Historically readers of blogs or websites from outside the USA have looked a US based tech journalism and realised there was little global perspective. Personally I think this is a general problem in the USA.
One particular problem is Microsoft. Most of its products are either specifically locked in to the US market, have US only features, dribble out slowly internationally or require non-US users to select inappropriate regional settings to get things to work.
Cortana is a great example of a US centric AI that knows less and less when you leave the USA.
What would help would be stories tagged for readers. Tags could be.
USOnly - not globally available
Limited Globally - essentially only the US but some availability elsewhere
Key markets - available in most markets that Microsoft release to
Global - available everywhere
I suspect "global" will be the least used but tagging would help non-US readers.
I am regularly struck by the paucity of Microsoft in their communication. It almost requires a translation into English. They last year a blog telling us about their "partnership" with Spotify was really about closing down Groove.
What does this communication technique tell us about the focus on AI versus actual things that are happening.
Cortana, for example, is only really on the PC. For most users it's just a search box. In the USA Cortana has a wide range of features and there is even the Invoke speaker. For some countries, like the UK, there is a limited Cortana service and for most of the rest of the world it's not supported.
The end of Groove means Cortana can't even listen and identify music any more. So its less functional. Microsoft used to say that Gmail meant you had been "Scroogled" so has the consumer been "Grooved"?
If the big bet is on AI then why doesn't it work in most places? Why is it getting less functional or at best barely usable.
Microsoft is partnering with Amazon and their Alexa assistant. Alexa is globally available and attached to many consumer products provided by Amazon. It has had a year to perfect the smart speaker market and now has huge developer support in skills.
I don't think it's too far of a stretch to see Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 S eventually having Alexa as the default assistant with Cortana relegated to being a business AI powering Office 365. Amazon would get access to consumer desktop operating systems to sell music, tv, prime membership and the like. Microsoft could then concentrate on their core enterprise market.
AI might be a Microsoft priority but Cortana for consumer may be dead shortly.
I work in a Microsoft-centric Enterprise. The whole thing, server, services and cloud. This being Europe a couple of colleagues have old aging Windowsphones and will be moving to Android shortly because they can't buy a new flagship model.
It is a pretty well informed office too. Daily news circulations of the latest patches, updates to server, Office 365 and the like.
So in what the Americans call a "water cooler moment" I was mentioning the end of the Microsoft music service over Christmas. My own history is that I was a subscriber and waited for a family plan to include my wife and nephew but it never came. So I moved to Spotify a couple of years ago. Back to the office. The almost universal reaction was people were totally unaware Microsoft had a music service. You need to remember that Zune devices were "US Only" and Zune was barely mentioned globally. Xbox Music was only released as an app on Windows 8. So the Windows 7 enterprise never saw it.
One colleague did mention Microsoft's music service but added that he couldn't use it because it was for the Xbox and he had a PS4.
All my colleagues have Spotify subscriptions. Mainly because they buy a family plan so their kids are covered.
I didn't have to go far to find out why Groove closed.
I am in the UK and, like the rest of the world, Windowsphone was rarely promoted in retail and you struggled to buy one, I owned several models.
In Britain the Windowsphone market had reached 14%, just slightly behind the iPhone (19%), and the Lumia 1020 was released. The distinctive camera and colour meant people asked me about it. Two people in my office bought one based on the pictures I showed to them. Even salesmen in retail stores had heard of the Lumia 1020. I had the yellow model of course - just so it stood out.
I took the Lumia 1020 on holiday to San Francisco. In the UK there were no Microsoft Retail stores. So I stopped into browse the Windowsphones. There were a few low end devices in a small corner of the store with no promotion. As I was looking a sales guy approached me and I said I was expecting a couple of top class devices on display. He said they hadn't had anything like that for months and mostly it was like the sad group of budget phones in front of me. I did pull out out my Nokia Lumia 1020 to show him what I meant. He said he had heard about great phones in Europe but this was the US and they didn't get that stuff here.
So I had a cool Windowsphone for a while and, by accident, discovered why US market share was 3% at the time.
At the weekend I decided to buy a TV Series. I watched all but one on Netflix but I wanted to binge watch. I took out my (Android) smartphone and used the Google Play Store to buy a series. Later I used the phone to send the series to my TV via Chromecast.
