Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system has gotten off to a decidedly slow start since it debuted last year but we may be reaching the point where the platform is finally ready to break through and become the third major player in the mobile space. In some ways this was inevitable since Microsoft simply has too much financial clout to stay on the sidelines of the mobile world for too long. But several recent events have combined to put Windows Phone on the fast track to wider market adoption and there’s really nothing that should prevent Microsoft from growing its market share beyond the 10% range within the next year.
In no particular order, here are the things that Microsoft has going for it:
- The continued decline of BlackBerry. Although I had held out some hope for BlackBerry 10 given several positive reports I’d seen from analysts, BlackBerry’s earnings report last week snapped me back to reality and showed a company that has lost a whopping 8 million subscribers over the past nine months. And it still lacks a truly low-end device to compete with the cheaper Windows Phone and Android models flooding into emerging markets. Miracles can happen and BlackBerry can still come back, but it’s looking less and less likely.
- Windows 8 should get a big adoption boost next year when Windows XP support ends. Part of the appeal of Windows Phone 8 is that it’s designed to be just one part of the overall Windows 8 family. The problem is that many consumers so far have stayed away from Windows 8, which has proven to be a polarizing operating system with a steep learning curve. But that will likely change within the next year when more businesses adopt Windows 8 after Microsoft ends its support for the older Windows XP operating system, and after Windows 8.1 adds features such as a revamped Start button and boot-to-desktop that will help users ease into the new system. Once most users become more comfortable with Windows 8, it will presumably make Windows Phone 8 devices more attractive.
- Microsoft’s app developer payoff program has to yield results at some point. The biggest advantage that Microsoft has over BlackBerry in the race to spark developer interest is that Microsoft can simply pay developers a lot of money to bring their software over to Windows Phone. Given that Microsoft is now paying companies up to $100,000 for their apps, it’s only a matter of time and cash before it has a strong arsenal of apps that can compete with iOS and Android.
Given all this, 2014 looks to be the year that Windows Phone will have its best opportunity yet to make a dent in the mobile market. And if the platform doesn’t start gaining serious traction over the next year, you have to wonder what it will take to make it happen.