If you are keen on following news regarding Microsoft, you probably know that their mobile platform is not doing so great.
In 2014, Microsoft bought Nokia, specifically their mobile division for a whooping 7.2 billion USD. Nokia took the risk of going with Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS and it certainly didn’t pay off as we know.
However, with Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile division, we were hopeful that the mobile operating system could do a full 180 degree and turn things around for the better, in hopes on catching up with Android and iOS.
Instead it did the opposite. It actually got worse…
But what did go wrong? How did Microsoft’s 7 billion dollar investment turn into such a disaster? Not only for their mobile smartphone division, but also in any hopes that their mobile operating system might even catch up to its more popular competitors.
I will give my top 3 reasons on why Microsoft’s smartphone venture didn’t succeed as planned and instead turned into an oblivious blunder:
1. No flagship update – for quite some time
Before the 2014 Microsoft-Nokia deal fiasco finalized into a done deal, Nokia’s flagship device, the face of the company, was the Lumia 1520.
The Nokia Lumia 1520, released in October 2013. Image source here
It was a great device. Spec wise, it rivaled even Android flagship smartphones at that time thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip (clocked at 2.2 Ghz), 6 inch 1080p screen, 2gb of RAM and its prided 20mp Carl Zeiss optics with OIS. This phone was released in October 2013.
Worth noting that Nokia made a follow up on this device in mid-2014 in the form of the Lumia 930. It featured almost the same internals as the 1520, save for the screen size, which came in 5 inch.
This two phones could be considered Nokia’s last flagship phones before it was purchased by Microsoft. And Microsoft never released a follow-up device – not until October 2015, in the form of the Lumia 950 (now under Microsoft’s banner).
Having no flagship update for almost two years (based on the 1520) did not only hurt the sales of Microsoft’s newly acquired smartphone business, it also lost the interest of the people in Microsoft’s mobile operating system in general.
By the time their current flagship, the Lumia 950 came, very few people still cared to venture into Microsoft territory.
2. Half-baked operating system
“Windows 10 Mobile is a hot mess” – Michael Fisher, Pocketnow December 2015
Ever since the introduction of Windows Phone 7 way back in 2010, Microsoft just couldn’t seem to pull it together in their mobile department. And Michael Fisher from Pocketnow perfectly describes the general problem of the mobile platform, and that it is not a beta device – and it shouldn’t behave like one.
From inconsistent UI to bugs in the app store, the latest iteration of Microsoft’s mobile OS was just too incomplete and inconsistent to even compete with Google or Apple’s offerings, which are far more stable and feature-rich.
Granted, those bugs could be fixed over time. But at the time of their release in Q4 2015, Microsoft’s duo flagship has already garnered quite a reputation as inconsistent and bug-filled phones, which obviously didn’t help their sales leading up to this point.
3. Lack of 3rd party support
Snapchat, a hugely popular social media app for Android and iOS is not available on Windows Phone 10. Other popular apps are also not available (Pinterest, Tinder and most of Google services) or severely outdated (Instagram, Linkedln, etc.).
From lackluster app selection (from availability to app quality) even through 3rd party accessories, Windows Phone is just lagging in these department compared to its competitors.
And with no flagship updates for 2 years as well as the flop of its latest offerings, its not just the consumers that are losing interest – worse, developers and other software companies are also losing interest in migrating their services to the platform.
Microsoft did try fill the gap by showing developers how they can easily port Android apps to Windows Phone through a development program called Project Astoria. An iOS version of the program named Project Islandwood was also created, this time targeting iOS apps.
This projects, however, were officially cancelled by Microsoft. Instead, Microsoft acquired Xamarin, a popular mobile cross-platform development tool for iOS, Android and Windows Phone using Microsoft’s own .net framework.
And those were my top reasons for Microsoft’s failure to capitalize more of the mobile market.
So far its looking pretty grim for the future of Windows Phone mobile and Microsoft’s smartphone venture, with some even predicting that it may be over for the Redmond giant.
We have yet to see if Microsoft will indeed pull the plug on its own mobile platform, or what its future decisions would be regarding this.
If the 5-6 years of Windows Phone development is any indicator, however, its that its most likely that things will get worse than what they are today.