When I look at what Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone right now, all I can think of is the straggler Japanese soldiers who kept trying to fight World War II even though their government had already surrendered. With Windows Phone, Microsoft isn’t just fighting a losing war, it’s fighting a war that’s already been lost. Nonetheless, a new report in The Wall Street Journal shows that Microsoft is still clinging to hope that Windows Phone will become a relevant mobile platform… if we just give it at least another six months or so.
“Microsoft officials say the company is playing the long game,” the Journal reports. “It’s pinning its hopes for mobile revival on Windows 10, the next version of its operating system, which is expected to debut later this year.”
Here’s the thing: Microsoft has been playing this “long game” for a long time now and it’s gotten Windows Phone nowhere. How many times over the years have we been told to just wait until the company releases Windows Phone 7/Windows Phone 8/Windows Phone 8.1/Windows 10 and then we’ll finally see some real movement?
In the meantime, Windows Phone shipment numbers are barely growing at all and Windows Phone’s market share amazingly continues to sink, even though it never had a high market share to begin with. According to IDC, Microsoft’s mobile OS actually had a higher overall market share back in 2010, which is particularly stunning because the old Windows Mobile platform wasn’t nearly as compelling or capable as Windows Phone is right now.
The iPhone came out all the way back in 2007 and Google unveiled Android in 2008. Ever since then, iOS and Android have absolutely dominated the smartphone market — iOS in terms of smartphone profits and Android in terms of raw market share. Consumers who use these devices are very used to how they work by this point and are used to having broad selections of mobile apps to choose from.
Windows Phone’s app selection is terrible and Microsoft is always scrambling to pay off developers to bring the latest hot app to the platform. And even if this particular problem gets solved by Windows 10’s ability to let developers make apps that can be easily ported across different Windows platforms — and that’s a very, very big if — it will be far too late.
iOS and Android account for 96% of the global smartphone market and Google and Apple have started turning their attention to dominating the next frontiers of software platforms such as wearable computers and cars.
Now I’ll admit: I had hope for Windows Phone as recently as late 2013. Given how Apple was still stuck releasing smartphones with small displays and Android often delivered an inconsistent user experience, I thought Microsoft had a fleeting window of opportunity to nudge its way into the conversation.
But then Microsoft spent all of 2014 doing absolutely nothing of note while Apple clobbered the smartphone world with the iPhone 6 and Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola all released high-profile Android phones. And given how great the early Android flagship phones of 2015 are looking so far, it looks like game over for Microsoft’s mobile platform.
The bottom line: If Microsoft at this point is still devoting a lot of resources into trying to force Windows Phone onto the market then it’s really risking missing out on the next big thing.