2014 has been a very bad year for Windows Phone. Not only has the platform’s market share been stagnant at best but it’s been more than a year since we’ve seen any flagship Windows Phone hardware on par with 2013’s Lumia 1020 or Lumia 1520. In that time, Apple has released both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus and Android fans have had a feast of riches in the form of high-end flagship devices from Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG and OnePlus. Even BlackBerry has made its diehard fans happy with the release of the beastly BlackBerry Passport. Now things have gotten so bad that two high-profile Windows Phone users have said they’re quitting the platform this week until things change.
Earlier this week, we brought you the story of ZDNet’s Ed Bott, a longtime Windows Phone user who has grown so frustrated with the lack of carrier firmware support for his device that he’s going to switch to iOS until the situation improves. Of course, the reason that carriers can drag their feet on firmware support for Windows Phone is that it has such a low market share — and tragically, it’s going to keep having a low market share as long as it doesn’t get good carrier firmware support.
And now The Verge’s Tom Warren, another longtime Windows Phone user, has penned an essay explaining why he’s finally decided to give up on the platform.
“I’m the resident Microsoft expert here at The Verge, and for years I’ve switched between Android, iOS, and Windows Phone to check out new apps and how each platform is progressing, but it’s now clear Windows Phone is being left behind,” he writes. “Microsoft is behind in mobile in a big way thanks to the rise of apps. While Windows Phone fans will argue that the platform now has more than 500,000 apps, most of the top iOS and Android apps have Windows Phone equivalents that are severely lacking.”
Warren goes on to note that while Microsoft has been getting more developers to make Windows Phone apps, those apps almost never get updated and are lacking the key features that their iOS and Android counterparts have. For instance, Warren notes that Instagram on Windows Phone still lacks video recording support.
The problem is not that Windows Phone is a bad platform — on the contrary, it’s quite a good platform. The problem is that it didn’t really get competitive with iOS and Android until the release of Windows Phone 8 in 2012 and thus has had to constantly play a game of catchup with the mobile world’s twin titans for app developers’ attention.
If you want an illustration of this, consider that Microsoft only today — yes, today — got Candy Crush Saga, the hugely popular mobile game that has been out for more than two years now. Windows blogger Paul Thurrott says that if he told his children that he finally got access to Candy Crush after all this time, “they will make fun of both me and my phone.”
Microsoft’s big solution to this problem is admittedly a clever one: It wants to make it much easier for Windows developers to make programs that can be easily ported to mobile phones and tablets. Since Microsoft is still the dominant player in the personal computer space, it still has a lot of connections to developers.
The problem is that this isn’t going to happen until next fall at the earliest, since that’s when Microsoft will have released Windows 10. By that time, iOS and Android will have had yet another year of completely dominating app developers’ attention and it will make Microsoft’s job of attracting app developers that much harder.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not one of those people who thinks Microsoft is “doomed” because I’m smart enough to read an earnings report and see that the company has a lot going for it. But in terms of its efforts to compete in the mobile market with its own distinct platform, the “d” word is becoming more applicable every day.