It’s fair to say, the last 10 years has been quite the journey for Microsoft’s phone efforts. Back in 2007, Microsoft had Windows Mobile 6.5, which interestingly highly resembles what became Android in late 2008 onwards, then of course the first big major change came in 2010 with Windows Phone, and once again in 2014 with Windows 10 Mobile.
Whilst it’s typically good to see a platform constantly evolving, the problem with this is that the latest update, Windows 10 Mobile, it’s been far from the smooth and silky experience the Windows Phone experience would have you expecting.
Windows 10 Mobile launched practically not working correctly, including bugs left, right and centre, instabilities and a rather laggy interface. Whilst Microsoft have made a collection of fixes to the platform since, to which we can call it stable today, this comes too late for the majority on the platform who have all now jumped ship.
At its peak, whilst Windows Phone didn’t see the US success Microsoft were hoping for, here in the UK, it peaked around 14% marketshare, which considering iOS has never topped 20%, that’s a very impressive share. The marketshare increase was very much in relation to the Nokia brand using Windows Phone, a brand with a very large impact on the European market but at the same time, not much impact on US.
Going, going, going … gone?
The issue with Windows Phone today as a platform is the fact that it’s been on a deep decline ever since the Windows 10 Mobile platform launched, which whilst you could put the blame on the buggy software, it’s not exactly been rosy in terms of hardware either, with the dreadful Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL being the poster-child it was hardly going to wow any crowd.
To add to this, Applications, which were never a strong-fold on the platform, are now leaving in droves, leaving very old Games and Applications with the odd new one popping through if you’re lucky.
The biggest loss for the UK market coming in April, is the loss of BBC’s iPlayer catch up service, which begs the question whether ITV, Channel 4 and Five will follow. BBC’s excuse is the usual, there’s not many using the platform, though a fair excuse is that Windows 10 Mobiles, Microsoft Edge, browser can use iPlayer now within the website, but it’s little comfort for a platform needing all it can get.
So why has it not been killed?
Whilst they won’t naturally admit it, it’s rather obvious, but with Windows 10, one of the biggest features for Mobile is a feature called ‘Continuum’.
To correctly understand Continuum, you need to understand UWP applications, or ‘Universal Windows Programs’, though oddly referred to Apps rather than Programs.
The big change Microsoft made to Windows 10, whether it be on Desktop, Mobile, Xbox, Hololens, to more, is that whatever hardware of form factor you run it on, it’s the same code base. Meaning, for example, Microsoft’s Xbox App is the same App and code whether running on Windows 10 Desktop, Mobile, etc, which just adapts to that given form factor. Thanks to this, using a USB-C adapter (or Wireless casting), you can use your Mobile device plugged in to a Monitor and see your Phones Start screen and launched Applications in their full PC Desktop mode, which is incredibly useful for apps like Microsoft Edge browser, or the Office apps, essentially giving you a full PC experience in your pocket.
So, whilst Microsoft do have quite the collection of applications on both iOS and Android, features such as Continuum really do require Windows code base to work correctly. However, that’s not to say that the feature is wasted and can’t bring success to the company, especially with the success of devices and platforms like Chromebooks, where the majority of consumers really just want a Computer which can browse the Web and maybe offer a suite of Office programs as well, that is what the Windows 10 Mobile plus Continuum experience is. To add to this point, less and less people are demanding Applications on their devices, with the influx of VR and AR, so it’s still to be seen whether it’s truly over for Microsoft’s mobile efforts now that they have this ace up their sleeve.
So, after taking everything in to consideration, should Microsoft kill the Windows Phone platform? Well, it would be nice if they worked harder on making the platform more acceptable. I mean, there’s a bug out their today where you might not even be able to set up a new Windows Phone, this is just unacceptable on a platform that needs anything it can get.
But, if Microsoft keep at it, which I’m sure they will, and built upon this One Windows idea they’ve been going on about, there’s always going to be a place for Windows mobile. So, if you’re a user or a fan, all we can say is really what’s always said, just hang in there.