Why Microsoft Is Finally Pulling the Plug on Windows Mobile

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Why Microsoft Is Finally Pulling the Plug on Windows Mobile

After years of marketing and development effort, Microsoft is finally giving up on the mobile version of Windows. Joe Belfiore, who leads Microsoft's Windows 10 team, confirmed in a tweet Oct. 8 that Microsoft was not going to pursue future development of Windows 10 Mobile. Rather than compete with Apple and Google in the mobile operating system market, Microsoft will focus its efforts on other areas that the company believes will help it generate more revenue. Microsoft’s long-delayed decision wasn’t all that surprising. Windows Mobile, with its history dating back to 2000, was hobbled from the start and never really had a chance in competing against iOS or Android. But could it have gone another way? Read on to learn why Microsoft is discontinuing Windows 10 Mobile.

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Microsoft Was Late to the Mobile Dance

Microsoft's efforts to develop a mobile operating system dates back to 2000. Windows Mobile was fairly popular as the OS for Microsoft's Pocket PCs and other mobile phones. But then came Apple’s iPhone and iOS, and Google introduced Android. Microsoft redoubled its development efforts, but Windows Mobile was hobbled by delays. By the time Windows 10 Mobile was introduced, Microsoft was too far behind to catch up.

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Microsoft Couldn't Overcome the Popularity of iOS and Android

Competing against Apple and Google in any industry can be challenging. Trying to unseat the companies as the mobile market leaders can be even more difficult, as Microsoft discovered in its mobile strategy. The popularity of iOS and Android made it impossible for Windows Mobile to gain significant market share. 

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The Windows Everywhere Strategy Failed

Microsoft reasoned that consumers and enterprises would like to have the Windows experience from the desktop to their handsets. But that assumption proved false. People didn't see any value in running Windows on their mobile devices, and they were content running Windows on their PCs and laptops and Android or iOS on their smartphones and tablets.

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Microsoft's Nokia Acquisition Was an Epic Failure

Microsoft spent $7.5 billion in April 2014 to acquire Nokia's mobile phone business, believing it would help Microsoft successfully market Windows Mobile devices. Nokia- and Lumia-branded phones were introduced to jump-start sales. But that effort failed and Microsoft eventually had to write off its entire investment in Nokia technology. By the time Windows 10 Mobile reached the market, the Nokia venture had failed and few Lumia smartphones had been sold.

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Third-Party Handset Makers Ignored the Operating System

To be successful, Microsoft needed third-party handset makers to make phones built to run Windows 10 Mobile. However, those makers knew from experience that Windows Mobile devices wouldn't sell well. Few Windows devices reached the market, and the handset makers that did support the operating system generally delivered sub-par products that were ignored by buyers.

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App Developers Didn't Show Much Interest in Windows 10 Mobile

Microsoft had a difficult time recruiting developers to create apps for the operating system. In a series of tweets Oct. 8, Belfiore said Microsoft did everything from paying developers to writing apps for them to get them to invest in Windows 10 Mobile, but nothing worked.

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Microsoft Failed to Get Android Apps to Run on Windows 10 Mobile

In 2015, the same year Windows 10 Mobile was released, Microsoft announced a program called Project Astoria that would allow Android apps to run on Windows 10 Mobile with few, if any, modifications. But after a delay, Microsoft announced in February 2016 that it was shelving the program. Once again, a reasonable idea came to naught.

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Windows 10 Mobile Got Poor Reviews

After Windows 10 Mobile was released to manufacturing in November 2015, it received mixed reviews, with users finding a wide range of bugs. Furthermore, the operating system didn’t perform as well as some users expected even on Microsoft hardware, with choppy performance of both third-party and built-in apps.

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Carriers Wouldn't Push Windows Phone Sales

Windows phones were a hard sell for mobile service providers. Desperately needing help through store shelf placement, Microsoft found its Windows Phone devices were relegated to back corners while popular Android devices and iPhones were in prime locations. Smartphone buyers ignored the Windows handsets, which gathered dust on store shelves.

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Microsoft Is Moving in New Strategic Directions

Mobile hardware and software really isn't a good fit for Microsoft. The company is focused on cloud applications and services that are showing strong growth. It was clear that Windows 10 Mobile served only as an expensive distraction, so it's being put to pasture so Microsoft can focus on important growth initiatives.

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