Is Windows Phone dead?

Is Windows Phone dead?

According to a recent report by Gartner, worldwide smartphone sales grew by 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2016. Despite this growth, Windows Phone sales continued to plummet from 2.5% percent around a year ago to a meager 0.7 percent leading to speculations that the unpopular OS might be on its death bed. To make things worse, Microsoft recently announced that it plans to lay off 1850 workers and also kind of hinted that they won’t be releasing another Lumia device. Detrimental! Let’s take a look at why Windows Phone might just become another abandoned project if Microsoft decides to do nothing about it.

Windows Phone Stats

When Android showed up a few years ago, it was something different but more importantly people had hope and big plans for it. The same can’t be said about Windows Phone. Most people including me decided to watch from the sidelines and waited for it to grow – It didn’t have a lot of support from crucial stakeholders like OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and application developers unlike Android. I believe this was and is still the biggest problem with Windows Phone.

Android has been refined over the years and while still not perfect, it has had committed stakeholders since when it was a young OS. You see, the OS developers can only do so much. The rest is up to application developers, OEMs  and consumers through feedback. So in the end everyone contributes a different aspect which helps when developing the next OS version.

Apple decided to take a difficult approach. They decided to control most of the development by being the sole device manufacturer. To avoid complications they avoided disintegration which means the OS ran only on a specified set of hardware. This allowed them to make the OS very efficient since the core code lines up with the set hardware and as a result the OS flies even on minimum hardware. This is not possible to achieve on Android. Android solves this by demanding raw power and in some cases lack of software customization on top of the OS also helps.

Windows Phone tends to combine the 2 approaches. They limit the range of specified hardware like Apple but also work with different device makers like Android. In theory this is a recipe for success. This means that the resulting phones should be cheaper since low hardware specifications still bring about good software performance. In reality this was true but there was a different kind of problem. At first Microsoft were not developing the software fast enough. Basic OS functions were still missing and it was driving the few but growing user base nuts. The OEMs were also too reluctant to join the party. Hence for a long time Microsoft struggled alone. In fact, according to the recent report by Gartner, 2.3 million (around 96%) out of the 2.4 million Windows Phone which were sold were from Microsoft. This means that apart from Microsoft themselves, very few manufacturers are actually making Windows Phones.

Windows Phone-3

According to the recent report by Gartner, 96% of Windows Phones which were sold during the first quarter of 2016 were from Microsoft

The other big issue was application development. Because of the wait and see attitude that many people had employed, the developers waited for the OS to grow since most could not develop applications for a low user base. This may have been the biggest blow to the OS. Android and iOS users were already accustomed to the numerous applications at their disposal making the switch to Windows Phone unbearable. The few developers who had developed their applications for Windows Phone were also reluctant to update their applications while some decided to pull out altogether. When Android was growing, applications were not the rage but right now it makes it impossible for a new operating system to break through. There is a way to try and counter this. You make the platform compatible with the existing apps from the already established operating systems. Blackberry have attempted this before but it failed. Microsoft recently tried it but the project has never seen the light of day after much promise. While theoretically this initiative makes sense, in reality it is not as simple. The apps can actually work but they will never work as well as they do on their native operating systems.

Windows Phone-1

Microsoft may have underestimated the amount of effort it needed to put into the Windows Phone program

Windows phone is a really good operating system. However, Microsoft may have underestimated the amount of effort it needed to put in. Is the future still bright for windows phone? The answer to this depends entirely on Microsoft. A few OEMs have joined the bandwagon churning out exciting devices. The state of applications development remains worrying but crucial applications are all available. The OS itself continues to offer a refreshing experience albeit with a few bugs that can always be ironed out. As a Windows Phone fan (winphan) I will always hope for the best and maybe that hope should extend to the people pulling the strings.

Related article: 6 interesting Windows Phone apps that you should try today

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  • Rigamortis

    I loved WP. Really. Smooth. Beautiful tiles. But I’m mean person and hate that MS bullied Nokia into the Windows platform, which is obviously a failed experiment.

