Dead? What’s Next for the Windows Phone Fan

Posted on February 2, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Windows Phones with 0 Comments

Dead? What's Next for the Windows Phone Fan

I’ve been preaching common sense and honesty in all things tech for years, but when something you love comes under fire, you tend to take things a bit more personally. Buck up, Windows phone fans. For now at least, you can of course continue using your favorite smart phone, while Microsoft figures out what to do next in mobile. Or you can simply move on.

To be clear, Windows phone is dead. Or, more aptly, Windows phone is a zombie, the walking dead: As I’ve been noting since last July when Microsoft capitulated the smart phone market to Android and iPhone, the money-losing and unpopular Windows phone is being is being kept in the market only artificially, and with vastly reduced resources, so that Microsoft can figure out what to do next. (And this is not semantics. If Microsoft didn’t have near limitless financial resources and many successful products, Windows phone would have been put out to pasture long ago.)

So what’s next? I’d like to discuss that, briefly, today.

Briefly, because I already laid out the reality of Windows phone, circa early 2016, in The Long, Slow Decline of Windows Phone. Briefly, because far too many of you take my approach to this platform as some form of negativity, when it is in fact just logical and honest, and I’m really not here to hurt anyone’s feelings. (Or be the target of your angst.) And briefly, because unlike some other Windows phone fans with a blog, I’m honest enough to let you know when we simply don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. None of us do. Even Microsoft’s senior leadership, right now, is probably undecided on this matter.

All that said, broad strokes, there are two major things that could happen to Windows phone in 2016.

The least likely, but still possible, outcome is that Microsoft formally announces its retreat from the smart phone market and shutters Lumia and all in-house phone development permanently; in this outcome, the software giant would of course still keep developing the Mobile version of Windows 10 because other companies may wish to make phones and small tablets based on this platform, and/or on ARM. Windows 10 still moves forward, and on many, many devices types.

The more probable outcome, however, is that Microsoft says nothing and then continues to take steps, as it has done since last July, that sometimes confound and confuse its biggest fans (who still believe that just making one change here or one change here will turn things around). That is, Microsoft simply continues down the same path that it laid out last July, keeps Windows phones in market artificially, works to keep minimizing its direct phone losses, and waits—and plots—for the next big thing in mobile. Windows 10 still moves forward, and on many, many devices types. Including phones from Microsoft. Sometimes.

As I’ve written before, that next big thing in mobile is not Continuum, even with x86 phones, and it is most certainly not Surface phone. Without a reasonable app ecosystem, Windows phone is as pointless this year and next as it was over the past 5 or 6 years. That won’t change unless there is a miracle of universal app adoption with developers that I believe Microsoft already knows is never coming. So while Android and iOS surge forward with mobile payments, virtual reality, huge app and content ecosystems, and more, Windows phone will just limp along, with minor, years-to-late victories of a sort. At best.

So what does this mean to you?

If you’re a Windows phone fan who doesn’t want to leave the platform anytime soon, nothing changes for now. Microsoft is keeping Lumia, and the broader platform, in the market, artificially … for you. Rather than get defensive about Microsoft’s strategy, or about the people relaying it to you, maybe we could all simply be appreciative, as there is no good business reason for Microsoft to continue down this path.

If you’re on the fence, and are looking at the alternatives—Android and iPhone—then you do have a choice to make. Choosing a smart phone is a personal decision, but as I noted in my recent “Android for the Windows guy” and “iPhone for the Windows guy” posts, Microsoft is strong on those platforms and things are getting better all the time.

Either way, I’m here for you. I’ll continue producing content for all camps—Windows phone/Windows 10 Mobile, and Microsoft apps on Android and iPhone—all year long. I’ll try to answer your questions, and I’ll pose questions of my own. This is a transition that impacts us all, no matter which way it shakes out.