Well then. An internal Microsoft email uncovered by Geekwire is causing a stir with Microsoft enthusiasts today, and not because of what it says but rather what it implies. Is the software giant getting ready to kill off Windows Phone? Or are the “tough choices” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentions related to other products or services?
Right now, we can only guess. And since Windows 10 Mobile—the system that will run on Windows Phones going forward—is heading towards a new, more active phase of development, I think it’s fair to say that guessing will be all we can do for some time to come. But I hear your concerns, and I echo them when it comes to Windows Phone. It’s hard to read the relevant parts of this memo and not believe Mr. Nadella is ready to throw in the towel.
Before we get to that bit, a quick recap.
You can read the entire memo on Geekwire. Long story short, Mr. Nadella has written the troops and outlined that he expects more change in the coming year. (Microsoft’s fiscal year starts July 1, which explains the timing.)
He also provides Microsoft’s newest mission statement: “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” This is of course vague, but it also speaks to that productivity theme that has underlined all of Nadella’s vision/strategy communications since becoming CEO.
With regards to mobile, there are hints all over this memo. He writes that Microsoft must “always ground our mission in the world in which we live … Today, we live in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, and the transformation we are driving across our businesses is designed to enable Microsoft and our customers to thrive in this world.” The mobile part of that world is today dominated by Android and iOS, of course, and not Windows.
Looking more closely at the few times he specifically mentions Windows devices—he never writes the words “Windows 10 Mobile” or “Windows Phone”—he does provide some hope for those who have really fallen for Microsoft devices like Lumia and Surface. “Our Windows device platform and our devices … will [be] the best instantiation of this vision,” he notes. But he also throws some cold water on any hope that Microsoft will continue to flog failing hardware platforms by explaining that Microsoft needs “a culture founded in a growth mindset,” where it can “move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing failure happens along the way to mastery. And we need to be open to the ideas of others, where the success of others does not diminish our own.”
So what does he say specifically about Windows 10?
“We have approached Windows 10 with a growth mindset and obsession for our customers,” he writes. “We have the opportunity to connect with 1.5 billion Windows customers in 190 countries around the globe. We aspire to move people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows. … Certainly we want to upgrade as many of our current Windows 7 and 8.1 customers to Windows 10 as possible through our free upgrade offer. More than that, though, we see this as an opportunity to support and celebrate how people and communities upgrade their world every day.”
Lots of talk about “growth” in there. And about cutting losses where there is no growth.
Consider this bit from the conclusion:
“We are in an incredible position to seize new growth this year,” Nadella writes. “We will need to innovate in new areas, execute against our plans, make some tough choices in areas where things are not working and solve hard problems in ways that drive customer value.”
Tough choices. Where things are not working.
Again, it’s hard to not to think “Windows Phone” when I read that. Some have suggested Surface might be part of that thought as well, but I’m not as sure about that, and feel that Surface still has an important role to play. And besides, Surface is just a tiny portion of a huge market. Microsoft’s Lumia devices are huge portion (statistically almost the only portion) of a tiny market, one that is going nowhere fast.
I hope he wasn’t referring to Windows Phone. But it’s hard to believe that’s not the message here.