After this I reflected. Three years ago I would have rented video using my Windowsphone and watched it via an Xbox.
Today I use Spotify for my music instead of Xbox Music, primarily because Spotify has a family plan.
My work is all in the Microsoft environment but as a consumer I have an Amazon Echo and my entertainment choices, except for gaming, have moved decisively outside the Microsoft ecosystem.
My wife has a Lumia 950 and pretty soon she will probably want to upgrade he phone. She will probably find it easier at that point to go Google. Going Google is a frictionless processs.
When Microsoft abandoned the first party smartphone market it also headed dramatically towards losing the ecosystem war. They have an app for everything but customers are being nudged towards Google and Apple solutions.
Ecosystems matter, For consumers it seems Microsoft doesn't have one.
Microsoft had a payment platform on Windowsphone 8.x which they announced in 2012. It required the carriers to provide a special secure SIM, that almost no one provided, and buy in from banks.
Fortunately the Nokia devices that were the centre of the Windowsphone eco-system all had NFC and were payment ready.
This was all called Wallet. Apple didn't even have NFC in their phones.
In Europe, which had "chip and pin" technology since 2003 and where Nokia devices were in double digit sales the retail stores were moving to "tap and pay" pretty quickly. The Olympics in London during 2012 were showcasing at least one British bank's technology by having NFC payments enabled.
Microsoft introduce "tap and pay" in 2016 in the US Only, only on Lumia 950 and 950XL phones, only on limited banks, following Google and Apple that had already launched globally.
Now they have cleverly renamed their "Microsoft Wallet" as "Microsoft Pay". You might think this could be a mobile payment technology launch globally perhaps. Although since Windowsphone is now dead that's probably not the case.
What it seems to be is a sort of Edge browser plugin that uses the recently established web api for making payments. Basically a desktop web helper to store your credit card numbers using a browser with a small share of the market.
I welcome it but Microsoft seem to spend an inordinate amount of time renaming things in a confusing way. Most people in the social media thought "at last mobile payments coming to WIndowsphone outside the USA.
No. Its something to store your credit card in Edge - just like that Windows 98 thing that stored your credit cards for IE but with an internet standard attached.
Most Windowsphone users have been realistic. They know that Microsoft has lost interest but whenever they put to Microsoft representatives the question of what they are doing about WIndowsphone they have got vague answers of little substance.
Microsoft say they will "support" Windowsphone when they out it into maintenance mode. They talk about mobile "experiences" across devices. They are never seen with a Windowsphone device.
Lack of clarity was frustrating for people.
However this weekend Joe Belfiore, recently quoted as using a Samsung S8 "Microsoft Edition", came out and said it in a tweet;
"Of course we'll continue to support the platform.. bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw aren't the focus."
" As an individual end-user, I switched platforms for the app/hw diversity. We will support those users too! Choose what's best 4 u."
"We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs. Paid money.. wrote apps 4 them.. but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest. "
Back in 2016 Terry Myerson said phone was not the focus. This was taken to mean in 2016 but it meant that was it.
Personally I think this is first straightforward answer we have seen.
However without mobile there seems little point in UWP and Cortana because these technologies are only relevant on a personal device like phone. UWP has limited use as a driver to the store but overall it is really PC only for most things. Cortana on PC is fine but where you really want it is on mobile. Mostly Android phones will use Google Assistant.
The investment in mobile, in my view, was never just about mobile but rather it was the place other technologies are going to live for a while. Mobile is the personal computer. AI and mixed reality are on mobile first.
So well done Joe. You have finally said what Microsoft should have said a year ago and are closing the door on consumer computing with the exception of the Xbox.
Microsoft got rid of Windowsphone to ride the next wave. To jump ahead of the competition. One such wave was AR with Hololens and Windows Mixed Reality.
However the competition, Apple and Google, are entering the wave without any real new hardware. Instead they are leveraging the device people already have – the mobile phone.
Both companies seem to think consumers will use AR via the mobile phone acting as the lens and the interface. Hololens could remain stubbornly tied to the enterprise and maybe gamers. That need not be a bad thing for profit. However it could be that Microsoft ends up being locked out of consumer applications for AR by not having a viable mobile platform.
Moreover if the world is going mobile as the primary personal computing device the pre-requisite for the “next big thing” could be a viable mobile platform.
