Sorry, Devs: Windows Phone Might Be Dying

Microsoft’s latest quarterly results painted a dark picture for Windows Phone, the company’s smartphone platform. Roughly 4.5 million Lumia devices sold in the quarter—a significant decline from the 10.5 million sales during the same period last year.

For comparison, research firm IDC reported that smartphone vendors shipped 399.5 million smartphone units during the fourth quarter of 2015. If you take that number at face value, back-of-the-envelope math suggests that Microsoft managed to grab a little more than 1 percent of all smartphones sold last quarter. (IDC itself grouped Microsoft’s share of the market under “Others” in its charts.)

Of course, Windows Phone has been struggling for some time. A late entrant into the smartphone OS wars, it had difficulty gaining traction against the combined forces of Apple’s iOS and Google Android.

After current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the helm of the company in early 2014, he repeatedly promised to support phones in the short term, while leaving his broader mobile strategy deliberately vague. In mid-2015, Microsoft took a $7.6 billion “impairment charge” related to its earlier acquisition of Nokia Devices and Services, which gave it the Lumia brand.

Since the beginning of Windows Phone, Microsoft has tried to attract developers to the platform. But with most developers (with the exception of the big shops) strapped for time and resources, it’s an uphill battle to convince them to develop for a third platform when iOS and Android already deliver an audience (with the accompanying revenues). When early versions of Windows Phone failed to gain substantial traction among the developer community, it created a vicious cycle; nobody wanted to build for a platform that nobody was building for, or using.

Following the announcement of Windows 10, Microsoft began touting the concept of universal apps, which work on any Windows-based device, from PCs down to smartphones. By making development for the Windows platform more of a value proposition, universal apps were supposed to solve the developer conundrum. But as with most theories that look good on a white-board, questions remain about how effectively apps built for a PC will scale down to a phone, and vice versa.

According to The Verge, Microsoft may attempt a Hail Mary pass by rebranding its Windows Phone devices as Surface Phones, in light of the Surface brand gaining some traction among consumers. But without apps, it’s an open question whether a name change will translate into increased sales.

One Response to “Sorry, Devs: Windows Phone Might Be Dying”

  1. D. Burke

    Ive read articles like this for a long time. They are always a little off the wall, particularly as such a thing as Im taking about as this article were apparently written by someone working in the IT field.

    And that’s where the real problem lies. You think that such writers would have the capacity to look a little deeper at the whole question as opposed to simply looking at “poor sales” and saying “is this product likely done?; I conclude it is.”

    Even at first glance, we all are quite aware that the Windows phones have not been selling well at all since day one. And day one, even for Windows phones has been quite awhile back now. Yet Microsoft is still producing their phones.

    I would have to ask myself if I was looking into this as this writer here apparently was, why is it Microsoft hasn’t given up yet? And there is actually a massive massive clue out there that I am constantly astonished to see writers like this one here cant seem to pick up on the overwhelmingly obvious nature of the clue.

    The clue is, Microsoft JUST completed their newest operating system, Windows 10, and according to Microsoft, that this will be the last of “Windows” type operating systems from them. And it is meant to last for years. Many of them.

    And Windows 10 was painstakingly designed with mobile use in mind, in fact the same OS will be used on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. It cost PILES of money to create such an OS, and it actually works brilliantly. They could have saved a whole pile of time and trouble if Microsoft had any intention to get out of the mobile business. It could have been a straight update of the Windows 7 OS, yet it went to the mobile related Windows 8, and now the somewhat better mobile minded Windows 10.

    If anyone thinks that Microsoft has any interest, at all in getting out of the smartphone business they should get their head examined. Certainly Microsoft would like a world where they could just kiss mobile computing good by. But they unequivocally cannot do that. Mobile is become a large part of the present, its going to be an even bigger part of the future, and their most certainly will come a day many many years from now that practically all personal and a fantastic amount of business computing will be done with mobile devices and operating systems that will simply also plug in and operate as a persons main computer. Its inevitable.

    Microsoft cannot, will not and simply wont drop out of mobile. It would be like signing their death warrant to take place on some unnamed distant date in the future.

    But as things sit, as they sit right now hear today; as we streak towards the day when some company will come out and say “You smartphone can now be your home computer, your office computer and your travel computer”…who do you think is the farther ahead towards that finish line????

    Only ONE company is even properly in the race. And with Windows 10, its obviously Microsoft. Microsoft is working hard now to be the first one to the post. They know full well they are not selling phones today, but that matters little when they start pointing out to people that their phone has become so powerful it can plug into a 27 inch monitor and run keyboards, a mouse, full 3D graphical games, run full Office Suites and even Photoshop, well, then people will start saying, my next Windows computer is going to be a Windows Phone computer.

    And that will be that. It will become one of the greatest endruns commercial IT history. And the crazy thing is…ITS OBVIOUS that’s what Microsoft is shooting for. It dosnt take ANY major thinking or twisting of thought. Its simply what they are doing now, today, and the only possible long term goal.

    And that’s the long race, and Microsoft is the only one in it. They will NEVER give up mobile. They will simply supersede it and absorb it in the first true next generation of computing.