When it comes to Windows Phone, Microsoft might have to declare its platform dead.
According to the latest data from research firm Gartner, Windows Phone commands less than 1 percent of the global smartphone OS market, far behind Android (with 84.1 percent) and iOS (14.8 percent). A mere 0.5 percent separates Windows Phone from BlackBerry, which owns a mere 0.2 percent of the market.
Although Microsoft launched Windows Phone with high hopes (and a lot of advertising dollars) back in October 2010, the platform never became a serious rival to either Android or iOS. While Windows Phone earned strong reviews for its UX, the relative paucity of apps hobbled its ability to compete. Certain strategic decisions on Microsoft’s part, such as cutting off Windows Phone 7.x from the upgrade to Windows Phone 8 (and its next-generation apps), also tested the patience of its core audience.
Despite that uphill battle, Microsoft continued to pour resources into its smartphone quest, viewing a mobile presence as essential to its broader strategic plans. And the company was correct on that front, given how businesses and consumers have gravitated toward smartphones (and, to a lesser degree, tablets) for an increasing percentage of their daily computing needs. As Windows Phone failed to gain substantial market-share, however, rumblings from Microsoft’s executive suite made it clear that the company recognized its own missteps.
“I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren’t able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,” Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft, told an audience of Wall Street analysts and investors in late 2013. “That is the thing I regret the most.”
Now it’s an open question whether Microsoft will ever release another branded Lumia phone, although it seems unlikely that the company will abandon a homegrown smartphone OS in favor of, say, Android. With Windows 10 meant to interoperate with equal facility everything from PCs to smartphones, it’s probable that Microsoft’s smartphone future will look very different than executives at the company expected a few years ago.