As was evident in today’s Build Keynote, phones weren’t very high on Microsoft’s list of priorities, hardly getting a mention at all (apparently only mentioned twice). Sure the whole keynote revolved around Windows 10 the universal platform that runs everywhere, revealing some new Cortana features, and the usual developer API talk and universal apps, but that’s not enough.
The problem is none of that means anything to users who have been looking for a reason to cling on to the mobile platform. Yes, Windows is great on my laptop or desktop, and even on my Xbox, but to be honest it pretty much sucks on my phone right now. To make things worse rather than leave a tantalizing comment about some exciting new Windows mobile features, Terry Myerson admitted that Windows 10 Mobile is not the focus right now, and that innovations would come to it later on as “it’s the wrong place for us to lead”.
“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,” explains Myerson. “There’s no lack of recognition to realize how important that form factor is, but for Microsoft with Windows and for our platform it’s the wrong place for us to lead.”
I pushed Myerson on his focus for Windows growth, and he was refreshingly honest about Microsoft’s own mobile share. “If you wanted to reach a lot of phone customers, Windows Phone isn’t the way to do it,” admits Myerson. “If you want to reach a lot of Windows customers, then this is the largest install base of 9 to 30-inch screens. If you wanted to do new and exciting things, then the Xbox and HoloLens is the place to have a discussion.”
If Microsoft think they can take a break from Windows Phone, then pick up where they left off, then sadly they are very mistaken. Die-hard users already went through one “break” when we waited over a year (from the Lumia 1520 in October 2014 to the Lumia 950 in November 2015) for a flagship device, only to receive a half-baked OS on a very “safe” excuse for a flagship. As it is the Windows Mobile platform barely survived that drought of new devices/features, carried along only by weak stop-gap devices; but to completely put the mobile division “on hold” will only serve to kill off what remains of your loyal fans.
Rather than noticing that something is wrong with the mobile platform, Microsoft choose to ignore the problem for now, thinking they can delay it inevitably. At this rate the only thing that is inevitable is your loyal fans abandoning you for greening pastures, ones that are watered occasionally.
Microsoft not focusing on phones this year, is like that guy at the gym who never does leg day, because his legs are weak. #BicepsEveryday
— Ali Al-Qudsi (@AliQudsi) March 30, 2016
Even if Microsoft claim to be “fully committed to that 4-inch screen”, that commitment means nothing if all users get are empty promises and broken vows. The Windows Phone shares are dropping, any momentum Nokia and Microsoft built with Windows Phone 8/8.1 and the fantastic range of Lumias such as the Lumia 1020 or 930 has all but vanished; and it looks like we’re headed into a second ice-age. Except this time loyal fans have been burnt one too many times, from the Windows Phone 7 upgrade fiasco, to a painstakingly long WP 8.1 upgrade process, and broken promises of Windows 10 Mobile available to all, (let’s not forget Windows RT either, as much as Microsoft would like you to). At some point even the most loyal of users will move on (I already have).
The truth is the longer Microsoft focus on Xbox or Skype or Holo-lens or whatever new project is more important than mobile users, the more ground they have to catch-up; and at this point it looks like they never will. Before I was always waiting for the next big thing from Microsoft to seduce me back to the platform, now I can barely be bothered to watch the Build conference, because it feels like I (and so many more Twitter, Reddit and other platforms) care about the future of Windows 10 Mobile than Microsoft themselves, and that’s just not healthy.