Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

I’ve been a Windows Mobile guy since 1990-blah-blah-blah. I started using Microsoft mobile devices back in 1997 or so with the Casio Cassiopeia E-10/E-11 and haven’t looked back. I became a big WindowsCE and PocketPC guy and helped at least three or four sites get off the ground as either a guest reviewer or as a regular contributor. At least two of those sites are still around today (The Gadgeteer and pocketnow. I got into customizing extended ROM’s and into working with custom distributions of PocketPC and Windows Mobile builds. I was nominated as a Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP twice (that I know of) but came just shy of actually receiving the award (program politics…). Microsoft mobile devices and I have a pretty well defined history.

So, you have to believe me when I say this – and it kills me to actually vocalize it and write it down – I’d be very surprised if Windows Phone lived much beyond 2017. In fact, I really think its gonna die and disappear entirely before 2018.

The reasons for this are four fold

1. Ballmer Does Play into this
Whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone that was a fan of the original Windows Mobile, Ballmer NEVER understood mobile computing and his ouster from the company can be traced to the fact that he NEVER got behind it.

EVER.

Windows Mobile should have taken over the mobile market place when both Apple and Google adopted Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) as the synch engine for both iOS and Android respectively. It should have swung for the fence at that point, knowing that during that time (roughly late 2007 to late 2009) it controlled MDM (mobile device management) for three of the four major mobile platforms on the market (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile)

Ballmer never stepped on the gas or green lighted any kind of mobile acceleration, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile died. At that time, Windows Mobile 6.5.x was out in beta and as such, never saw the light of day. Microsoft killed it, back peddled, and instead released Windows Phone 7 in response to the iPhone.

2. Windows Phone Development History (both OS and Apps)
Windows Phone has a huge history of – pardon my language… – screwing over its developer partners. Windows Phone 7 wasn’t compatible with any version of Windows Mobile and developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch. Windows Phone wasn’t compatible with Windows Phone 7 and again, developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch.

Developers entered a wait and see mode on submitting new and recreated apps to the Windows Phone Store Many of the new devices at the time weren’t very popular and the new OS wasn’t attracting new users over other devices like the iPhone or the Droid and Droid X. Developing for Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 also wasn’t as easy as it was to develop for iOS or Android; and the user bases there were better established.

At this time, Microsoft also didn’t enter any kind of marketing push to really try to compete with the iPhone or with Android (partially due to Ballmer not getting it, partially due to their own arrogance in thinking that Apple and Google would always use EAS to power their mail servers and mobile apps). Because they didn’t push their advantage appropriately and because both Apple and Google ended up dropping any and ALL support for EAS, they lost their strategic position on the backend of things.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 never took off with developers because they didn’t want to have to spend all of the time, money and resources to win their users back, who had, with them, moved on to other platforms.

The thought and hope with Windows 10 Mobile is that because of the architecture of Windows 10 Universal Apps, you develop once, and can have a single app on phones, tablets and desktop. That however, still has to be proven out, and I don’t know how willing many mobile developers are to give Microsoft a third try on a mobile platform that still doesn’t have any (real) users to speak of.

Speaking of which…

3. Low Market Share is still Declining
This is pathetic. According to the IDC, Windows Phone has a worldwide market share of only about 3%. iOS has about 14% global share and Android dominates the market with about 83%. Everyone I know of, including some major Windows industry pundits, say that’s a hole that Microsoft just isn’t going to be able to crawl out of. At best, Microsoft should be happy to hit 5% and hold that. If they can ever get it that high or that far…

Compounding the problem, Microsoft recently wrote down their entire Nokia acquisition, declaring all of the assets they actually retained, effectively worthless.

Microsoft also hasn’t released a flagship class Windows Phone since late 2013. Yes, they are supposed to have two others announced on 2015-10-06, currently code named Talk Man and City Man; but there are further considerations. For example, when will they release flagships AFTER that?

I don’t think they will.

Life is breathed into a platform by the hype and excitement generated by the best of the best. Both Apple and most of Google’s major hardware partners are releasing flagship class devices at least on an annual basis, with many Android hardware partners staggering and coordinating their flagship releases so that new devices are announced and released every 4-6 months.

Microsoft and Windows Phone doesn’t have that. The one major hardware partner that Microsoft DOES have – HTC – recently had their stock declared worthless, and they also haven’t released an M9 version of the HTC One for Windows Phone. I’d be very surprised if they did, too.

Microsoft has spent their engineering efforts introducing either low end or mid-range devices and has, unfortunately, saturated the market with them. The devices they do have are virtually indistinguishable from one another and no one knows why they should pick one over another, let a one over an Android devices that has a huge developer and accessory support base.

So… Microsoft doesn’t have the market share, and they don’t have the hardware releases to support a growth in market share. Worldwide, Microsoft seems to be fighting a losing battle.