Microsoft may not care if consumer devices for mobile are not made by them if they run enterprise cloud services. I am not sure if Microsoft can find the next big thing for consumers now they are out of mobile.
As a Windowsphone fan I still have my Lumia 950 in a drawer but my daily driver is currently a Galaxy S6. I would love to use the Lumia but it is now so app free that I would struggle to use it for what I need.
I still take it out, update it, and wish it was more useful. However I recognise a dead platform.
Microsoft doesn't. It is in constant tease mode. They say we are not finished with mobile yet. We haven't abandoned mobile. We want to provide mobile experiences.
It's double talk. If you want to buy a Lumia today then ebay is your best bet not Microsoft. They have killed the entire consumer ecosystem and as markets where they used to have more than 10% share have no stock of new product they are reducing. Users are moving and for all practical purposes a Microsoft mobile is an Android phone with apps.
Yet there is tease from Microsoft. Microsoft need to take their first party devices off death row and just kill them formally. Just announce Microsoft making first party devices is over. Just say the "feature2" branch will fix a new bug or two but the only "feature" will be to change the date in the copyright message.
Put the last consumers out of their misery. Stop them interpreting every time the word "mobile" is mentioned as some kind of hope. Help these people have closure. They deserve at least a good bye Windowsphone party.
Part of selling a product, any product, is trust in the product. At a most basic level that something will do what it says it will do.
On a wider scale brands are valued and charge a premium because of trust. Trust that a product or service will be supported and will continue over a period. Of course there is “end of life” when new products replace it and occasionally a product that just wont sell and makes no sense in continuing. Customers understand that. However the brand trust will get over that.
Suppose now Microsoft comes out with a SurfacePhone. Who now trusts Microsoft with first party mobile devices? They spent $7.2 billion dollars on a first party mobile brand and ditched it. They have rebooted their mobile operating system 3 times since 2010. They have changed their development strategy to UWP which no one uses. They have an app free mobile platform with little to think it changes.
You can even buy your Samsung Galaxy S8 from Microsoft Retail Stores.
If the SurfacePhone is launched at $500, $600 or more then what consumer doesn’t look at that price point and think about spending their money. How does a consumer trust that Microsoft is really interested in Windows on Mobile. So far the evidence is that Microsoft are totally dis-interested. They would like a successful mobile product but in the vast size of Microsoft businesses it's just another thing.
I really dont know the answer to this but it seems to me that Google Maps are the one to beat. It seems to have been like that for years.
So does anyone know why Microsoft's Bing Maps is so far behind the experience of Google Maps?
Earlier this month I changed banks to TSB in the UK. For a number of years it had a reasonable Windows 10 Mobile app which, although it was a wrapper for the website, actually worked pretty well when I tested it a few months ago.
The day I changed I discovered that TSB had dropped Windows 10 Mobile that very week and only Android/IOS was left.
Now Barclays, one of Britain's largest banks, is dropping Windows 10 Mobile support.
Pretty much the only banks left are RBS / NatWest. To be fair they seem to be actively supporting Windows 10 Mobile.
This was a marketin the UK that had 10% sales until the Nadella "memo of Windowsphone death". Now it's heading for the fractions of 1% like the US market. Completely unsustainable.
Cortana is a geographically challenged AI. She may help the Master Chief off-world but here on Earth she does weird stuff.
I am in the UK. This means Cortana is officially available on Windowsphone and PC. She is not officially available on Android. To use Cortana you need to grab the apk and sideload it.
If you do sideload the Cortana apk she is American. She recognises only the US regional settings, tells you about US sports and provides US headlines.
The reality of Cortana's geographical issues was brought home to me this week.I had ordered some items from the US and the US postal service was sending them to the UK. I was invited by the website to check them and I put the parcel number into Cortana. In the US Cortana apparently tracks parcels. Not in the UK. It sent me to the US Postal Service website. Disappointing I wouldn't be getting alerts on the Lumia 950.
I also was changing bank accounts. The bank wanted me to activate the account via a mobile app. To be fair there were alternatives but this would be the quickest. However no mobile app for Windowsphone. So I swapped my sim into the Android device and was good. Curiously Cortana alerted me to my parcel and said it was tracking it.
