Monday, February 16, 2015

Editorial: I Hate It When I’m Right…


I read a piece this weekend by one of my favorite tech writers around, Paul Thurrott. This piece echoed the sentiments that I have been feeling about my beloved Windows Phone for quite some time – it’s lost that special feeling. Day after day, hour after hour, Windows Phone becomes less Windows Phone and more Android. Less simple and more aggravating. Less Windows and more phone. That’s right, the crazy-loveable OS that we all fell for on our Surround or Focus just isn’t there anymore and for me, that’s a bad thing.

Thurrott nailed it, although he does cover some of the good in Windows for Phones moving forward, by highlighting everything that was given up to get to Windows 10… Hubs, People, Tiles, Integration, Consistency, Xbox and Zune were all major players in the introduction of the phone to save us from our phones and all have been stripped down to the bare essentials and pretty much survive only by name, if that. Many people didn’t get the concept, but did they really give it a chance?

Microsoft Windows Phone 7

Back in 2010, Microsoft went to the manufacturers of devices and told them what they could and could not do. They dictated and the manufacturers built the devices a certain way, with certain specs and certain required parts. Today, Microsoft has lost so much traction that they are now allowing hardware manufacturers to use the OS for free on anything they want. Heck, they even felt the need to buy out Nokia to make their hardware and virtually alienated every manufacturer that used to work with them. The bad part, it was that there was a problem with the OS, it was the fact there was no room at the top…

Symbian is currently the market leader, with 41 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, according to Gartner, followed by RIM with 18 percent, Android with 17 percent, Apple with 14 percent and Microsoft with 5 percent. – FoxNews – 10/2010

In 2010, Gartner expected something much different to end 2014 than what actually happened, but not in the Windows department. In fact, with the closing prediction of 4%, they pretty well nailed it. In 2010, Nokia’s Symbian controlled 41% of the world smartphone market. By 2014, it was predicted that Android would catch Symbian and they would both have about 30% of the market. Apple would have 15% and RIM would have 12%. In 2010, nobody saw what was coming, least of all Microsoft.

In 2010, with 2 out of every 5 smartphones in the world running their OS, Nokia was at the top of the game and had partnered with Motorola, Samsung, Sony/Ericsson and a few others in creating the Symbian Foundation. This allowed the manufacturers to use the open source OS and compete with Microsoft, BlackBerry and Apple and the up and coming Android. In November, things took a dramatic change as Android picked up steam and Samsung and Sony’s lack of support for the Symbian Foundation led to the OS becoming a licensed software. To Nokia, it served as notice that something needed to happen.

In February of 2011, Symbian was officially put on notice as Windows Phone became the exclusive OS of Nokia. This also served as notice to the manufacturers that used the Windows Phone platform that their days of making devices were probably numbered. The sweetheart deal that Nokia was able to negotiate would make it almost impossible for anyone to compete. In January of 2014, when all these numbers were supposed to be fulfilled, only Windows Phone was about where they said it would be, the rest, well, that’s another story.

IDC: Smartphone OS Market Share 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 Chart

As the third quarter of 2014 ended, Android controlled 85% of the world smartphone market. Apple had almost 12%. BlackBerry had less than .5% and Windows Phone was almost at 3%. The scary part, that 3% was down from 2013 when they had inched very close to that 4% mark that Gartner had predicted for 2014.

At the risk of sounding negative, as I see it now, the problem is Microsoft seems more intent on making Windows Phone conform that they do with making it better. They’ve destroyed the differences and become standardized. They are happier pushing out low to mid range hardware at a loss and making it up in Office365 and OneDrive subscriptions. It’s a marketing idea that goes back to the original software maker’s guts. It’s brilliant, but at the same time, very sad.

While Windows 10 for Phones might just carry the torch onward, I think we can officially say that Microsoft has raised their white flag and has given up their phone offering for good. What is left of that original concept is nothing more than some live tiles with all the annoyances of Android built-in. There’s no beauty, no love and nothing different. The only thing left is for the Lumia line to port over to Android and Microsoft to begin making more software for the 97% of the world that uses Android and iOS.

Sources and references:

OS Usage Percentages -
History of Symbian -
Five Years Later, Paul Thurrott -

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