Why Windows Phone failed: an insider’s look

Although it’s still unofficial, Joe Belfiore’s tweets verified that Windows Phone division is practically dead. Microsoft shall only releasing bug fixes, rather than keep adding features and actively developing the next version of the mobile OS. Even the largely anticipated Surface Phone running Windows 10 seems to be now shelved.

We liked Windows Phones and the Windows Mobile OS. When we started developing ScreenTag, Android was a joke. And iOS was only getting facelifts. Windows was in many aspects the most advanced mobile operating system. That was until v. 7.5.

A huge mistake Microsoft did, was to piss-off Windows Phone users during the transition to v. 8, by offering no way for handsets running Windows Phone 7.X to upgrade to Windows 8, other than buying a new phone. Quite a few of them did, but not a Windows Phone. The same mistake was repeated during the transition to Windows 10. Microsoft was actively driving away users with each new OS version – a lot more than those converting to Windows from other platforms.

Another issue was about the lack of apps. Joe Belfiore mentioned in his tweets that developers were reluctant to move on with development for the Windows platform due to the narrow user base. While this was true, many developers – us among them – urged Microsoft to offer a container solution for web apps (with any scripts running being stored in the container once loaded, rather than re-downloaded). With quite a few apps offering a mobile web version, this would add a huge number of popular apps in the platform. They wouldn’t listen. They wanted developers to work on apps that would bring little if any income.

On the handset front, the favourable treatment – and eventual buy-out – to Nokia, sent a signal that Microsoft is moving towards hardware/software integration with them, and everyone else was a second class manufacturer. Any handset manufacturers continued producing or developing handsets, were doing so due to the overall relationship with the Windows operating system (Dell, HP). And reluctantly so.

After Android v.4.0 was released, it was evident that Microsoft was falling behind. Google was quickly moving on and Apple was filling in the gaps. Moreover, the Windows 10 Mobile releases had quite a few bugs, that were causing users rating the Lumia devices with one or two stars even at the Microsoft Store. At that point, the Lumia brand was dead.

Finally, positioning was the aspect that went entirely wrong – especially after Windows 8 Mobile was released. Microsoft tried to present itself as the smartphone brand for everyone. Unfortunately, Android was sitting there for quite some time, powering low to middle market handsets (and a few high-end ones). Everyday users that needed a phone to get on social media apps, play games or read the latest news were covered. Windows Phones in the other hand, with quite heavy system requirements, if you needed them to run smoothly, couldn’t take up any significant market share at the low-middle range handsets. However, there was a niche that Microsoft could easily penetrate: the business users. With a large part of the user base being already from corporate or business users, Microsoft could claim market share from higher-end devices both from Android handsets manufacturers and Apple. This didn’t happen either.

That’s how we ended up to pulling the plug from Windows Mobile. Whether this is the end of the line for Microsft’s adventures in the smartphone arena, only time can tell. Hopefully, it is not. And ScreenTag shall be there.

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