    • I really don’t think that MS are the ones who bullied Nokia into the Windows Platform. Nokia are the one to blame, the management that is. It is said that the company (Nokia) had temperamental managers who really scared of middle managers and workers and so it was hard to tell them things they did not want to hear because of fear of being sacked. When the iphone and IOS made it’s way up they realised that their baby Symbian was a joke but they didn’t want to admit that. They had to pump into resources into this. In 2008 they released their first touchscreen phone, the Nokia 5800 which was cheaper than the iphone but was plagues by several software issues. Several others followed. Honestly they had good hardware but shit for software. They didn’t just want to admit it. Things went wrong and they brought the devil, Stephen Elop who decided that Nokia would be better off buying software from elsewhere and so he forged an alliance with Microsoft who even screwed them further.

      • Eddy

        This is true. However Nokia had there own promising OS but they were divided on whether to develop it or go with windows phone. Meego was way ahead of windows phone at the time

        • Even though Meego was ahead of WP at that time,,,,Nokia would still have fallen if they chose it over WP because there is no way it could have gone up against Android

          • Eddy

            Not really. I remember at the time all the symbian fanatics were obsessed with Meego. Remember this was at a time when android was not the android of today. Android users right now are just old symbian users. This user base and hopefully a developer support would have transformed Meego into something else and maybe android wouldn’t be what it is today

        • Also we all know how much it costs to develop an OS yet you are competing with other brands which are using an OS which is created by Google…Much of the work is already done for them

    • Eddy

      Windows phone was easy to love. It’s management and development though not so much

  • I think Microsoft made a terrible mistake by killing Project Astoria. One of the most annoying issue with the Windows Phone OS is the lack of a thriving App ecosystem.

    Windows Phone runs really well on low-specs devices and i personally think it’s a neat mobile OS.

    I also think that Microsoft should work with more budget smartphone OEMs in order to achieve growth in emerging markets of Africa and some parts of Asia.

    I am of the opinion that if Microsoft will be able to arouse the interest of app developers + claim a share in emerging markets, Windows Phone will have a fighting chance for survival. It’s dying but not yet dead.

    • Honestly, I think Project Astoria was doomed from the start. How did they think they can solve their “lack of apps” problems by allowing their phones to run apps that are intended for two different platforms? I mean how does that solve the problem? The only solution would have been to entice devs so that they could develop apps and keep supporting the OS but that has already gone down the drain because Android gives them an easier Job and IOS also gets them good money so why develop for Windows Phone?

  • I can write a book about my issues with windows phone but I wont. The biggest issue I have with Microsoft and windows phone is that they are too slow to adapt to market changes. They should have made it easier for oems to get into the ecosystem but they didn’t. Android was the easiest option for oems and they went with that. Funny thing is Microsoft didn’t see this as a problem or maybe they just didn’t care. They thought that consumers will want WP cause they already use Windows on their pcs.

    Now fast forward to 2014/15 and Android is winning and WP is still there but not growing and Ms still doesn’t get it. That’s when Nokia shows dissatisfaction with the platform and Ms panics and thought it was a good idea to acquire its phone division. At this point oems such as Samsung had WP devices but they weren’t selling as much. Consumers weren’t buying WP devices and manufactures didn’t see value in the ecosystem. Instead of Ms doing something to address, they ignored and thought windows 10 and universal apps could help. Hell no, consumers were not interested any more so the app gap isn’t a factor anymore, Android was just better. And then there was a period when Ms focused on entry level devices, this was a good idea but the company didn’t push the devices as much. Why didn’t they do this considering that the best selling WP device is the Lumia 520. Ms should have known this and focus its efforts in emerging and developing markets where people are buying these phones. These markets are not conquered well and am sure people wouldn’t mind WP devices. Instead of doing this, Ms thought people would buy premium WP devices, why should they?

    In short, Ms was too slow. The company should have focused on getting oems on the platform instead of relying on Nokia. And it should have not acquired Nokia’s mobile division,. How do they expect oems to get into the ecosystem if the company that makes the OS is competing with them. As for market share, they should have focused on the lower end and not the premium market.

    • I agree with you, The Management at both Microsoft and Nokia were/are blind. I mean when Elop opted for WP (WP7 at that time), he said that they choose WP because it was the fastest way into the US market. Did he not see that even WP7 devices had flopped? Did he not see that Android had a huge and rapidly growing ecosystem?

      Coming back to MS. When they realized that only the L520 was selling, why didn’t they focus on such devices and just let go of the expensive ones? These are guys are just slow