What’s the future of Windows Phone?

By Kip Kniskern | In Mobile | Posted July 2, 2014 12 comments

A post over at the Boy Genius Report this week has stirred up a bit of a tempest in a teapot, as according to BGR, Windows Phone has “failed spectacularly” to gain market share, and a “death knell” has been sounded on the “entire Windows Phone project”. That report, which was picked up for wider distribution by Yahoo! News, spurred on a number of retorts, including a post at All About Windows Phone, which spins the numbers to make Windows Phone’s numbers not so bad, after all.

So where does the truth lie? Well, All About Windows Phone is right about one thing, at least:

Microsoft isn’t just going to give up on Windows Phone. Or run out of money. It’s tied into the company’s strategy across desktop, tablet and cloud spaces, and it’s all bankrolled by a company as (relatively) rich as Google or Apple.

Still, Microsoft has dug itself quite a hole, and “rebounding”, depending on of course where we see it rebounding to, is still quite a task. Microsoft, as it has been in so many consumer facing initiatives, came dangerously late to the party, and it’s clear that Google took advantage of their sloth to gain an advantage it won’t be giving up anytime soon. In fact, with Google’s ambitious plans to use Android to expand further into consumer’s lives, laid out in last month’s Google I/O, not only has Google snatched the foundation away from Microsoft, but it has grand plans to build upon that new foundation (without including the likes of Windows or Office). Microsoft clearly missed an opportunity, and buying Nokia, or changing CEOs isn’t going to change that.

Another critical point missed by both BGR and AAWP is that the very act of buying Nokia has, unfortunately, set Microsoft back. Other than the specialty phones like the 1020 and 1520, Nokia has not released a flagship device in quite some time, and by all rights should have in the first quarter of this year. It didn’t. In fact, Microsoft is getting perilously close to missing the back to school cycle with new devices, and should have been riding a marketing blitz for phones released in March to carry over into back-to-school and then the holiday cycles. Another year, another sales cycle (close to) lost. The numbers coming from the Kantar Worldpanel reflect a lack of excitement over new devices as much as a move away from Windows Phone itself.

What’s important to note in the strategy change between Nokia as a separate company and now as a division of Microsoft, is that the focus has changed considerably. While Nokia could make at least a run at profitability by selling cheap phones to emerging markets (hence the introduction of the Asha brand, Nokia X, and the focus on low end phones like the 520 and the new 930), those phones don’t necessarily sell Microsoft services, or provide any type of lucrative alternative for app developers to get rich quick. Microsoft’s focus for Nokia needs to be far more business oriented, far more high-end oriented, and far more 1st world market oriented. It needs to provide the best in class services along with the best in class devices.

Microsoft, for all of its lack of market share, still blows Apple away with its service offerings, and already has a firm foothold in the enterprise, something that both Apple and Google are scrambling to achieve. Google is much better positioned than Apple with its full range of popular services, but Microsoft at least stands a fighting chance. It was interesting at the latest Apple WWDC to hear Apple tout its walled garden approach to devices and services. Microsoft, by being slow to the draw in the smartphone market, left Apple in a strong position, at least in the US. Apple, however, is behind both Microsoft and Google in maps and location services, in cloud storage, in email services, and in enterprise services. They have the market share, but not the services, just about the opposite of Microsoft.

So what can Microsoft do to “rebound”? Deliver a steady stream of world class devices, for one, on time and in a position to “surprise and delight”. Gain a sense of urgency, for another. We’ve seen a change of leadership, but not necessarily a change in attitude coming from Microsoft. Antics like the last minute pulling of the “Surface Mini” (reportedly because it was decided, at the last minute, that it wouldn’t sell – heck, we could have told you that!) show that it’s still the same old Microsoft, at least so far. We’ve been given lip service to a new “challenger mentality”, but so far, the song remains the same.

Other than that, as All About Windows Phone implies, Microsoft needs to, and most likely will, stay the course. Continue to refine and combine Windows Phone and Windows, build some great new devices, focus energy on services and the software that powers them, and fight tooth and nail behind the scenes to gain market share, hold the enterprise, wield its patent holding powers, and do something to begin to change consumer mind share. If Microsoft can put a renewed energy behind these battles, it might climb above IDC’s latest prediction of 6.4% market share by 2018, maybe even above the mythical 10% line. If not, it’s entirely possible for Microsoft to continue to wither away below 5%, moving yet again too slowly, arriving yet again too late to the party.

Where do you see Windows Phone (and along with it, Microsoft) in 3-5 years? Can Windows Phone “rebound”? Will Microsoft be a player, or only a bit player, in the consumer mobile market?

Posted July 2nd, 2014 at 10:51 am
Category: Mobile
Tags: Windows Phone
  • chinch987

    wow, it’s been a few weeks since the last “MS IS DOOMED” article was posted here.
    MS will have to continue it’s corporate push which will work back to consumers. You can see this already with Surface 3 and ipad fail in LA (schools).

    How long have “universal apps” been available? What carriers today ship w8.1 devices? That is your answer along with obvious fact that new phone hardware is no longer a big deal to buyers.

    It seems that MS has actually finally realized that they wasted a lot of time & effort and developer resources. Both first and third party. Nokia did the same duplicating camera and other essential services limiting WP on carriers without nokia hero devices.

    Just as Surface 3 gets a lot (and i mean a lot) right and i’d expect future “nokia” wp devices to do the same with worldwide appeal.