4. Windows 10 Mobile Build Issues
Oh my Lord, what a train wreck this has been. This is almost as bad as the old Keystone Cops silent movie skits back in the day (and nearly just as pathetic…). Sorry, Gabe Aul… it just is, especially from the outside.

I’ve been a Windows Insider since the program was originally announced in October 2014, AND I’ve been active too. I submit feedback as often and as consistently as I can, on nearly every PC build I install on the Fast Ring. It can be a very labor intensive activity, but as software quality professional, I know I can give them the detailed information they want and need.

I also went and purchased a Windows Phone in anticipation of testing Windows 10 Mobile builds. I bought a BLU (Bold Like Us) Win HD LTE. it’s a very affordable, unlocked, upper mid-range dual SIM device that supports US carriers. However, there are issues here with this Windows Phone and Windows 10.

First and foremost, Windows 10 isn’t supported on it yet; and this is a HUGE problem.

Microsoft is only supporting their own Lumia devices and the HTC One M8 so far with Windows 10 Mobile Beta Builds.

Can someone – anyone really… I’d accept a logical explanation from anyone at this point – please explain to me WHY Microsoft isn’t supporting beta builds for any and ALL Windows 10 Mobile devices right now. With its release looming in the two and a half months left in 2015, you would think that Microsoft would be pushing this thing out to any and ALL devices on their platform… but they aren’t.

Worse yet, Gabe Aul (again… sorry for calling you out, Gabe) won’t answer any of my tweets questioning when other devices will support Insider Builds on either the Fast or Slow Rings. I also can’t get him to answer WHY other devices aren’t supported, either.

Worse than that, what the public has been able to see of the release and internal testing cycles for Windows 10 Mobile are effectively a huge cluster-bump. Earlier this week (the week of 2015-09-14) I got a notification from my Windows Phone that a Windows 10 update was available for it.

WP-01

I got very excited. I even waited a few days and didn’t actually attempt to download or install the update until I had some time to spend paying attention to the update, the update process, and how things transitioned from one Mobile OS to the other.

WP-02

After it downloaded, I did an internet search to see if anyone had experienced any problems. When I couldn’t find anything, I pulled the trigger.

WP-03

The device restarted and I got the spinning gears screen. However, thankfully, as it turns out, the OS did not install. I got an error message from my device after about 20 minutes into the flash that the OS couldn’t be installed on my device. The screen flashed, and then it restarted on its own.

The next day, I saw on Neowin that a number of different devices got the same notice that I got and that it was a mistake, and Microsoft would need to push out an update to fix those devices that were now unstable and functioning inappropriately.

if you could physically see me as I’m writing this, you’d see that I’m shaking my head.

What the hell??

This isn’t the first time that this kind of problem has happened with the Windows 10 Insider program. If you remember, a similar problem happened on the desktop OS where users were seeing updates they weren’t supposed to see and couldn’t download or could partially download and the download would fail. MS had to shoot out an update to fix that.

Then there was an issue where some users installed an update that prevented them from seeing updates they were supposed to see. Microsoft had to shoot out an update to fix that. It’s clear that Microsoft is having a number of technical issues with their release management process. In appropriate updates are going out and needed updates are not.

Then, there’s an issue with build quality in Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the Fast Ring Builds are totally unusable, or have major flaws that make using the OS on a supported device very difficult. I only remember one build being released to Slow Ring Insiders a number of months ago. The testing process MS has in place for Mobile is the same that it has for Desktop – if a build passes specific testing miles stones on both their internal Fast and Slow Rings, then it is released to the Insider Fast Ring. If it passes testing mile stones there, its released to the Insider Slow Ring.

Not much is getting past the Insider Fast Ring. Windows 10 Mobile has the same (if not worse) instability problems that Windows 10 for desktop is currently rumored to be having.

This clearly doesn’t look good for Windows Mobile. It has a history of little to no internal support from either Management or Marketing. The Windows Phone development community doesn’t like it, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling software for it. The platform itself is having issues getting users to jump on and its market share has steadily declined over the past 2 – 3 years. Finally, it’s got release management and build quality issues.

When you look at all of this, you have to ask yourself – Why is Microsoft continuing to do this to themselves AND to their users? It isn’t reasonable to think that Microsoft is going to be able to generate enough market share to continue support for the platform. When you couple that with the cluster-bump that has been their release and QA processes for Mobile (and Desktop) over the past few months, you’re left with one REALLY huge question:

Why is Microsoft, one of the biggest and best software companies in the WORLD, having trouble getting this right? I have the answer to that (it’s a methodology and process problem…you can’t cut corners) but I don’t have the time nor space to go into that. I’d lose most everyone in the problem to TLDR (too long, didn’t read). So, I’ll have to save that for another time.

BUT..!

What do you think of this? Is Windows 10 Mobile going to make it? Will it be worth the wait? Will it provide any value to anyone in the mobile market? Will it live beyond 2018 or have all of the issues I’ve outlined bring about its demise (sooner rather than later…)??

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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