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Why is Microsoft still shooting itself in the foot with dumb carrier exclusives?

Published Aug 19th, 2014 11:20AM EDT
HTC One M8 For Windows Verizon Exclusive

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There are days when I honestly don’t know if Microsoft even cares if Windows Phone succeeds. I bring this up because the new HTC One (M8) for Windows launched today and it’s definitely the most promising high-end Windows Phone we’ve seen released this year… and it’s also a Verizon exclusive.

If you’ll recall, the two best Windows Phone handsets released in the U.S. last year — the Lumia 1020 and the Lumia 1520 — were also carrier exclusives. At the time, then-Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said that having flagship phones as carrier exclusives meant that the carriers would help out more with the marketing, which meant that Nokia would sell more phones than it otherwise would have if they’d been available on all major carriers.

I think we know about how well that particular gambit turned out for Nokia. And now we have the best Windows Phone hardware yet released this year and it’s following down the same path.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Microsoft didn’t exactly care about the One (M8) for Windows getting launched only on one carrier because the device launched on Android first and Microsoft didn’t really see it as a big potential seller no matter how many carriers it launched on.

At the same time, though, Microsoft has shown a surprising lack of urgency in getting Windows Phones in more people’s hands — the latest data from IDC shows that total Windows Phone shipments actually declined year-over-year last quarter, which is absolutely stunning considering the resources that Microsoft has at its disposal. Given this dire situation, you would think that Microsoft would want to try pushing the most high-end Windows Phone released this year onto more carriers and then foot the bill for the marketing.

At any rate, I guess we won’t know for certain what Microsoft is thinking until it releases its next high-end Lumia flagship. If that device is an exclusive to AT&T or any other carrier, then we can safely conclude that Microsoft is hopelessly clueless when it comes to selling phones.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.