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Why Did Windows Phone Fail?

So unless you have gone against the tide and use a Mac or some flavor of Linux, you probably have a desktop or a laptop running Windows, for better or for worse.

But how did Windows managed to be the dominant player in PC’s yet almost invisible on smartphones that we all carry everywhere?

Well, believe it or not, it wasn’t too long ago that the Windows mobile OS was actually the market leader in smartphones.

Wait, WHAT!?

So, before the original iPhone was released in 2007, the smartphone market was a mishmash of lots of different devices, without any real must-have models among them and many of them ran Windows mobile.

So many in fact that Microsoft owned nearly half of the smartphone OS market share before Apple got in the game.

So what happened?

Well, even though the Microsoft presence in the smartphone land was very significant, it was a still a company whose bread and butter was software for traditional PC’s.

And the management at the time wanted to be cautious about throwing themselves head-first into mobile. Skeptical as to whether it will catch on.

As a result, Microsoft didn’t devote enough resources to Windows mobile which quickly became dated.

While at the same time Apple’s iOS rapidly gained popularity.

Making matters worse, the Windows mobile experience felt a little different depending on which phone out of that mishmash of devices you were using.

Something that makes a software product very difficult to market to users.

 

But hold on a minute. Doesn’t Android do this as well? So why did Google succeed when Microsoft didn’t?

 

By the time Microsoft decided they really should be focusing more attention on the mobile market, Android had already become widespread. And not only was it technologically superior to Microsoft’s outdated offering, but it was also FREE.

By contrast, Microsoft charged phone manufacturers for Windows mobile devices just like you have to pay for a Windows license for your home PC today.

Microsoft justified this because they thought Android was too ‘bare bones’ to cause fragmentation in the market.

 

But what actually happened was that it gave the phone industry a freely available base that included tons of Google services that people actually wanted to use.

 

So, in 2010, Microsoft, realizing that PC was losing ground to mobile devices, decided to take its mobile competition seriously and replaced Windows Mobile with Windows Phone OS.

But while reviews of the OS was pretty good, one of the main issues was that by this point app developers were already focused on iOS and Android.

So it became a ‘chicken and egg’ problem.

There weren’t enough windows phone users for app developers, even big ones like Instagram, to bother to support the platform.

And it is hard to attract users without, for example, a YouTube app.

All this came to a head in 2014 when Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone division. Hoping their name and market power will give windows phone a boost and show the world, “hey look! Windows phone is worth something! It’s going to be all over Nokia devices!”

But this backfired, catastrophically. There was still no incentive for non-Nokia manufacturers to PAY for windows phone licenses. Because now not only was it NOT FREE like Android, but the windows phone models would also have to compete against Nokia’s phone division.

Which was now owned by the same flipping company. The one they were paying!

So in 2017, the Windows Phone project was put out of its misery. And now Microsoft is focusing its mobile efforts on cheaper laptops, the internet of things, and getting its digital assistant ‘Cortana’ on to more devices.

So there may be an important place yet for Microsoft in this new world where it seems like everything needs to be connected to the internet.

But don’t expect your friends to be impressed by your Windows phone unless they also love your ‘Dope’ HD DVD player or your ‘Lit’ flip HD digital camera 😉