Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile’s time is over
This is something we had suspected for long, but were yet to officially hear it from the horse’s mouth. Now we have, and while these exact words weren’t used, this surely must now be considered as the end of Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile journey. Joe Belfiore, corporate vice-president in the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, said as much in a reply to a user, on Twitter. “Of course we’ll continue to support the platform... bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw aren’t the focus,” wrote Belfiore, and followed the text with a sad face emoji too. This pretty much seals the fate of the software platform which many hoped would provide competition to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android smartphone platforms.
Earlier in the day, another user asked Belfiore on Twitter whether it was time for users to ditch the Windows Mobile platform and switch to Android or iOS. Belfiore replied, “As an individual end-user, I switched platforms for the app/hw diversity. We will support those users too! Choose what’s best 4 u.” This is perhaps the closest a Microsoft executive will get to admitting, on a social media platform, that it is curtains for the Windows 10 Mobile platform.
If you are a Windows Phone user, no need to panic just yet, you can continue to use the phone as usual. But do not expect any new features and improvements to apps and the software side of things, except maintenance updates to keep things chugging along—at least for the foreseeable future.
However, this should not be a bolt from the blue. Microsoft’s sojourns into the smartphone space with the Windows platforms have never really inspired much confidence. Earlier this year, Microsoft killed off support for the Windows 8.1 platform, three years after the platform arrived on the scene with digital assistant Cortana and a completely new user interface being the highlights.
At Microsoft’s Build and Inspire conferences earlier this year, Satya Nadella, chief executive officer, Microsoft, had hinted that the company was dropping the “mobile-first, cloud-first” approach in favour of being readily available, intelligent, cloud-based services as well as something for the multi-device usage scenarios. This was, perhaps, the first step towards building even better apps for Android and iOS platforms—the biggest example of this for consumers could be the beta version release of the Edge web browser for Android phones and the iPhones, earlier this month.
Microsoft, and it is no surprise, isn’t new to the mobile ecosystem. The company has had mobile software starting as far back as the year 1996 with Windows CE for personal digital assistants (PDAs). But whatever they have done, including with the Windows Mobile platform, has never been able to match up to whatever Apple did with iOS (first arrived on the scene in 2007) and Google with Android (launched in 2008).
In some ways, Windows smartphones never really took off because of lack of apps. Belfiore admitted as much on Twitter, saying, “We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs. Paid money.. wrote apps 4 them.. but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest.” Perhaps one of the reasons why there were never enough users for Windows-powered phones is because there were not enough phone makers making enough new devices to attract consumers. Samsung, HTC and a few other phone makers did sporadically show interest in the platform, but it was never a sustained effort. The last standing Windows smartphone hope, HP, also confirmed earlier this month that it is shelving plans of building a line-up of Windows 10 Mobile based smartphones, owing to the fact that there just wasn’t enough happening around the platform.
It is unlikely that we will see another Windows-powered smartphone, at least until Microsoft shows renewed interest in a second attempt at competing with Apple and Google.
But what does this mean for the much-rumoured Surface Phone? While there never has been any confirmation that something on those lines was even in the works, it’s safe to assume that even if it was, that project will be on the backburner for the moment.