I quickly checked and realised that although Cortana didn't track parcels on my UK Windowsphone or my UK PC the sideloaded Cortana for Android, using the US region, was tracking it. The data had obviously been absorbed in my earlier search but was not working in the UK.
Really Microsoft! Cortana for Android is not global yet and just switch parcel tracking on because sometimes we do order stuff from the US!
Cortana, artificially more intelligent in some markets, needs to go global.
According to this recent article if your phone is not IOS or Android is part of a 0.3% market share.
This is not Windowsphone. This is Microsoft, Blackberry and everyone else who makes a phone that hasn't got Android or IOS on it. Theoretically Microsoft share of 0.3% could be 0.00001%.
Of course Windows 10 Mobile is just a compiler option on Windows 10 builds with some different libraries. Most serious writers about Microsoft have called time on it's mobile platform, Microsoft employees dont use it, Microsoft executives dont use it, most retailers dont stock it, many carriers can't remember ever selling it.
Microsoft execs never really talk about phone. They vaguely mutter something about "supporting Lumia" or "mobile devices" or "mobile experiences".
Full disclosure. I use a Lumia 950 everyday but I am resigned to an almost app free experience. There is some stuff there; a news feed, twitter, facebook and spotify. It's not great. People have spent money and are having a second class mobile experience by staying in the Microsoft ecosystem.
Microsoft need to put this thing down. It's wounded. There has been nothing released by them in a year. OEMs are thin on the ground and gaining a huge market share of Windows 10 Mobile wont add up to 1% of the mobile market.
Microsoft should treat it's customers like adults. No doublespeak. The mobile game is done. Kill the platform and move on.
One of the videos I think tells us a lot about change at Microsoft and their mobile strategy is this little digital life video;
Microsoft products are everywhere in this vision. Instant Messaging, phone, maps and location, music, directions etc etc.
The vision was not imaginary because these were working consumer facing products.
As you watch this old looking world you have sense that each product is now done by Apple and Google in an integrated ecosystem whereas Microsoft managed to evolve every item in the list to something that doesn't work as an ecosystem.
Microsoft clearly had a vision of mobile and ecosystems blending together and then made a total mess of all of them.
There is a lot of hype about Cortana in the Microsoft world, it's AI and capabilities.
I wonder how much Cortana is really used on the PC and whether the "Cortana search" is just people typing in the box as a convenience.
I am also in the UK and for many of us outside the USA Cortana features just dont exist. Cortana has never noticed an email from British Airways about my holidays. It hasn't got a clue about railway journeys in the UK, when Yodel or DPD are going to deliver a parcel, or even my local buses that it consistently gets wrong.
It also has problems about timing my trip to work because I dont have a car. Even if I did traffic conditions are an unknown quantity. There is much more but fundamentally it is not a lot of use.
Where these features are most useful are in mobile. Getting to the right place with map integration etc. However Windows 10 Mobile is not the most popular platform and in the Uk it suffers from mapping inaccuracy and poor knowledge of the locality. That's really strange because "Local Scout", the old Windowsphone "local" solution was pretty good.
Of course Cortana can't show me electronically stored tickets because it has no apps or knowledge of the local transit. That seems to be changing in the maps app but many times it's just wrong. When I am mobile it cant pop up flght delays because it can't process airline ticket stuff in Europe it seems. I have read up on this and apparently the email sent by the airline has to be in specific format. Well that's not going to happen soon because business jsut doesn't help like that. You have to develop some kind of AI recognition - a little like the skill Cortana is supposed to have.
if you have to use an Android phone for a while then Cortana disappears. Outside the USA Cortana is not even in the Play Store. You are forced to using Google Now which seems to work very well here in the UK. You can sideload Cortana manually here in Britain on your Android devicebut it only accepts US regional settings so it's less useful than the Windowsphone version.
Google just re-branded to the Google Assistant and with the non-existance of a Microsoft mobile device strategy the direction of travel is people using Google Now or Siri as their primary AI bot assistant.
Cortana had great potential when launched but all the other platforms have matured much faster than the Master Chief's AI. Microsoft are showing no real move to making Cortana's existing features to work well globally and keep adding US only features. It's a sure receipe for parochial AI. A sort of "Truman Show" AI that works great inside a limited bubble.