    Until devices like $99 Lumia 630 (with LTE) ship worldwide Microsoft is stuck in a holding pattern with hero devices like the 1520 taking the bulk of sales. I can tell you non-subsidized smartphones are going to be HUGE in the USA as they save customers $25 easily PER MONTH PER DEVICE on ATT/Verizon (bulk of sales for iPhones or high cost phones). A 630 is cheaper than INSURANCE repair on most smartphones (broken glass anyone).

    Like Amazon will soon see $199 subsidized 2-year contract ($700 non-contract) devices aren’t going to get huge push in phone retailers unless customers or corporate want them.

  • RudyRedSox

    After 30 years the Macintosh market share is at about 8%. Apple is doomed.

  • http://www.richspalding.com RichSpalding

    I agree with this article. Particularly the connotation that buying Nokia has stalled MS. What the hell has happened? The 930 is 2013 technology, Nokia apps have had no updates or innovation, and are simply losing the Nokia from their name, and now 8.1 is a Frankenstein of HERE maps vs Bing Maps. MS have dropped the ball as it was passed to them. They better pick it up with 1030 flagship

  • Kickstar

    Not only have they moved too slowly in several areas, but calling it ‘Windows’ Phone gave it a negative spin in the eyes of most people from the start.

    Reboot required. Nothing to lose.

  • Brian

    Not sure where this whole notion that a mini wouldn’t sell. I personally would love one as an 8″ tablet is the perfect “travel” size. I work in IT and i know a lot of people in my company were waiting for the mini to buy a surface (now most are just sticking with their already purchased iPad minis instead). I think if MS could have sold the mini at close to cost to get users invested, it would have been a success.

    • http://pixelhub.me/nseika/ Seika

      Waited patiently for the Surface Mini announcement too. Wanted an 8″ device.
      Alas, it just vapourize.

      Well, not like the Surface will be available here anyway; this is a 3rd world country, which means we exist outside the known universe (for Microsoft)

  • jaylyric

    The real problem is the media and poor excuses for a tech site and way too opinionated journalists.. Microsoft and Windows Phone will be just fine. Actually when you consider it all.. Late to the party,once heavily limited OS,bad press,poor advertising,slower dev support and app growth (not lately however). Microsoft has shown much resilience and Windows Phone is a strong platform in that despite all of those circumstances,it grows. People fail to realize this. Apple came with a new way of doing a smartphone at the time that the iPhone came out,riding off of the success of the iPod touch. Google was an alternative and open,plus had more options. If you switch around any of that,and put one them in the others position then,anyone of them could have seen success. For the record,Android really started to come into it’s own around the Honeycomb /Ice Cream Sandwich era,which was about 21/2 years ago give or take.. The GSII and III really gave Android life. Perhaps you could add the Droid and Evo to that,but Samsung made and continues to make Android.

  • JJ

    click bait like this drag me out of hiding.
    Well, firstly Win8.1 devices is not out yet. So, let’s see how Win8.1 devices fair in the modern market. Aside from slow Music and Xbox app that couldn’t remember scanned items, I don’t have much complaints. They finally have someone with common sense and real human eyes as Calendar product owners, and certainly did not continue its Tiny Smudge madness.
    Honestly I would like to see a fingerprint button like iPhone. A water proof model like Toshiba WP7. Just a cool new device from Nokia, I want to buy this year, but, what I am seeing are last year models.
    they really need to get Grindr app by doing some incentives. I have heard a lot of none-sense on this being not important. Seriously for the entire gay community, without Grindr, the phone is a hard sale, that’s it. It is impossible to convince a gay guy to get WP without a Grindr app, period.
    Also stop the WP8.”1″ madness. That’s the stupidest marketing ever. Why would anyone wants to buy a phone OS that’s from “2 years” ago? Ok, stop justifying this with more non-sense. The bottom line is, it is almost freaking “2 years” old, period. If they can’t even have common sense to understand this, they will continue to fail. There is no need for stupid statistics and analysis for this. WP8.1 is an OLD OS, period. Now, stop that non-sense and name it WP9. The last year update should name WP8.1, period. No pointless debates, just do it already, geez.
    And finally, I don’t know what exactly went wrong. But, WP Store Button and Availability Icon and Voice Over in official dev websites, advertisement, blogs, News coverage are consistently missing while the app is supported. Something is horribly wrong with MS marketing and no one has yet to put up an effort to investigate this gigantic issue. Do they even watch TV for commercial, news, and visit sites? It is such a big issue. For example, MSNBC was talking about using Waze to get around the 405 traffic, which is ONLY Available on iPhone, Android and Amazon, deliberately ignoring WP version. Many online game dev sites only display AppStore and GooglePlay stickers while I am able play the game on my phone. Why would anyone wants to consider WP when Waze and tons of games are “””NOT””” Available on WP? Yes, MS cannot force the change, but, at least put much more effort on understand why and find ways to resolve this. Because seriously it is ridiculous. The marketing is practically zero in terms of app availability. You can’t sell an OS with no apps and not doing anything to change that perception.

  • Malachi

    Well developed “pin to start” options within various apps (the ability to pin twitter lists or tune-in stations for example) is a killer feature in WP8. However the fact that most WP apps are overall inferior to their Android counterparts has moved me back to Android. Based on this, I DO see the platform failing because the developers clearly have been, and continue to be unsupportive overall of the platform. Also, the new WP8.1 “action center” is a far cry from the interactive notification center in KitKat not to mention what’s coming with L.

  • Rehan Ansari

    Waiting for 8.1 update launch in India….

  • http://batman-news.com Zeus

    Still enjoying my 925 with 8.1 update

  • Joscelin Trouwborst

    Right, the best services eco system. It is not about the devices, but tell that to all those other tech writers. Sooo easy to just write about devices.