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Windows Phone Looks Doomed: Does this Mean Trouble for Windows 10?
Josh Greenbaum
DEC 10, 2014 09:34 AM
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I think it’s pretty fair to say that counting Microsoft out in a market it has made a commitment to is a classic rookie mistake that serves as the epitaph for too many forgotten companies. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again is a time-honored mantra in Redmond. And it’s pretty evident that Windows Phone is one of those areas where Microsoft has made big commitments – including but hardly limited to its $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia’s phone business – and where the company is on the record as committed to try try again.

But I think it’s time to call Windows Phone for what it is, a failed experiment, at least in the US market, that will have huge repercussions across the company. And the biggest impact may be on Windows 10 and one of its main selling points: a single platform that spans mobile, desktop, server, and cloud. Without a strong mobile phone offering from Microsoft, it may be hard for Windows 10 to take advantage of one of its strongest competitive advantages against Apple’s and Google’s platform dreams. 

The death of Windows Phone won’t necessarily dent demand for Windows 10 on the desktop, but maintaining market share in PCs isn’t what the Windows 10 offering is all about. It’s a platform play, one that Microsoft hopes will help make up for the fact that monopolizing the PC market isn’t going to cut it anymore. Indeed, Satya Nadella and company have to grab a much bigger prize:  Microsoft needs the next generation apps that span mobile, desktop, server and cloud to run on Windows 10, or the company’s dreams of future glory will evaporate – which, unfortunately, is what the Windows Phone market is doing as we speak.

This is, ironically, a failure that isn’t about technology or user experience – Windows Phone meets or exceeds the current competition in both categories, and its technological prospects as a key mobile device in the Windows 10 strategy are undeniable. (And I say this as a current, but soon to be former, Windows Phone user who genuinely likes the phone and thinks many aspects of its usability are far better, or at least theoretically far better, than iPhone and Android.)

But, technology and user experience can only take you so far. If Windows Phone has lost the carrier and user acceptance battle to IOS and Android, and I think it definitively has, then the Windows Phone saga is another rare, cautionary tale about how many second chances even Microsoft can get before it’s time to pack it in and call it a day. 

So how dead is Windows Phone in the US? Let me count the ways.

Perhaps the most damning factor against Windows Phone comes from the #1 US carrier, Verizon, which as far as I can tell, is largely exiting the Windows Phone market. The evidence is pretty compelling: Verizon has basically stalled any plans for updating its Windows Phones, including my year-old Nokia 928, and while there are four Windows phones for sale on its website,  only one is offered with the latest operating system, Windows Phone 8.1, and its very compelling and competitive voice system, Cortana. (Ed Bott of ZDNet takes aim at Verizon as well for its unsupport of Windows Phone.).

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