft. He practically left the Mobile division to die, he actually considered selling the XBOX division (one of their few profitable divisions,) and thought putting all their eggs on Enterprise was a good idea. I get that the new Microsoft is significantly more profitable than Steve Ballmer's tenure, but They've Completely Lost Touch By Playing The Bulk Game In Enterprise And Abandoning Their Mobile And Entertainemnt Lines. Ballmer's Microsoft was a more human, more approachable Microsoft that actually had a vision for Mobile. Nadella's Microsoft is all enerpise, losing sight of Mobile and innovation in the process...

43. Furbal unregistered

Windows can make it is Microsoft starts giving a crap about it. They are the reason it is failing and I am part of their fan base. The past two years have been a disservice to customers like me. (Lenovo t450s, Asus jz750, latitude 5430, two 1520s, a 925, 635, and a returned 950xl)

42. Rain017

Posts: 61; Member since: Jul 11, 2014

i wont feel sad if they wont succeed. i was a former windows phone user too from windows 6-6.5 ( Samsung Omnia II) and stop then windows 7( Lumia 700) and stop and moved to windows 8 this habit of windows phone before that makes their phone industry suffer right now. i rather choose bb10 os than windows os

38. GTNavy

Posts: 55; Member since: Oct 13, 2014

I hope Google and Apple becomes so powerful, that they become above the law. If anyone talks bad about them, they send thugs to rape and kill your families in front of you. Then you'll be wish Microsoft and BlackBerry and Palm were still around to divide the power.

67. meanestgenius

Posts: 23122; Member since: May 28, 2014

WAY over the top, don't you think?

32. HonestRealist

Posts: 196; Member since: Jan 25, 2016

All the people (yup every single person) on earth who use WP are on this article commenting all kinds of defenses in the name of their dying OS lol

77. nighthawk_al

Posts: 55; Member since: May 23, 2014

How much do you earn per day man? I see you s#%itposting everywhere...

30. culun

Posts: 6; Member since: Feb 23, 2016

well... since compatibility between oses is not a big problem anymore... it is more freedom for us today to choose platform and devices. google android, ios, windows, fedora linux, ubuntu, debian, arch linux, mac, pcbsd, etc. you mention it. and obviously.. people would choose the cheepest one... as i do. and it is not bad anyway. happy choosing guys.

27. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I have faith in Wp. I need Ms to get the software right and produce a killer phone so I can give it a go.

72. S.R.K.

Posts: 678; Member since: Feb 11, 2016

They have been trying for 4 years and it's still declining.

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