The response to this post will be predictable, but I’ve delayed this long enough and it’s time to put my feelings into words.
This site was created off the back of my first Microsoft Smartphone some 14 years ago. That phone was the Orange SPV and it was light-years ahead of other handsets at the time. Yes, it had faults, and I tried to post workarounds right here on a daily basis. However, at the time it was a phone with a colour screen, custom uploadable ringtones and backdrops you could change without paying for the privilege. People were still using monochrome screens with “Snake” as the only game and polyphonic ringtones that they had to grab via premium-rate phone lines.
As the years went by I was lucky enough to have Microsoft read what I wrote here on Coolsmartphone. They invited me to Redmond and I fed back the ideas, thoughts and recommendations that you guys were emailing me about the Pocket PC and Smartphone 2002 devices. I remember the very first year, when they were completely puzzled as to why people wanted to alter the backdrop on the Orange SPV. They didn’t see why people wanted to customise their phones, but they listened, and further handsets appeared with more functionality. We saw gradual improvements and then Windows Mobile handsets grew in popularity. Those phones were in every office in the land – email arrived via Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft had the business world wrapped up. They were confident and strong.
Then, as I attended every year, things seems to slow. The iPhone failed to create any change or worry from the Microsoft. Even though the iPhone made finger-driven devices “the norm”, Microsoft still persisted with increasingly fiddly stylus-driven UI’s on the Windows Mobile devices. As the classic numeric-keyed smartphones began to die off, the larger-screened touch-based GUI’s were tweaked and altered by other companies to try and cope, but it was lipstick on a pig. Things were just not moving fast enough. The pace of change was frustratingly slow and the iPhone was barrelling along.
Android came to the party, and after 7 years the Microsoft phone in my pocket switched to an Android-powered HTC Hero. The OS was constantly getting updated and tweaked. It was nimble and the Android teams listened, learned and adapted.
Meanwhile, Microsoft did an overdue reboot of the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS and Windows Phone 7 Series was born – then quickly renamed. Then the OS rebooted again as Windows Phone 8. What got me about all this was that the Windows Phone platform was good, but early adopters would be scared off by the fact that they couldn’t upgrade from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 without buying a new phone. Those that did stick it out found that the “big apps” were available, but a lot of the fun or niche apps weren’t. Even if Microsoft made their own version or “helped” developers create a version, it would quickly go stale and wouldn’t be supported as well as the Android and iOS versions. We then began to see Microsoft spending more time producing apps for competing mobile operating systems rather than their own.
So that brings me, in a roundabout way, to today. I’ve not even mentioned Nokia, or Lumia, or the whole heap of cash that has been used up buying the skills and manufacturing during all this time. I haven’t mentioned how much I’ve been hassling Microsoft to do something – to do anything to stop the rot. I want them to succeed, but from the early days of glacial change speeds to the direction changes and lack of focus we’re seeing today… I’ve. Had. Enough.
We all know that the Microsoft phones are good. The hardware is nearly always top notch, and the camera tech is too. Windows 10 mobile. It’s great, but you can’t sell phones just because they’re made well and have good cameras. There has to be support, a vibrant app library and a noticeable drive from both sides. It has to be a complete package.
Yesterday Microsoft showed their apathy at their Build developer conference. Only one demo involved Windows 10 mobile, and that was painfully brief. PCWorld and Tom Warren asked Windows chief Terry Myerson about Windows 10 mobile. He came back with this..
We’re fully committed to that 4-inch screen, there will be a time for it to be our focus, but right now it’s part of the family but it’s not the core of where I hope to generate developer interest over the next year.
Yeah, nice one Terry. Not this year? Well, I guess that’s no different to the last few years in a way eh? How can you be “fully committed” if you’re not bothered about developers making apps?
Yes, yes. Everyone will tell me that the Windows 10 ecosystem means that developers can produce apps that’ll run across various devices and platforms. But will they though? Can you see the developer of MSQRD suddenly making a desktop Windows version that’ll trickle down to the phone version? Can you see all the banks making apps for the platform? Let’s be honest, universal applications won’t work. Even Steve Ballmer admitted that. Can you honestly see those developers who’ve tried deploying apps for Windows Phone coming back? Sales are down, the platform is struggling and even Microsoft themselves are making their mobile apps available for Android and iOS first. If the people making the operating system are concentrating more on developing apps for other mobile OS’s, what developer in their right mind would do any different??
..for Microsoft with Windows and for our platform (mobile is) the wrong place for us to lead.
If you wanted to reach a lot of phone customers, Windows Phone isn’t the way to do it. We’re going to do some cool things with phones, but this year phones are an important part of our family but not the tip of the spear.
Yeah. Don’t worry about mobile phones guys. In fact, why not just hang back next year too. Perhaps just sit out 2017 eh? The mobile market is well-known for being slow-paced.
Oh no wait, it’s the exact opposite of that. Even the Microsoft staffers presenting at Build had forgotten about their own mobile OS. They didn’t carry Windows powered handsets and they didn’t seem to exist..
We don’t care if it’s Android or iOS, we have you covered.
Any others? No? Is that everything?
There was nothing, and I mean nothing for Windows Phone 8 owners to be cheery about. There was naff all for Windows 10 mobile customers. No future plans. No roadmap. No new handsets. Just an entire bowl full of “meh” and a side order of “can’t be bothered”.
Some were expecting a Surface Phone to be announced this week, but that didn’t happen. The promised upgrade of all Windows Phone 8 Lumia handsets to Windows 10 didn’t happen either and they closed the @LumiaVoices Twitter account this week too. OK, fans will be a little disappointed with that, but to be told that the Windows 10 mobile OS isn’t even going to be a priority for the whole of 2016 is a pill I can’t swallow. At best, they’re reaffirming the commonly-held belief that Microsoft will ignoring – perhaps killing off – their own mobile platform and concentrating instead on apps for iPhone and Android smartphones. At worst, they’re basically telling owners of Windows Phone and Windows 10 phones that they’re of no importance. They’re insignificant.
Honestly, I think Microsoft is letting this die on the vine. Truthfully, if I’m to advise anyone owning a Microsoft-powered phone, I’d say – go buy a phone powered by a different OS. Do it now. Do it today. Jump ship. iOS, Android, whatever you want, because this is done.